Record Details

NHER Number:1120
Type of record:Monument
Name:Morningthorpe Early Saxon cemetery and multi-period finds

Summary

An excavation following the chance discovery of two Early Saxon pots in a gravel pit in 1974 revealed an important Early Saxon cemetery with about 365 inhumations and nine cremations. Bone preservation was poor due to the acidity of the soil, but the many grave goods recovered included beads, finger rings, iron spearheads, shield bosses, knives, buckles, bucket fragments and the possible remains of a lyre.

Although this work recovered evidence for intermittent prehistoric activity on the site, a Bronze Age cremation burial was the only feature of this date to be identified. Unstatified and residual prehistoric finds included Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Mesolithic/Early Neolithic and Neolithic/Bronze Age worked flints and sherds of Early Neolithic and Early Iron Age pottery.

Images

  • An Early Saxon iron-bound bucket from Morningthorpe  © Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service

Location

Grid Reference:TM 2200 9434
Map Sheet:TM29SW
Parish:MORNINGTHORPE, SOUTH NORFOLK, NORFOLK

Full description

October 1974. Stray Find.
Presence of Early Saxon cremation cemetery revealed by discovery of two Early Saxon pots by quarry worker in gravel pit to north. See location map in (S1).
P. Watkins (HES), 19 February 2014.

1974-1975. Excavation.
Cemetery excavated over two seasons by members of the Norfolk Museums Service, Norfolk Research Committee and Norfolk Archaeological Rescue Group. This work revealed evidence for c. 365 Early Saxon inhumations (the majority aligned east-to-west) and 9 cremations. The (unmarked) southern and western limits of the cemetery were identified, with its eastern extent lying beyond the area excavated. The northern part of the cemetery had been destroyed by the earlier quarrying. It is possible that the cemetery had been centred on a ring-ditch that lay to the north (NHER 10179, also lost to quarrying) which had been identified as a cropmark on old aerial photographs. The cemetery had an orderly layout, although some of the graves did intersect. In addition to the graves a number of other funerary features were identified, including two small ring-ditches, a penannular ditch, probable pennular ditch and a number of post-holes that had possibly supported grave markers.

Bone preservation was poor due to the acid nature of the soil and as a result only a few of the burials could be tentatively sexed on the basis of the surviving bones. The burials were accompanied by a wide range of grave goods including pottery, brooches, shield bosses, spearheads, a sword, knives, finger rings, girdle hangers, fragments of buckets (one with bronze mountings) and a lugged copper alloy cauldron. Pieces of metal and wood scattered around one of the graves were interpreted as the remains of a lyre. Textile evidence was also preserved in a number of the graves, in most cases the fibres having been replaced by metal oxides. The majority of the of the datable grave-goods are from the 6th century. The graves also produced a small number of Roman finds, including 11 brooches (the majority penannular), 2 gem stones and several coins pierced for suspension.

Although this work also produced evidence for intermittent prehistoric activity on the site, a Bronze Age cremation burial (contained within a Bucket Urn) was the only feature that could be conclusively identified as prehistoric. A total of 108 worked flints were also recovered, the major of which were either residual in later features or recovered from unstratified contexts. This multi-period assemblage included rolled blades and a flake of probable Palaeolithic date; a Mesolithic obliquely-blunted microlith; over fifty Mesolithic/Early Neolithic blades and a blade core; a Neolithic chisel and a broken scale-flaked knife or unfinished arrowhead of probable Neolithic/Early Bronze Age date. A small number of prehistoric pottery sherds were also recovered. Although the majority of these sherds were not closely datable, two were identified as being from Early Neolithic and Early Iron Age bowls.

The excavation also identified a small number of features that, whilst undated, appeared to be later than at least part of the cemetery. These included a square slot that may have been the foundation trench of a timber building and part of a curving ditch. Traces of brickfields were also revealed, these apparently associated with nearby Boyland Hall.

See published report (S1) for full details (two volumes). Brief summaries of the two excavation seasons appeared in (S2) and (S3) and the results of the work were also noted in (S4) and (S5). The Bronze Age cremation was published separately in (S6). Finds from this site were also considered in (S7) and (S8) and the cemetery was subsequently included in a wider synthesis of Anglo-Saxon inhumation burial in East Anglia (S9).
See also press cuttings (S10) and (S12), photographs (S13) and (S14) and drawings (S15) and (S16) held by HES.
The potentially Palaeolithic flints are noted on (S17).
The finds from the excavation are now held by the Norwich Castle Museum (NWHCM : L1976.3)
Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 19 February 2014.

September 1978. Stray Find.
Found within excavation area:
1 flint core. Unstratified.
Information from (S18).
A. Rogerson (NAU). Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 19 February 2013.

