Friday, 26 November 2010

Lost Vikings (c.NZ305840)

Cambois – another of those odd-sounding place-names of the North-East – is situated on the Northumberland coast, roughly equidistant from Newbiggin-by-the-Sea to the north and Blyth to the south. Pronounced ‘Kammus’, it’s name is Celtic in origin, and means ‘bay’. And, in 1859, it was the the site of a small but unusual archaeological find.

The discovery in question amounted to a cist burial containing three bodies, an enamelled disc-brooch and a bone comb. A ninth century tumulus on the east side of the River Wansbeck had been excavated, and of the bones only the skulls survived (believed to be that of a woman, aged 45-60, and two males, one in his 20s and one in his 40s). What made the find so unusual was that the mode of the burial and the objects found indicated that it was Scandinavian (i.e.Viking) rather than Anglo-Saxon.

Viking influence in Northumberland in the ninth and tenth centuries was negligible, with both finds and place-names being very thin on the ground. But even if the Cambois cist was not an actual Viking burial, the interment is certainly heavily laden with Scandinavian influences.

It was, and still is, a bit of a mystery.

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