Saturday, October 25, 2014


Found at Spong Hill Saxon Cemetery

"First of all, I suggested that the repeated choice of an urn at all – regardless of its precise decoration – was a significant ritual act. I proposed that the urn provided a new corporeality for the deceased; a new ‘skin’ and ‘surface’ that countermanded the fiery destruction of the cremation pyre. I also suggested that the selective inclusion of toilet implements and combs with the cremated dead was connected to the idea that the post-cremation treatment of the ‘cremains’ – involving location, choice of pot and artefact deposition – was about body-building. The cremated dead were revitalised, regenerated and incorporated into an ancestral community through the act of burial in a vessel. In short, the regular choice of an urn at all, was as important as the subtle variations in size, shape and decoration upon vessels."

Howard Williams Blog

If you were to look at my posts there are an awful lot of drafts I note down as my mind drifts through the day.  The above comes from a blog on the net, my reading at the moment is Britain After Rome - Robin Fleming, and she had mentioned the large Spong Hill Saxon cemetery (5th to 6th century AD) at Elmham in East Anglia.  Moving to this side of Britain - the East, has given me a picture of England that is probably more 'foreign' than I realised.  If you have ever read Daniel Defoe's poem on the mongrel nature of the Englishman/woman than you will understand my sense of excitement as I come across the Saxon and the Viking in the churches around here.

Years ago I had been to Spong Hill with the archaeologist in charge, and who has written  a book about the finds, but at over £100 is a little out of my pocket.  At the time we were excavating at the large monastic complex at Castle Acre, and I had only just had my son, a small baby of two weeks, so my ex-husband  had said I could work, though not drawing so I did the wages of the 50 or so volunteers (yes they got paid in those days), and handled the million and one problems that our volunteers encountered.... 

Delving all over the net for pictures of the urns did not really turn up anything, except on the above person's blog, so I shall put some different photos on found in an old book, which as we know circumscribes the 75 year rule of attribution.

The dead in fact according to William's theory were in fact being 'regenerated' and given a new skin and surface.  My mind took a double take, are we as vividly dead as we are alive, did the combs, brooches and often animals who accompanied the cremated pagan Saxon people, point to another 'otherworld', was this hope or a gentle belief easing us into death, a place we could dream of, that moment we look up into the vast universe and try and count the stars, imagine ourselves floating around in space.
Perhaps such optimism is a necessity, but that it should reflect in the spiritual world the things we use in this world is somehow strangely sweet, the hair to be combed, the toy to be played with (in an earlier blog), the feast to be attended to (Bartlow Mounds - Romano/British burial.)  As time travels further back we know that the afterlife was important to many cultures, perhaps it is the only thing that can be said to anchor belief systems, from the beaker mug in the Bronze Age period, the heaven and hell concept of the medieval period and the spirit birds that links us with the gods.....

Not sure why the Sun disc is included in Saxon artefacts.


  1. Hi Thelma, years ago I bought a small Chinese qingbai bowl made at Jingdezhen during the Southern Song Dynasty. It was of very poor quality and I had thought that these things were just produced as cheap grave goods. It had the remains of an ink inscription on the unglazed biscuit of the base. I knew an old man who played the Chinese violin and I asked him if he could read it. He was unsure about the damaged part, but what was clear was the phrase "memories of home". I think it was the buried person's bowl that he used in life and was placed in his tomb, not for use in death,, but to remind him of the life he had left. I found it rather touching.

  2. Hi John, been thinking about this, another interpretation of life after death, as images fly through the mind, the terracotta soldiers, whole armies of pottery taken into the underworld by a Chinese emperor in the belief they would protect him, it is difficult to contemplate the arrogance of one person.. The humble bowl to remind you of 'home' also. I have marked the spot where my ashes are to be scattered, but there will be no other bits and pieces ;)

  3. Hi Thelma, for me, Jasmin thought that scattering them off the coast of Vancouver because I like the ocean, but perhaps it could be in Bow Falls in Banff, so some molecules I had been using might flow back through Calgary, eventually entering Hudson Bay, meet up with the Gulf Stream or rise as vapor to fall as rain again in the Rockies. I like the idea of recycling, and I have a strong feeling that a few molecules around my stomach were formerly in a doughnut. Of course, all our bits started as stardust and undoubtedly will be there again in the distant future.

    1. Well mine is by a Yorkshire beck, with rowans growing along the bank.....

    2. Nice trees, we have a close relative here called mountain ash (there's one alongside my path). Besides serving with game, the jelly made from the berries was served with plain yoghurt by a Danish couple I knew. the bitterness of the jelly and the sourness of the yoghurt went together very well.