The Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Spong Hill:
Evidence for Anglo-Saxon Migration?
with Dr Catherine Hills, (University of Cambridge)
at Sutton Hoo, Saturday, 9th May, 2015.


The Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Spong Hill, North Elmham, Norfolk, included more than 2500 cremations and fifty seven inhumations. These provide the most substantial archaeological evidence for the fifth century AD in England, a period which saw the transition from Roman Britain to Anglo-Saxon England. The degree to which incoming Germanic Anglo-Saxons replaced, enslaved or interacted with the existing British population is still a contested issue. This course will explain the different interpretative perspectives, and will look at the archaeological evidence both in the broad context of the North Sea and through a detailed examination of the burials from Spong Hill.

Provisional Programme

09.50 – 10.15:                Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:                The Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Spong Hill, North Elmham, Norfolk: Introduction – This lecture will give an account of the Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Spong Hill, in central Norfolk, including the history of its discovery, excavation and analysis. Over two thousand cremations and fifty seven inhumations were excavated, mostly during the 1970s. The cemetery was in use, mainly for cremation burial, throughout most of the fifth century AD, with a late phase in the first half of the sixth century when both inhumation and cremation were practiced.

11.15 – 11.40:                Coffee break

11.40 – 12.40:                The artefacts from the burials at Spong Hill – This session focuses on the artefacts associated with the burials at Spong Hill and explores the ways in which they contribute to social and chronological analysis, and also how they relate to finds from contemporary continental and English cemeteries.

12.40 – 14.00:                Lunch break

14.00 – 14.50:                 The decorated pottery from Spong Hill – Many of the pots at Spong Hill have decoration which reflects aspects of the identities of the individuals contained in them. The stamped designs can be used to identify contemporary groups of burials and the more unusual motifs, runes and animals, suggest links with other types of evidence for religious belief or ritual practices.

14.50 – 15.10:               Tea break

15.10 – 16.00:                Spong Hill in the context of the migration period in the North Sea, and the Anglo-Saxon migration to England – What does the evidence from   Spong Hill contribute to debate over the character, date and scale of migration to England in the fifth and sixth centuries AD?

c.16.00:                            Thanks and Close

About Dr Catherine Hills

Catherine Hills specializes in the archaeology of the migration period in north-western Europe including Anglo-Saxon England. She was director of the Spong Hill excavations and post excavation project from 1975 and author or co-author of the five catalogues of burials from the site and the final synthesis, Part IX. The finds from Spong Hill have formed the basis for much of her research on the archaeology of early Anglo-Saxon England. She is a Senior Fellow of the Mcdonald Institute for archaeological research,   and Fellow emerita of Newnham College, University of Cambridge.

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

(The most relevant chapters or papers in the longer books are indcated)

Martin Carver ,ed, 1992 The Age of Sutton Hoo Boydell (see Parts I and II)

Robin Fleming 2011 Britain After Rome: The Fall and Rise 440 to 1070   Penguin, London

Nicholas Higham and Martin Ryan 2013 The Anglo-Saxon World Yale University Press (Chapters 1 and 2)

Catherine Hills 2003 Origins of the English Duckworth. London

Catherine Hills and Sam Lucy 2013 Spong Hill Part IX: chronology and synthesis McDonald Institute, Cambridge (all of it! But especially chapters 1 and 5)

Sam Lucy 2000 The Anglo-Saxon Way of Death Sutton

Duncan Sayer and Howard Williams eds 2009 Mortuary practices and social identities in the middle Ages University of Exeter press

Sarah Semple and Howard Williams eds 2007 Early Medieval Mortuary practices Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History 14 Oxford (Sections I and II)

Selected volumes of Spong Hill reports in East Anglian Archaeology series for reference:

Catherine Hills, Kenneth Penn and Robert Rickett 1984 Spong Hill Part III: Catalogue of Inhumations EAA no 21

Catherine Hills, Kenneth Penn and Robert Rickett 1987 Spong Hill Part IV   Catalogue of cremations Nos. 2286-2799 EAA34

Catherine Hills, Kenneth Penn and Robert Rickett 1994 Spong Hill Part V Catalogue of cremations Nos.2800-3334 EAA 67

Jacqueline McKinley 1994 Spong Hill Part VIII The cremations EAA69