history of East Anglia Norfolk Suffolk

The Murky past of East Anglia

The pre William and his Norman Conquerors (1066 AD) history of England is surprisingly murky, especially considering the riches of ancient earthworks and civilisations with advanced technical skills.

Sutton Hoo treasures chronology

Trying to look into the past of Norfolk and Suffolk is somehow even murkier – like its coastal rivers, estuaries and famous reed marshlands of the Broads. Were it not for the Roman Empire then East Anglia might not have been on any early historical maps or mentioned in military despatches and soldiers mythology.

Gorleston was, probably, a place of importance before Yarmouth was built, and seems to have declined in prosperity as the latter town has advanced. Yet of its earlier history little can be said. Even the national annals of East Anglia are meagre and defective, and the records of its villages must, consequently, be incomplete.
The History and Antiquities of the County of Suffolk: Volume 1 | Rev Alfred Suckling (1846)

The local tribes from antiquity do not appear in the written evidence initially used as English history canon, until perhaps our 8th century. The mysterious Anglo-Saxons are suggested to have ruled for over half a millennia but these origin of the English people did not write themselves into history.

history of East Anglia Norfolk Suffolk

Most of England’s accepted historical facts and associated timelines of British Kingdoms originated from only 2 books – the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles (collated between 9th to 12th century) and Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (written by Saint Bede the Venerable, 8th century?).

As if Middle Ages wasn’t an odd enough term. And look, these ages, well … they are, Dark. I mean it is really, really hard to know what’s going on. Plus, in England at least, with the withdrawal of the Roman Empire it is a time of immense change and dislocation.

But the main thing is that from the 5th to the 9th centuries, the amount of textual material we have is, frankly, a disgrace; not just chronicles and contemporary history, but really any written record.
The Anglo Saxons: Chronicles and Arguments | The History of England

Yet the land history of the East Anglian Heights includes the Warham Camp earthworks and other not hill forts in Norfolk. We did have a wooden Seahenge including a huge inverted Oak tree, before they ripped that Health & Safety trip hazard out of Old Mawther Earth. Similarly we had the fabulous wealth of Sutton Hoo where there was a whole treasure ship inside a burial mound. Style.

Anglo-Saxon Sutton Hoo treasure ship burial

One cemetery had an undisturbed ship burial with a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artefacts; most of these objects are now held by the British Museum. The site is important in understanding the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of East Anglia and the early Anglo-Saxon period, as it illuminates a period that lacks historical documentation.
Sutton Hoo | Wikipedia

All of the Norfolk treasure chests, all of the Suffolk antiquity loot boxes but somehow scant written evidence from those times or even up to King William the Conqueror.

If a few odd events or year are not accounted for then over the centuries and a millennia you could have an extra or missing decade. In some peoples theories you could reduce the early Angles and East Angles-Saxons period by decades or centuries.

The six and a half centuries between the end of Roman rule and the Norman Conquest are among the most important in English history. This long period is also one of the most challenging to understand – which is why it has traditionally been labelled the Dark Ages. Yet a kingdom of England emerged in these centuries, and with it a new English identity and language.
An Introduction to Early Medieval England (C.410–1066) | English Heritage

history of East Anglia Norfolk Suffolk

Although East Anglia is famous for being slow, behind the times and stuck out of the way on the arse of England, how and why have early peoples and their histories missed chronicled times? This is supposedly the culture that the English Nation originated from.

Sutton Hoo treasures history

It is possible that some of our accepted timelines, perhaps based on old folklore and stories, might be unintenional but partial fabrications. If Academic chronology is not exact then some poor old mythical Cheiftan’s glorious tribe may not be allowed to officially exist.

The discoveries made at Sutton Hoo revolutionised our understanding of the early medieval period. A time that had been seen as unsophisticated was illuminated as vibrant and cultured, as the Anglo-Saxons laid the foundations for England as we know it.

The rulers of East Anglia were part of an international culture based around the North Sea stretching to the Baltic and far beyond. To them, the sea was no barrier and many of the objects discovered at Sutton Hoo had travelled many hundreds of miles, including garnets used within the jewelled pieces, which may have come from as far away as India or Sri Lanka.
Who were the Anglo-Saxons? Uncovering Anglo-Saxon society

But the monetary precious parts of this hoard were ripped out and acquired by those London folk, for everyone elses benefit. Leaving the locals with the cost of looking at the rotten wooden remains, left behind because they are worthy of being pay to view. Cheers.

Other lucky Kings of Old get an extended reign to force fit them into the official dates and historical evidence. Tribes may have been amalgamated into a collective and so do not exist now as their own entity.

The dialects of the Continental Saxons… is only to be traced in sporadic spellings in texts now extant, of which none is older than the 9th century.

