A collection of archaeological news, projects and events in Suffolk from Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service
Welcome to our e-newsletter for May 2020.
New Website Launch
We are proud to announce the launch of the new Suffolk Heritage Explorer website at https://heritage.suffolk.gov.uk, offering users a completely free resource of interesting, up-to-date information on the archaeology and history of Suffolk.
The new website includes an upgraded searchable interactive map and a database of known archaeological sites, which can be used to discover more about Suffolk’s history from the comfort of your home.
Alongside free downloadable publications and resources, there is updated best practice and guidance on finds recording, accessing the county’s archaeological archives and highlighted sections on key archaeological sites and projects. There are also downloadable activities for families and children.
The new website will be regularly updated with new content, blog posts and information.
Following government guidance, all public events have been postponed until further notice due to social distancing restrictions.
In the meantime, we have created some fun online Anglo-Saxon themed activities and a drawing competition for families, to inspire learning and interest in Suffolk's history while heritage sites are closed.
Investigating Suffolk's largest Anglo-Saxon Cemetery
The Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Lackford in north-west Suffolk, is one of the largest known in East Anglia. Excavations in the mid-20th century by T.Lethbridge discovered well over 500 burials.
In 2015 and 2016, the Archaeological Service excavated further disturbed urns, after they were exposed by ploughing. Historic England are now funding the publication and analysis of this important site.
The project is addressing questions about the origin and duration of the cemetery. It will also analyse the burial practices compared to other large cremation cemeteries in Eastern England, particularly Spong Hill in Norfolk and smaller cremation groups such as Tranmer House at Sutton Hoo.
Analysis is focusing on the key groups of material - pottery, cremated bone, pyre and grave good finds - and the earlier excavation material, held in Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has also been re-examined by specialists.
Interesting results are already being revealed by the project team. Sue Anderson is studying the fabrics and forms of the urns, so that these vessels can be compared with those from other funerary and domestic sites. Julie Dunne (University of Bristol) has undertaken lipid analysis of some of the urn sherds and discovered that they have high lipid concentrations, suggesting that these were probably cooking pots before they were used as cremation urns. The cremated human bone is being examined to determine the age and sex of the individuals.
Julie Bond (University of Bradford) has discovered that up to 50% of the more recently excavated urns contain not only human cremated remains but also cremated animal bone, including horse and cow. Grave goods of bone, antler and ivory are being examined by Ian Riddler and Nicola Trzaska-Nartowski and the antler combs found are key to helping date the cemetery phases.
The results of this project will be presented in a detailed archive report and after this is completed, an East Anglian Archaeology publication is planned. There will also be a temporary exhibition of the finds and results of this work at West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village in spring 2021.
This is an Early Medieval (Anglo-Saxon) so called “relic box”, dating to AD 650-700, recently found in Suffolk.
The box was found in fragmentary condition, with a main body, the handles and two lids. The box is very small, with the main body being 47mm by 79mm in length. It is made of thin sheet metal, only 0.56mm thick, with simple decoration on the body and lids. The handles are decorated with a double line of repoussé dots and an interlaced snake form.
These containers are often described as "work boxes" or "relic boxes" and their function is still disputed. They have been found in female graves. When deposited in the burials these boxes were probably wrapped in cloth or placed in bigger wooden boxes. Some contained pieces of fabric, thread, seeds and other objects described as pins or needles. Other kind of contents such as organic fragments or good-quality textile have parallels with similar continental boxes which are more clearly identifiable as private reliquaries.
Thank you to the finder for allowing it to be a featured find.
In May 1996, a metal detectorist found a fragment of gold from a torus torc terminal, near Stowmarket. It was recorded by the Archaeological Service who then sent it to the British Museum for examination. The Coroner declared that the object was not treasure under the requirements of the then ‘Treasure Trove’ act, and so it was returned to the finder.
23 years later, specialists Dr Tess Machling and Roland Williamson, contacted the Archaeological Service to study and publish this unique and important find.
For Suffolk, this is the only torc find to have occurred outside of the Ipswich hoard. Being only the third similarly decorated, sheet gold, torus torc known in the UK – alongside the Snettisham Great torc and the Netherurd terminal – it has a lot of information to give. Provisional results have shown a manufacturing relationship with other gold sheet torus torcs, with decorative parallels perhaps showing a regional style in the vicinity of Suffolk.