‘Breath-taking’ archaeological finds in Norfolk

A treasure emerges: The stunning Anglo-Saxon pendant found in South Norfolk emerges from the mud.

A treasure emerges: The stunning Anglo-Saxon pendant found in South Norfolk emerges from the mud. - Credit: Archant

'Breath-taking' archaeological discoveries in Norfolk over the past 12 months mean the county can hold its own against the likes of Stonehenge and Sutton Hoo when it comes to heritage, according to experts.

The Rudham Dirk.

The Rudham Dirk. - Credit: Submitted

A new report has revealed how Norfolk had the highest number of recorded archaeological finds and treasure cases in the country in 2014/15.

There were more than 15,000 recorded finds and 119 cases of Treasure Trove, with many of the discoveries deemed to be of regional. national and even international significance.

Among the stunning finds was an Anglo-Saxon burial in South Norfolk, which has been hailed as potentially altering understanding of Norfolk in the 7th century.

Archaeologists say the detail of the finds, including a pendant, bronze bowl. pot and a knife, is remarkable. They believe the woman who was buried there was extremely wealth and may even have been royalty.

The second seahenge at Holme. Pic: NPS Archaeology

The second seahenge at Holme. Pic: NPS Archaeology - Credit: NPS Archaeology

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Another major project saw the dating of the second Bronze Age circle at Holme Beach - the so-called big sister of Seahenge.

The tree ring dating showed the timbers used to build that circle were felled in 2049BC, exactly the same time as those used to build Seahenge.

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David Gurney, the county council's historic environment manager, who leads the Historic Environment Service, said: 'The last year was marked by some major achievements and some breath-taking discoveries, and heritage services are adapting and being redesigned to provide the best possible service for the people of Norfolk, to promote growth and jobs and to encourage heritage tourism.

'If I had to pick out just two highlights from last year, the first would have to be the discovery of the Saxon burial in South Norfolk.

'This is still being worked on, but there's little doubt that this burial, dating to around AD 640, was a woman who, if she wasn't herself a member of an Anglo-Saxon royal family, would have known royalty and probably those who lived and were buried at Sutton Hoo. It's a remarkable find, and the full story has yet to be told.

'Secondly, our project to date the timber circles on Holme beach discovered that the second circle was built in the spring or summer of 2049BC and that's exactly the same time as the first circle or Seahenge. That's unique in British prehistory and attracted international interest.

'Discoveries such as these put Norfolk's heritage right up there with Sutton Hoo and Stonehenge, and make the county a great place to live in, work in and visit.'

The service secured around £300,000 of grants over the past 12 months, and Mr Gurney said there were a number of important projects taking place or in the pipeline.

He said: 'We've got some very significant externally-funded heritage projects taking place or on the horizon, including the Brecks, the Norfolk Broads, Thetford Forest, aerial photographs, former RAF Coltishall (Scottow Enterprise Park) and the mills at Billingford, near Scole and Stracey Arms on the Acle Straight.

'Much of what we do is focused on planning and the Norfolk Historic Environment Record, but last year we also recorded more than 15,000 finds and involved nearly 6,000 people in around 150 heritage events and activities.

'It's been proved that people who get involved in heritage are happier as a result, and that's good for physical and mental health and well-being.'

Of the 15,207 objects recorded, they ranged from Roman or medieval pot sherds to what archaeolgists described as 'the truly spectacular and internationally significant' - such as the ceremonial copper alloy dirk found at Rudham.

Dating from the Middle Bronze Age (c1500-1350BC), the object was reported more than a decade after it was found and had been used as a doorstep.

The owner was on the verge of throwing it away when a friend suggested he should take it to be identified, where its importance was recognised.

It weighs almost two kilograms and at approximately 68cms long it is about three times the size of a normal Bronze Age dirk. It would have been impractical as a weapon, so was almost certainly used in rituals as some sort of religious symbol or ceremonial object.

A cross-border project saw Norfolk's team of air photo interpreters investigate a 118 square kilometre area of east Suffolk, covering Lothingland, Greater Lowestoft and the northernmost part of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The project mapped and described nearly 600 archaeological sites, the vast majority of which (up to 78pc) were new discoveries. The sites ranged in date from prehistory to the Second World War.

Since 2013, a total of 24,046 objects spanning all periods of history have been identified and recorded by the Suffolk Finds Recording Team.

Recent star finds include a complete Late Iron Age (2000 year ago) linch pin, used to hold in place a chariot wheel on its axle.

This remarkably unusual object was found in north east Suffolk, the kingdom of the Iron Age tribe of the Iceni, famously led by Boudica.

• Have you made an archaeological discovery? Call reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

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