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Three lions on a pendant: 12th Century treasure found in HS2 dig

An 800-year-old pendant with three golden lions has been unearthed by archaeologists working on the HS2 high-speed rail project.

Dating back to the 12th century, the precious treasure was found in Wormleighton, a village in Warwickshire, about 50 miles south-east of Birmingham.

It shows the iconic three golden lions on a red field, a reflection of the signature English football crest, and would probably have adorned a horse harness.

Archaeologists suspect that it was quite new when it was lost and that it came loose from its suspension during use.

As the Lionesses of England prepare for a historic football final, HS2 Ltd has released an image of a pendant uncovered as part of its archaeological digs

As the Lionesses of England prepare for a historic football final, HS2 Ltd has released an image of a pendant uncovered as part of its archaeological digs

The famous emblem of the three lions that adorns the equipment of the English national teams has origins dating back almost 1000 years

The famous emblem of the three lions that adorns the equipment of the English national teams has origins dating back almost 1000 years

The famous emblem of the three lions that adorns the equipment of the English national teams has origins dating back almost 1000 years

HISTORY OF THE THREE LIONS

The famous emblem of the three lions that adorns the equipment of the English national teams has origins dating back almost 1000 years.

William the Conqueror, who ruled England from 1066 until his death in 1087, used two lions on a red background as his coat of arms and brought the symbol to the English throne.

Henry II, King of England from 1154 until his death in 1189, first used three lions on a red background.

He added a lion to William the Conqueror’s two when he married Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152, because she also had a lion as her family coat of arms.

This type of armor pendant depicts the coat of arms of England from the reign of Richard I (1189-1199) to the establishment of the Lancastrian dynasty in 1399.

The use of lions as a symbol of England dates back to the first Norman king, William the Conqueror, who reigned from 1066 to 1087.

William the Conqueror used two lions on a red background as his coat of arms and brought the symbol to the English throne.

Henry II, King of England from 1154 until his death in 1189, added a third lion after his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine, which took place in 1152.

This type of armor pendant depicts the coat of arms of England from the reign of Henry’s son Richard I (1189-1199) to the establishment of the Lancastrian dynasty in 1399, so it probably dates as far back as the 12th century.

According to HS2 Ltd, the state-funded body responsible for supplying the forthcoming HS2 line, the site where the pendant was found would have been an Iron Age or Romano-British settlement.

The discovery was announced by HS2 Ltd ahead of the Women’s European Championship final against Germany on Sunday at Wembley Stadium.

“HS2’s archeology program has given us an unprecedented opportunity to discover, excavate and study British history,” said a spokeswoman for HS2 Ltd.

“The whole country is behind the England women’s team and we hope this great find will inspire the Lionesses to write their own piece of history on Sunday.”

The pendant is a shield-shaped design – a ‘heating shield’ to be exact with a flat top with sides that slope steeply to a point.

It measures less than 2 cm (0.7 in) wide and over 4 cm (1.5 in) high, top to bottom, including the fastening loop

It measures less than 2 cm (0.7 in) wide and over 4 cm (1.5 in) high, top to bottom, including the fastening loop

It measures less than 2 cm (0.7 in) wide and over 4 cm (1.5 in) high, top to bottom, including the fastening loop

William the Conqueror (pictured here) who ruled England from 1066 until his death in 1087, used two lions on a red background as his coat of arms and brought the symbol to the English throne

William the Conqueror (pictured here) who ruled England from 1066 until his death in 1087, used two lions on a red background as his coat of arms and brought the symbol to the English throne

William the Conqueror (pictured here) who ruled England from 1066 until his death in 1087, used two lions on a red background as his coat of arms and brought the symbol to the English throne

It is made of a copper alloy, most likely brass, which was gilded – thinly coated with gold paint.

The three lions are etched on a red background, made of an opaque deep red enamel, possibly originally intended to symbolize the blood of a battlefield, while the reverse is simple and undecorated.

The pendant is less than 2 cm (0.7 in) wide and more than 4 cm (1.5 in) from top to bottom, including the attachment loop.

Weathering of the red enamel and some of the gilding is visible, possibly where the pendant rubbed against the horse harness during use.

HS2 Ltd said the condition of this property is ‘quite remarkable’ and it is very rare to see a horse harness hanger in ‘such a beautiful state of preservation’.

The oncoming line of HS2 is intended to provide a high-speed train service linking London and northern England, but before HS2 workers build bridges, tunnels, tracks and stations, archaeological work is taking place along the route.

This ensures that concrete is not dumped over the secrets of Britain’s past, although it has been controversial for tearing up historic buildings and nature reserves.

Last month, HS2 Ltd detailed multiple findings at an Anglo-Saxon cemetery near the market town of Wendover, Buckinghamshire.

These include a skeleton with a spear in the back, as well as beads, brooches, buckles, knives and spearheads.

HS2 DIG DISCOVER ROMAN MARKET TOWN IN NORTHAMPTONSHIRE

Archaeologists working on HS2 shed light on how an Iron Age village in Northamptonshire was transformed into a wealthy Roman trading town full of traffic nearly 2,000 years ago.

Stunning discoveries made during an excavation of the site near the village of Chipping Warden — known as Blackgrounds after the black earth found there — include cremation urns, game pieces, shackles, a snake-headed brooch and more than 300 Roman coins.

There is evidence that the settlement was founded around 400 BC when it consisted of more than 30 round houses, but that it was greatly expanded during Roman times around 300-400 AD with new stone buildings and roads.

A team of around 80 archaeologists working on the HS2 high-speed rail project spent 12 months excavating Blackgrounds, one of more than 100 sites surveyed between London and Birmingham since 2018.

Experts say the remains of the Roman merchant city mark ‘one of the most important archaeological sites’ uncovered during the controversial £100 billion train line project.

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