When Procopius (Gothic Wars 550 AD) alleged that the inhabitants of Britain were Britons, Angles, and Frisians, he was no doubt confusing Frisians and Saxons, because of their close relationship.
Saxon people | Encyclopædia Britannica

Academic archeological and chronological does have surprising mistakes with interpretation and theories.

An indispensable source on the early history of the kingdom and its rulers is Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, but he provided little on the chronology of the East Anglian kings or the length of their reigns.

It has been suggested by Blair, on the strength of parallels between some objects found under Mound 1 at Sutton Hoo and those discovered at Vendel in Sweden, that the Wuffingas may have been descendants of an eastern Swedish royal family. However, the items previously thought to have come from Sweden are now believed to have been made in England, and it seems less likely that the Wuffingas were of Swedish origin.
Pagan rule – Kingdom of East Anglia | Wikipedia

The Chronicles of The Angles and The Saxons

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle
The Anglo Saxons: Chronicles and Arguments | The History of England

But what happened in the 1000’s of years before the 1066 AD Norman invasion?

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, chronological account of events in Anglo-Saxon and Norman England, a compilation of seven surviving interrelated manuscript records that is the primary source for the early history of England.

The fullness and quality of the entries vary at different periods; the Chronicle is a rather barren document for the mid-10th century and for the reign of Canute, for example, but it is an excellent authority for the reign of Aethelred the Unready and from the reign of Edward the Confessor until the version that was kept up longest ends with annal 1154.
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle | Encyclopædia Britannica

In lack of their own written fact you could in theory argue that the early East Anglians, even the early Anglo-Saxon nation, as we define those cultures today and their alloted time slot in history, did not exist.

Contrary to virtually all published sources and expectations the history of Norfolk certainly does have …

The excavation also uncovered an extensive Middle Bronze Age field system dating back to about 1,500 BC.

These systems were not thought to have existed further east than the Cambridgeshire Fens, indicating that such organised systems of farming were in use in the Broads earlier than previously thought.

Richard Mortimer, senior project manager at Oxford Archaeology East, said: We have not only shown that contrary to virtually all published sources and expectations Norfolk certainly does have Middle Bronze Age field systems, but they have a complexity that has rarely been seen elsewhere in the county.

It seems man, who dug out the Broads, was living and farming here earlier than we thought. It adds a new chapter to the Middle Bronze Age story for Norfolk.
Neolithic finds unearthed by Ormesby St Michael dig | BBC

The Early Middle Ages, the dark ages for local news papers and manuscripts. Why and how? Destructive raids, multiple natural catastrophes?

The six and a half centuries between the end of Roman rule and the Norman Conquest are among the most important in English history. This long period is also one of the most challenging to understand – which is why it has traditionally been labelled the Dark Ages. Yet a kingdom of England emerged in these centuries, and with it a new English identity and language.

The 5th and 6th centuries are certainly wrapped in obscurity. Records are few, difficult to interpret, propagandist, or written long after the events they describe. What is certain is that the Romans didn’t suddenly leave Britain. After 350 years of Roman rule – as long a period as separates the present day from Charles II – all Britons were, in a sense, Romans.

At first, the chief enemies of an independent Britain were Irish raiders from the west and Picts from the north. Later, Angles, Saxons and Jutes arrived from across the North Sea. We don’t know exactly how they invaded or settled in England, but by AD 500 Germanic speakers seem to have settled deep into Britain.
An Introduction to Early Medieval England (C.410–1066) | English Heritage

Documentary evidence for the migration is minimal …

From circa AD 520, and the beginnings of the East Engle domination of the eastern coast of Britain, this band of Angles gradually moved into the East Midlands, alongside other groups who eventually came to be known as the Middil Engle. They had emigrated from Angeln, the homeland of the Anglian peoples, around the start of the sixth century as part of a wholesale movement of peoples that apparently left Angeln deserted.

Documentary evidence for the migration, and the Anglian settlement of central England is minimal, nothing more than elements of an oral tradition that was written down centuries later
Iclingas – Angles of Central – England Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms | The History Files

The core of our chronology and information right through the Anglo Saxon age is …

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle is an amazing document, which gives the core of our chronology and information right through the Anglo Saxon age. BUT in these early years it is deeply suspect; many commentators argue that what we have here is back formation; the re-invention from a later age of what Anglo Saxons thought they’d like their history to be, to justify the social hierarchy and kingly authority of their present.

And remember, its genesis is in recording the success of the West Saxons, the house of Wessex – so a bit like Bede and his Northumbrian bias, at times other kingdoms can look like bit part players, or in the earlier years at least. None the less it’s an essential and unique source of information.
The Anglo Saxons: Chronicles and Argument | The History of England

No civil service paperwork, no book keeping manuscripts for the Chieftains and Kings Kingdoms, no records of contracts or glorious deeds done?

