Anglo-Saxon Ancestors

alfred-the-great-17-11-16-blogAn excavation carried out by archaeologists working for Historic England has unearthed 81 Anglo-Saxon coffins which were buried as long as 1,500 years ago. They are very rare as most wooden coffins rot away over such a vast period of time. But the conditions of the surrounding soil were just right to preserve them.

There’s a lot the archaeologists can tell from the burials. For example, those who had died were Christians – at a time when most Englishmen worshipped pagan gods. And there is a lot more to be discovered from the remains of the deceased themselves – such as their diet, their health and their relation to one another.

There is still much to learn about our Anglo-Saxon ancestors, but what do we know already? Here are some interesting facts:

  • ancient-england-17-11-16Anglo-Saxons were immigrants to Britain. They originated in what is now Germany and came after the collapse of the Roman Empire left the island poorly defended. The original inhabitants, the Britons, managed to hold onto Wales, Cornwall, Scotland and parts of Cumbria but the Anglo-Saxons conquered what remained and named it ‘Angle-land’ or ‘England’
  • The Anglo-Saxons arrived on our shores in the 5th Century but England did not become a united country until 927 under King Æthelstan. Before then, there were seven smaller Anglo-Saxon kingdoms – Northumbria, East Anglia, Essex, Sussex, Kent, Wessex and Mercia. These warred with each other as well as with the Britons and the Vikings
  • The Anglo-Saxons adopted Christianity in the 7th Before then they worshipped a multitude of gods and goddesses such as Woden (King of the Gods), Thunor (the God of Thunder), Tiw (the God of War), Eostre (the Goddess of Spring) and Loki (the God of Cunning). Some of these are still with us as days of the week (Tiw’s day, Woden’s day, Thu’s day) or times of the year (Eostre/Easter)

We know quite a bit about the Anglo-Saxons but there’s always more to discover. To test your own knowledge, take a look at our KS2 History section. It has four quizzes about the Anglo-Saxons alongside many others – from Ancient Egypt to World War II. Go on, take a walk through the past!


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