Archaeologists in northwestern England have found a burial site of six Viking men and women, complete with swords, spears, jewelry, fire-making materials and riding equipment, officials said Monday.

The site, discovered near Cumwhitton (search), is believed to date to the early 10th century, and archaeologists working there called it the first Viking (search) burial ground found in Britain.

The only other known Viking cemetery was found in Ingleby east of Cumwhitton. It was excavated in the 1940s, but the bodies had been cremated and not buried.

Local metal specialist Peter Adams made the find at the end of March and reported it to the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which is run by the Museums, Libraries and Archive Council.

"This is tremendous news, a unique discovery which will improve people's understanding of the area and its history," council chairman Mark Wood said.

The Vikings, inhabitants of Scandinavia from 800 to 1100, traded with, and raided, much of Europe, often settling there. They invaded and conquered England in 1013.

The burial ground was unearthed when Adams found two copper brooches. The grave of a Viking woman was found underneath, and further excavation led to the discovery of the graves of another woman and four men.

Among the items found in the graves were weapons, spurs, a bridle and a drinking horn, as well as a jet bracelet and a copper alloy belt fitting.

Adams described it as "the find of a lifetime."

Rachel Newman, of Oxford Archaeology North, said: "We could not have expected more from the excavation of the site.

"We knew the brooches found by Mr. Adams came from a burial of a Viking Age woman, which was exciting and of great importance in itself. But we did not expect to find five other graves complete with such a splendid array of artifacts. It truly has been an amazing few months excavating this extremely important Viking Age site."

Arts Minister Estelle Morris said: "We should all be grateful to Mr. Adams, who recorded his find so promptly. As a result, the experts have been able to learn more about this fascinating site and uncover the secrets of a time capsule more than 1,000 years old."

Some of the items found were to be shown Tuesday at the Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery (search) in the nearby city of Carlisle.