The Archaeology Department’s Repacking Project

There is always pressure on space, as the finds from new excavations are regularly deposited with us, and with our current stores being full we have to find new ways of accommodating this material.

One way we are doing this is to reduce the volume of our collections, not by getting rid of things, but by packing them more efficiently.  Often the boxes of objects are not full.

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And not packed to modern standards.  By combining the contents of these part full boxes we can reduce the space they take up.  At the same time we can re-pack them to modern standards which will help prevent damage in the future.

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At the moment every Tuesdays we are working on the cremation urns from Spong Hill.


What is Spong Hill?

Emma Reeve

The Spong Hill cemetery is located in North Elmham, Norfolk, and is the only completely excavated pagan Anglo-Saxon (450-650 A.D.) cemetery in England. As an early Anglo-Saxon cemetery, Spong Hill appears to have been isolated in Central Norfolk. The nearest cemeteries of similar date are reasonably far away. This might suggest that central Norfolk was not particularly highly populated during this time period. Analysis carried out on the cremated remains at Spong Hill showed that the people buried there were a mix of locals and ‘invaders’ from Germany.

The excavations took place between 1979 and 1984 and were carried out by the Norfolk Archaeological Unit. They brought to light more than 2000 burial urns, most of which are now stored at the Gressenhall superstores.

One of the most interesting objects found at Spong Hill is known as ‘Spong Man’. This clay pot lid was made about 1,500 years ago and is unique. Three dimensional figures of this date are almost unknown in England or on the Continent; in fact the only similar figure is made of wood and comes from a Danish bog.

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Spong Man

Twelve of the Spong Hill burial urns are on display in the Anglo-Saxon and Viking Gallery at Norwich Castle Museum amongst others from Anglo-Saxon cemeteries including Caistor St Edmund, Morningthorpe and Castle Acre. The pots included in the exhibition represent the range of different shapes, sizes and decoration used in the whole collection.


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Burial urns on display in the Anglo-Saxon and Viking Gallery at Norwich Castle Museum

Many of the urns in the Norfolk Collections Centre are fragmentary and sometimes not suitable for display. However, keeping the urns in the best possible storage conditions allows researchers to study the whole collection and learn new and exciting things about the Anglo-Saxons.

Three of the Spong Hill pots have runic stamps, previously written about by Livia Roschdi in her blog ‘Communicating with the Past: Anglo-Saxons, Runes and Ale’ which you can read by clicking on this link –

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2 Responses to The Archaeology Department’s Repacking Project

  1. Fascinating blog – had never heard of Spong Hill – and love Spong Man – reminds me of Rodin’s The Thinker – thank you for sharing.


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