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 Archaeology News in Suffolk

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, 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.

Discover the new Suffolk Heritage Explorer website:

Read the press release here.

Drawing Competition 2020

Poster for Drawing Competition
Calling all young artists....

Can you design a wall-hanging for an Anglo-Saxon king? 

Get creative with this brand-new design competition which will run until 5th June 2020.

There are amazing prize bundles to be won, including museum passes and goodies kindly provided by West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village and Museum.

Discover more on our website with design tips and details on how to enter:

This competition is part of the Rendlesham Revealed project, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Featured Projects

greyscale drawing of an anglo-saxon hall exterior
Image: an Anglo-Saxon Hall, drawing by Donna Wreathall (© SCCAS)
Rendlesham Revealed
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.

Discover  the family activities available on the Suffolk Heritage Explorer website. 

Enter the drawing competition here.

The Suffolk Heritage Explorer has been updated to included a dedicated Rendlesham Resources section where you can download articles and reports, and listen to podcasts.

Keep an eye out for the next e-newsletter for more updates on future Rendlesham Revealed activities. 

Heritage Fund Logo

reconstructed urn, with fragments missing
Image: One of the largest and most highly decorated urns from the 2016 excavation, reconstructed by Norfolk Museum Service Conservators for the spring 2021 exhibition. (© NMS Conservation)

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.
cremation urn in fragments partially held together with tape
Image: Cremation urn before reconstructing (© NMS Conservation)

Finds Recording in Suffolk

photo showing different views of the relic box
Image: 'relic' box, body, handle and lid (© SCCAS)
Featured Find 

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.

View the online record for more details.

If you have recently found an archaeological object in Suffolk which you'd like identified and recorded, our Finds Recording Team can help. Find out more about Finds Recording here.
fragment of gold torc
Image: Terminal front (Image © T. Machling & R. Williamson)
A Redescovered Iron Age Torc after 23 years

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.

Research is continuing.

Read the blog post written by the experts on the Big Book of Torcs website.


Thank you for joining our e-newsletter, for those who are new, here's a brief summary of what we do.

We are the main provider of archaeological advice in Suffolk and to promote the conservation, enhancement and understanding of Suffolk's distinctive historic environment, we:

  • maintain a record of archaeology and heritage assets, the Historic Environment Record
  • provide advice to planners, developers and farmers
  • identify and record finds made by members of the public
  • curate an archive for fieldwork projects carried out in the county
  • publish the results of fieldwork and other research into Suffolk's past
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