Monument Types

  • BEAM SLOT? (Unknown date)
  • FINDSPOT (Palaeolithic - 500000 BC? to 10001 BC?)
  • FINDSPOT (Prehistoric - 500000 BC to 42 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Early Mesolithic to Early Neolithic - 10000 BC to 3001 BC)
  • FINDSPOT (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • FINDSPOT (Early Neolithic - 4000 BC to 3001 BC)
  • FINDSPOT (Early Neolithic to Early Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 1501 BC)
  • FINDSPOT (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • FINDSPOT (Bronze Age - 2350 BC to 701 BC)
  • FINDSPOT (Early Iron Age - 800 BC to 401 BC)
  • FINDSPOT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • CEMETERY (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • CREMATION (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • CURVILINEAR ENCLOSURE (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • ENCLOSURE (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • INHUMATION (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • POST HOLE (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • RING DITCH (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • BRICK KILN (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds

  • BLADE (Palaeolithic - 500000 BC? to 10001 BC?)
  • BORER (Prehistoric - 500000 BC to 42 AD)
  • CORE (Prehistoric - 500000 BC to 42 AD)
  • FLAKE (Palaeolithic - 500000 BC? to 10001 BC?)
  • FLAKE (Prehistoric - 500000 BC to 42 AD)
  • POT BOILER (Prehistoric - 500000 BC to 42 AD)
  • RETOUCHED FLAKE (Prehistoric - 500000 BC to 42 AD)
  • BLADE (Early Mesolithic to Early Neolithic - 10000 BC to 3001 BC)
  • BLADE CORE (Early Mesolithic to Early Neolithic - 10000 BC to 3001 BC)
  • MICROLITH (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • ARROWHEAD? (Early Neolithic to Early Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 1501 BC)
  • CHISEL (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • POT (Early Neolithic - 4000 BC? to 3001 BC?)
  • POT (Late Prehistoric - 4000 BC to 42 AD)
  • POT (Bronze Age - 2350 BC to 701 BC)
  • POT (Early Iron Age - 800 BC to 401 BC)
  • BROOCH (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • BROOCH (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • COIN (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • FINGER RING (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • HARNESS FITTING (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • ARROWHEAD (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • AWL (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • AXEHEAD (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • BEAD (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • BEAD (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • BEAKER (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • BRACTEATE (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • BROOCH (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • BROOCH (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • BUCKET (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • BUCKLE (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • BUCKLE (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • FERRULE (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • FILE (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • FINGER RING (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • FINGER RING (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • FINGER RING (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • FINGER RING (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • FINGER RING (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • FINGER RING (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • FURNITURE FITTING (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • FURNITURE FITTING (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • GIRDLE HANGER (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • GOLD LEAF (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • KEY (LOCKING) (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • KNIFE (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • LACE TAG (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • LYRE? (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • MUSICAL INSTRUMENT? (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • PENDANT (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • PENDANT (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • PIN (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • PIN (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • POT (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • POT (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • PURSE (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • RING (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • RING (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • RING (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • RING (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • SHIELD (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • SLEEVE CLASP (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • SPANGLE (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • SPEAR (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • SPINDLE WHORL (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • STAPLE (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • STRAP END (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • STRAP FITTING (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • STRIKE A LIGHT (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • SWORD (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • TWEEZERS (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • TWEEZERS (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • VESSEL (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • VESSEL (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

---Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TM 29 SW 11.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Early Saxon. Morningthorpe.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
<S1>Monograph: Green, B., Rogerson, A. and White, S. G. 1987. The Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at Morning Thorpe, Norfolk. East Anglian Archaeology. No 36.
<S2>Article in Serial: Webster, L. E. and Cherry, J. 1975. Medieval Britain in 1974. Medieval Archaeology. Vol XIX pp 220-260. p 224.
<S3>Article in Serial: Webster, L. E. and Cherry, J. 1976. Medieval Britain in 1975. Medieval Archaeology. Vol XX pp 158-201. p 167.
<S4>Serial: 1974. Council for British Archaeology Group 7 Bulletin of Archaeological Discoveries for 1974. No 21. p 6.
<S5>Serial: 1975. Council for British Archaeology Group 7 Bulletin of Archaeological Discoveries for 1975. No 22. p 8.
<S6>Article in Monograph: Lawson, A. J. 1980. The evidence for Later Bronze Age settlement and burial in Norfolk. Settlement and Society in the British Late Bronze Age. Barrett, J. and Bradley, R. BAR British Series 83 pp 271-293. No 11; Fig 5E.
<S7>Article in Serial: Brownswood, R. & Hines, J.. 1993. The Alloys of Anglo-Saxon Square Headed Brooches.. Antiquaries Journal. Vol 73, p 1.
<S8>Article in Serial: Inker, P. 2000. Technology as Active Material Culture: The Quoit-brooch Style. Medieval Archaeology. Vol XLIV pp 25-52. p 32; Fig 5.
<S9>Monograph: Penn, K. and Brugmann, B. 2007. Aspects of Anglo-Saxon Inhumation Burial: Morning Thorpe, Spong Hill, Bergh Apton and Westgarth Gardens. No 119.
<S10>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1976. Two pagan cemetery sites uncovered. 12 February.
<S11>Newspaper Article: Dereham and Fakenham Times. 1988. Company gives cash to catalogue the past. 8 April.
<S12>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1988. Digging into the past. 21 June.
<S13>Photograph: Grave 35..
<S14>Photograph: CMV1-13,BDB,BCB7-12,BYE12-13,CB,CPC13-36,CPD-CPJ inclusive.
<S15>Illustration: Gregory, T.. 1975. Drawing of an Early Saxon iron arrowhead. Card. 1:1.
<S16>Illustration: Gregory, T.. 1974. Drawing of an Early Saxon iron purse mount with remains of iron buckle inside. Card. 2:1.
<S17>Record Card: Wymer, J. J. Wymer Index Card - Palaeolithic. Morningthorpe.
<S18>Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.

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