~Sceopellen~ recently found a news report of a new ‘royal’ Anglo-Saxon cemetery found in Teesside (Tees Valley) of Old Northumbria. Initial dates claim it to be mid-seventh century. Here is the full newspaper article: “A real gem of a find”and from the BBC at “Dramatic ancient cemetery found”. The site is said to be near Redcar, which happens to be on the first headland south of Hartlepool.
The first article refers to a ‘bed grave’ of a female near the center of the cemetery. This could be of similar type to the Essex prince found a couple years ago. So far I have heard of nothing to suggest that they were Christian and southern style doesn’t mean much considering how little has been found in the north. If we must associate it with Edwin of Deira, then I would think that it would be more likely his first wife Cwenburgh. There is no evidence that she was Christian and would have been with Edwin in exile in the south to pick up southern style jewels. Hmm…do we make anything of the location of the cemetery near the sea and the incorporation of a sea shell in the pendant?
Of more interest I think is why is there a royal cemetery here far from the usual royal centers of Deira and Bernicia? Traditionally the River Tees has been seen as the border between Deira and Bernicia. So a prominent royal burial and perhaps royal center on the first headland south of the River Tees could have been a way to stake a claim to the border. To say to the northerners, ‘Now you cross into Deira’! Hartlepool is also located in the same area perhaps for the same reason. So the question now is did Deira control the entire mouth of the River Tees, or is Hartlepool in Bernician territory. This all tells me that it comes from a period when that border was important and when Bernicia was a threat to Deira. In other words, the early to middle seventh century… but maybe that is how they are getting to their date too?
The location and use of the border has implications for St. Hild’s career since she starts out as abbess of Hartlepool and apparently keeps control of it when she moves on to Whitby. Although as the first female monastery/convent under the Bishop of Lindisfarne who had authority in both kingdoms, perhaps being on the border and serving both kingdoms was part of the point in using Hartlepool.