Recuperating service personnel help uncover Anglo-Saxon treasure trove
Soldiers taking part in Operation Nightingale unearthed Anglo-Saxon warriors buried with a range of personal possessions at Barrow Clump
UK - A pioneering project using archaeology to help soldiers wounded in Afghanistan along the road to recovery has made a series of astonishing discoveries.
Operation Nightingale, involving servicemen in a regiment which recruits widely in the Westcountry, has unearthed a treasure trove of Anglo-Saxon finds on Salisbury Plain.
In their latest dig, the soldiers located a major sixth-century burial site at Barrow Clump, uncovering 27 bodies – including Anglo-Saxon warriors – buried with a range of personal possessions.
Artefacts uncovered included shield bosses, broaches, amber and glass beads, spear heads, a silver ring and a wooden drinking vessel with bronze bands.
Rifleman Mike Kelly, from Chepstown-based 1 Rifles, which has a large number of personnel drawn from the South West, said being involved had made a real difference to him.
"I never imaged that we would uncover such amazing artefacts," he said.
"I discovered a warrior that had been buried with his shield placed across his face, which I believe to be a sign of respect.
"I have been to war myself and I can imagine what the soldier would have felt as he went into battle.
"Knowing that as a modern-day warrior I have unearthed the remains of another, fills me with an overwhelming sense of respect."
The Defence Infrastructure Organisation worked with The Rifles to create the project, which helps soldiers injured in Afghanistan return to their regiment or prepare for civilian life.
Senior historic adviser Richard Osgood said he was surprised at the scale and the importance of the archaeological remains that were located.
"The project has been a huge success and represents a significant archaeological find," he said. "The Bronze Age and Anglo Saxon burial ground is relatively small and we expected to uncover around 15 graves, but instead have unearthed 27.
"Archaeologically, the really exciting thing is that, because of the variety of artefacts found by soldiers working on Operation Nightingale, any future student wanting to study the sixth century of Wessex will have to refer to Barrow Clump.
"This is thanks to the hard work of the soldiers from the British Army."
One of the soldiers' early discoveries was the remains of a sixth-century Anglo-Saxon female they named Davina, who was believed to have died in her late teens or early 20s.
Artefacts unearthed at Barrow Clump will finally be laid to rest in Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes.
The project gives soldiers the opportunity to learn a series of excavation, land survey, drawing and mapping techniques and also enhances their publication and presentation skills.
As a result of taking part, eight soldiers are moving on to study for degrees in archaeology.
Operation Nightingale draws in assistance from partners including English Heritage, Wessex Archaeology and the Army's survey unit, 135 Geographical Squadron.
It recently received a special award from the British Archaeological Awards in recognition of its innovative use of archaeological work to boost the recovery and career prospects of military personnel injured in Afghanistan.
Courtesy This is Cornwall