Over the past three years, Wessex Archaeology has been working on a series of archeological excavations for Viking Link, a major project to build the world's longest land and subsea energy interconnector between the UK and Denmark. 

As the archeological part of the project draws to a close, the most important discovery has unearthed an Anglo-Saxon cemetery recently dated to the sixth and seventh centuries. 

"Digging for Britain" featured Jacqueline McKinley, Ceri Boston of Wessex Archaeology, and Professor Alice Roberts, who shared their discovery of a full Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Lincolnshire. Photo: Wessex Archaeology

Projects in parallel 

The Viking Link is a submarine power cable that runs from Bicker Fen in Lincolnshire, UK, to Revsing in southern Jutland, Denmark. 

The power cable, completed in 2023, is the fruit of a partnership between British National Grid and Danish Energinet. It was developed to help increase the security of electricity supplies in Denmark and Great Britain. 

During the construction process, Wessex Archaeology and Headland Archaeology were responsible for investigating 50 archeological sites along the onshore cable route. 

Arguably, the most important work took place on a site in Lincolnshire and revealed a full Anglo-Saxon cemetery with the buried remains of 23 people. 

The site also contained a fascinating selection of grave goods, including knives, jewelry and pottery vessels. 

Experts have since analyzed a total of 250 artifacts from the site and have determined that the cemetery dates to the sixth and seventh centuries. 

In Lincolnshire, the Viking Link project excavated an Anglo-Saxon cemetery with 23 burials, unearthing a selection of grave goods, including these doughnut-shaped translucent light turquoise glass beads. Photo: Wessex Archaeology

Cutting-edge analysis 

Jacqueline McKinley, principal osteoarcheologist at Wessex Archaeology, explains that new scientific techniques have made it possible to perform far more in-depth analysis than previously possible. 

"Although many Anglo-Saxon cemeteries are known in Lincolnshire," Jacqueline explains, "most were excavated decades ago when the focus was on the grave goods, not the people buried there." 

"Excitingly, here we can employ various scientific advancements, including isotopic and DNA analyses. This will give us a far better understanding of the population, from their mobility to their genetic background and even their diet." 

The team is still awaiting the full results of this analysis, but they believe it is unlikely that any of the people found in this grave will be of Norse origin. 

Lincolnshire has a rich Viking history: the Great Heathen Army, which arrived in England in 865, is believed to have wintered in Torksey, Lincolnshire, in 872 before later taking over much of the surrounding land. 

Later, Lincoln, the county capital, became an important Viking trading settlement. Yet, of course, all this is 100 years too late in relation to the burial site. 

So far, 250 items from the Lincolnshire excavation have been analyzed, including artifacts like this gold pendant with garnet, allowing experts to accurately date the cemetery to the sixth and seventh centuries. Photo: Wessex Archaeology

A lack of Viking links 

There is thought to have been some contact between the people of Scandinavia and Great Britain in the era preceding the Viking Age. 

The famous literary poem Beowulf, believed to have been composed between 700 and 750, narrates a story of Norse kings and warriors. 

Additionally, evidence has been found indicating early trade between the Anglo-Saxons and the Norse. However, this contact is believed to have been sporadic and, in most cases, limited to coastal areas. 

In fact, despite the extensive scope of the Viking Link project in the UK, no significant Norse connections have been uncovered. This is in contrast to the project's name, which suggests a potential link to Norse history.

However, the initiative has revealed other historical finds, including a Bronze Age barrow and a Romano-British farmstead. 

Perhaps the lack of Norse-related discoveries is a reminder that even if the Vikings did make a sizable impact on Britain and many other countries outside of Scandinavia, the finds that reveal more about their culture and way of life are rare and valuable. 

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