salisbury museum

Salisbury Museum, Wessex Gallery

Saxon Burial, 7th century AD

This burial was found in the remains of a barrow near Ford, Salisbury. It was found next to an early Bronze Age burial mound and near to the Roman road from Old Sarum to Winchester. Both of the barrows were flattened due to ploughing and were uncovered accidentally during the course of farming. In 1964 the site was excavated by a team from Salisbury Museum.

The Anglo-Saxon grave contained the skeleton of a man equipped with a hanging bowl, a seax (the type of knife which gave the Saxons their name), a shield, two spears, a buckle and a bone comb. The seax is a rare object and suggests the man was of some importance but it cannot be assumed that he was a warrior. As a pagan he believed that he could take these objects into he afterlife, to show that he was expected to perform a military role in the next world.

This burial may have been deliberately placed next to the Bronze Age barrow and the Roman road. The link between the old monuments and the burial, often on the boundaries of settlements and estates, was common practice at the time. It may have been an attempt to show a link between the recently deceased and the earlier generations of people who lived in the area.


Salisbury Cathedral - John Constable by AnthonyR2010
Via Flickr:
“Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Ground” was painted in 1823 by John Constable (1776 - 1837). It was commissioned by his friend Dr John Fisher, Bishop of Salisbury. The bishop and his daughter can be seen in the lower left hand corner. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

'Unparalleled' discovery of Roman villa beneath Wiltshire garden

It started off as a bit of basic home improvement, but it ended up with the discovery of one of the largest Roman Villas ever found in the UK.

While laying an electricity cable beneath the grounds of his home, near the village of Tisbury, in Wiltshire, Luke Irwin found the remains of what appeared to be an ornate Roman Mosaic.

But what emerged when archaeologists from Historic England and Salisbury Museum began excavating the site was even more of a surprise.

They found the mosaic was part of the floor of a much larger Roman property, similar in size and structure to the great Roman villa at Chedworth. 

But in a move that will surprise many, the remains – some of the most important to be found in decades - have now been re-buried, as Historic England cannot afford to fully excavate and preserve such an extensive site. Read more.

Salisbury Museum, Wessex Gallery

Warminster Jewel, Early Medieval, 9th century AD

The Warminster Jewel is an aestel (manuscript pointer). It was found by a metal detectorist in a field near Cley Hill, Warminster in 1997.

The jewel is made from rock crystal and set in a beaded wire frame of gold. At the centre there is either a blue glass bead or a lapis lazuli cabochon (a gemstone that has been shaped and polished). The gold shaft would have held and ivory or wood pointer to be used as an aid to reading.

Alfred, King of Wessex (AD 871-899), sent aestels to all the dioceses in his kingdom to accompany his translation of Pope Gregory’s Pastoral Care. They are very rare objects. The most famous example is in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The aestel is a symbol of Alfred the Great’s desire to encourage spiritual learning throughout his kingdom.


Archaeology: A Secret History - BBC Four 

Episode 2 “The Search for Civilisation”

Pitt-Rivers was an English army officer and also one of the leading anthropologists and archaeologists of the Victorian age. He is often described as the ’father of scientific archaeology’ because he had such a precise approach to recording his evidence. 

Pitt-Rivers’ Wessex Collection is housed in the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum.

His excavations at Cranborne Chase, in Wessex, were meticulously documented. He uncovered everything from Bronze Age barrows to Roman farmhouses and Saxon burials.

Picture n.1: Pitt-Rivers (in his horse and carriage) and a group of draughtsmen and excavators in Cranborne Chase. It was said that,
to keep the spirits up, he sometimes had a brass band playing whilst they worked.

Picture n. 2: one of the stone markers that he put down on one of his many excavations, giving precise information about exactly where ancient monuments were, where he’d found them, measurements and what function they had.

Pictures n. 3,4,5: One of Pitt.Rivers’ contour plans, which were basically
a series of models that were made of the archaeological sites that he excavated. Like an early example of 3D modelling: it’s the site to scale, showing the locations of the features from one particular area. The pits and artefacts are all shown, but also he’s painted on labels showing where the objects in the pits were found, too, and the depth at which they were found.


Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum, Salisbury, UK

Salisbury Museum, Wessex Museum

The Winterslow Hut, Bronze Age, 1500 - 1150BC

Reverand Allan Borman Hutchins, the Curate of Grately, excavated a large bell barrow near The Old Pheasant Inn at Winterslow in 1814. Within the barrow he found at least three burials. The oldest was a male buried with a beaker pot. The middle burial was a cremation accompanied by a biconical urn. The final burial was also a cremation contained in an urn along with a bronze razor and a quanitity of hair.

The hair has been reanalysed and is now thought to be sheep wool rather than human hair. One of the burials contained a number of amber beads, probably from a necklace. The smaller urn is in the ‘Trevisker’ style distinctive to south west Britain and is named after a site in Cornwall where it was first recognised.


Archaeology: A Secret History - BBC Four 

Episode 2 “The Search for Civilisation”

With Adrian Green, from the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, a Pitt-Rivers expert.

Pitt-Rivers was an English army officer and also one of the leading anthropologists and archaeologists of the Victorian age. He is regarded as having been a generation ahead of his time and is often described as the ’father of scientific archaeology’ because he had such a precise approach to recording his evidence. Pitt-Rivers viewed archaeology as an extension of anthropology and, as consequence, built up matching collections of archaeological and ethnographic objects to show longer developmental sequences to support his views on cultural evolution. His style of arrangement, designed to highlight evolutionary trends in human artefacts, was a revolutionary innovation in museum design.

Pitt Rivers’ Wessex Collection is housed in the museum.

In Pitt-Rivers and his meticulous records, we are seeing the very birth of
modern archaeology. And more than a hundred years later, everything he found is still carefully stored. Pitt-Rivers understood that in the future,
archaeologists might have new scientific techniques that would allow them to extract new types of data from artefacts.

Pictures: An illustrated catalogue, extraordinarily detailed. Each object is numbered and carefully drawn, then coloured, to give an idea of what it may have looked like (the illustrator has painted in to show corrosion).


Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum, Salisbury, UK