AN exciting discovery of 1,300-year-old artefacts is evidence that our ancestors were just as interested in buying jewellery as we are these days.

Archaeologists in Southampton have discovered that eye-catching adornments were fashioned out of gold in the historic sea port from as long ago as the 8th century.

Ancient remains of a crucible used to melt gold were unearthed at a shops and homes development in St Mary Street.

Also found was a black stone with tiny flecks of gold on one side, which would have been used as a touchstone to test the purity of precious metal.

City council archaeologists say they are thrilled with the find.

It strongly suggests Hamwic - the Saxon name for Southampton - had one or more gold jewellery makers.

Council archaeology officer Matt Garner said: "This is some of the best evidence we have that the Saxons were making gold objects in Southampton and helps paint a

picture of a town that, even then, was a busy shopping centre.

"It supports evidence that Southampton residents of the 8th Century were as enthusiastic about jewellery as the modern-day Christmas shopper."

Mr Garner could not be sure who would have worn the jewellery, though it may have been bought by the King of Wessex, who ruled a huge area of southern England.

But it is equally likely the pieces were traded with Denmark or France.

Jewellery on three skeletons excavated from under the Friends Provident St Mary's Stadium - home to Southampton Football Club - is believed to have come from Europe with whom England had strong trading links.

An animal chasing its tail and a crescent moon were the designs found at the Saints ground - which was famously exorcised by Hampshire witch Cerridwen 'DragonOak' Connelly.

Mr Garner could not confirm that the non-Christian burial style of the bejewelled bodies caused the Premiership team's bad luck last season, but he said, pointing to the team's recent success: "The exorcism seems to have worked so far."