New Study Shows 6th Century Anglo-Saxon Mercenaries Fought in the Middle East

A fresh reexamination of artifacts recovered from ancient Anglo-Saxon burials has revealed some startling information about ancient Britain’s involvement in far-off military adventures in the sixth century AD. It seems there is good evidence to suggest that Anglo-Saxon people who lived in this period may have left Britain and traveled to northern Syria and the eastern Mediterranean region to participate in military conflicts, fighting on the side of the Byzantine Empire. 

A pair of English scholars, St. John Simpson, a senior curator at the British Museum, and Helen Gittos, a medieval historian from Oxford University, have concluded that some unique and exotic items retrieved during excavations at several ancient Anglo-Saxon burial sites came directly from northern Syria and the eastern Mediterranean. While the previous belief was that these objects had been acquired by wealthy Anglo-Saxon families with access to long-distance trade networks, Simpson and Gittos argue that this is not the case. 

In an interview with the Guardian, Simpson insisted that “compelling evidence” indicates that some of the men buried in elite Anglo-Saxon cemeteries like those excavated at Sutton Hoo, Taplow, and Prittlewell had been involved in efforts by Byzantine forces to conquer the Sasanians, an Iranian dynasty that controlled immense quantities of land and resources in the eastern Mediterranean region 1,500 years ago. 

Anachronistic painting by Piero della Francesca of the Battle of Nineveh (627) 

Anachronistic painting by Piero della Francesca of the Battle of Nineveh…

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