Mysterious Ivory Rings Found in Anglo-Saxon Graves: A Journey from Africa to England

In recent archaeological discoveries, hundreds of elite Anglo-Saxon female graves have revealed enigmatic ivory rings. Researchers now believe that the ivory used in these rings came from elephants living approximately 6,400 kilometers away from England.

Puzzling Origins of Ivory Rings: Archaeologists have long been perplexed by the mysterious “ivory rings” found in dozens of Anglo-Saxon graves across England. The origin of these rings remained uncertain, leaving scholars intrigued and curious. However, through meticulous scientific analysis, it has come to light that these rings were likely made from ivory sourced from African elephants living thousands of kilometers away.

Indications of a Vast Trade Network: This revelation sheds light on an extensive trade network that stretched from East Africa through Europe, finally reaching England. This trade route was perhaps one of the longest of its time, traversing the Mediterranean world, crossing the Alps, and likely passing through the Rhineland, thus interconnecting multiple cultures.

Insights from Sheffield University Archaeologists: Hugh Willmott, co-author of the study and an archaeologist at the University of Sheffield, explains, “This is really a long journey, crossing the Mediterranean world, then crossing the Alps and probably going through the Rhineland… So, it’s crossing multiple cultures.”

Investigation of an Anglo-Saxon Burial Site: Researchers conducted their study near the village of Scremby, approximately 110 kilometers east of Sheffield. The site dates back to the late 5th to early 6th centuries and contains an early Anglo-Saxon burial ground. Among the discoveries, the team analyzed one of the seven rings, known as a “bag-shaped ring.”

Confirmation of African Elephant Ivory: After analyzing the collagen protein from the ring, the team confirmed that the ivory used in the ring was sourced from an African elephant (Loxodonta genus). Radiocarbon dating revealed that this elephant lived around the 5th century AD. The researchers have published their findings in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

The unearthing of these ivory rings in Anglo-Saxon graves has provided fascinating insights into ancient trade networks and cultural connections. The long journey from Africa to England showcases the interconnectedness of different civilizations during that era. Further studies and discoveries are expected to shed more light on the intriguing history of these valuable artifacts and their significance in the context of Anglo-Saxon society.

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