Pottery cremation urn
Early Anglo-Saxon, 5th-6th century
Probably from North Elmham, Norfolk
Decorated with swastikas
The urn has a narrow neck that falls to widely flaring shoulders. The body is boldly decorated with four narrow bosses flanked with small stamped swastikas. The area between the ribs is decorated with a small boss enclosed by stamped impressions made with a flat circular punch and flanked alternately by four large stamped swastikas and four infilled rectangular stamps.
The swastika is a symbol that has been used by many societies and has its origins in the Orient, where it is seen as a protective device. But whether the swastika has any meaning in early Anglo-Saxon England or whether it is purely decorative, is uncertain.
We can not be absolutely sure of the origin of this urn, but its similarity to other funerary vessels from North Elmham suggests that it was made by a potter working for the local community and that it is a stray from the same cemetery.
C. Haith, 'Pottery in early Anglo-Saxon England' in Pottery in the making: world-9 (London, The British Museum Press, 1997), pp. 146-51, fig. 1
J.N.L. Myres, Anglo-Saxon pottery and the se (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1969)
J.N.L Myres, A corpus of Anglo-Saxon potter (Cambridge University Press, 1977)