The Angles gave their name to England, as well as to the word Englisc, used even by Saxon writers to denote their vernacular tongue. The Angles are first mentioned by Tacitus (1st century ce) as worshippers of the deity Nerthus.
Angle people | Encyclopædia Britannica

The Tribal Hidage is a list of thirty-five tribes that was compiled in Anglo-Saxon England some time between the 7th and 9th centuries… The original purpose of the Tribal Hidage remains unknown… Historians disagree on the date for the original compilation of the list.

The Tribal Hidage is a valuable record for historians. It is unique in that no similar text has survived: the document is one of a very few to survive out of a great many records that were produced by the administrators of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms
Importance for historians – Tribal Hidage | Wikipedia

In theory the proto-English society and culture could even be just the continuation of Late Roman Britains or the ‘Englisc’ and England like Angles?

Many of the listed trends reversed later in the period. In 800 the title of Emperor was revived in Western Europe with Charlemagne, whose Carolingian Empire greatly affected later European social structure and history. Europe experienced a return to systematic agriculture in the form of the feudal system, which adopted such innovations as three-field planting and the heavy plough. Barbarian migration stabilized in much of Europe, although the Viking expansion greatly affected Northern Europe.
Early Middle Ages | Wikipedia

If you remove around 4 centuries from Anglo-Saxon England and especially East Angles tribal timeframes, then you can go from Roman British to late Anglo-Saxons and then those Frenchies successfully invaded and proper recorded 2nd millenium history began. Obviously there can be no dating issues with the last 1000 years as it has just happened.

No East Anglian charters (and few other documents) have survived, while the medieval chronicles that refer to the East Angles are treated with great caution by scholars.
Sources – Kingdom of East Anglia | Wikipedia

I really doubt the early Angles, East Angles, Saxons, all the Sassanochs, were bestest buddies, that they had a co-operative Anglo-Saxon civilisation. Why and how could they have a similar culture across the country and different Kingdoms when we do not even have that today, with the Union Great Britain?

The East Anglian Roman Britains

If it is Roman fixed chronology then there can be no doubt, can there? The administration information for Roman Britain period is sparse. In all official reporting those Eastern fenmen, marshmen and fishermen who live on the East Coast are hardly worth a mention.

The Romans do mention a woman of the Northfolk, the Queen of the Iceni. If not for the Roman’s Boudicea would there have been no mention in the two books or any writings, that were the origin for the history of England?

A century before, in both 55 and 54 BC, Julius Caesar had invaded Britain with the aim of conquest. But revolt in Gaul (modern-day France) had drawn him away before he had beaten down determined British guerrilla resistance.

Britain had remained free – and mysterious, dangerous, exotic. In the popular Roman imagination, it was a place of marsh and forest, mist and drizzle, inhabited by ferocious blue-painted warriors.
Invasion and conquest – Roman Britain, 43 – 410 AD | BBC

Roman Empire sea port forts include Burgh Castle and Caister-On-Sea. The area’s civic administration capital was Venta Icenorum, now suggested as being located in Caistor St Edmund and not in the fine City of Norwich.

The forts were under the command of the Count of the Saxon Shore and are documented in the Notitia Dignitatum, an official list of all military commands recorded at the end of the 4th century AD. This tells us that Burgh was home to the Stablesian cavalry unit, and cropmarks out-side the walls indicate there was an extensive vicus (civilian settlement) there.

In the 4th century AD Burgh and Caister controlled the entrance to the Waveney estuary, which is occupied by extensive marshes. They probably operated together and one, or both, were known by the Romans as Gariannonum.

For more than half a century the Saxon raids were checked fairly successfully and it was not until AD 367, when the Saxons, Picts and Scots made a concerted attack on Britain, that the forts began to be overrun and the count was killed.

Bede records that in about AD 630 Sigeberht, King of the East Angles, gave land inside a Roman fortress to St Fursa to found a monastery. The site, which was called Cnobheresburh, may have been Burgh: there is evidence for Saxon occupation and a cemetery inside the fort at this time. Caister is also a likely candidate, however. It too was the site of Saxon activity from the 7th century, and there was a large Saxon cemetery to the south of the fort.
The Count of the Saxon Shore | English Heritage

With, of course, the Roman version of an Iceni tribal revolt led by a warrior queen called Boudicca being perhaps the only reason those North Folk and South Folk are even mentioned in folklore. If it was not for the Romans giving us that then East Anglia could have literally never been on or mentioned on those maps and parchments.

Early East Anglian Saxon Britain

If your model has a reduced early medieval period then there could be no puzzling Dark Age. Those mysterious proto-England people’s period was much shorter. There will be proportionally little surviving writing.

The idea of a Dark Age originated with the Tuscan scholar Petrarch in the 1330s. Writing of the past, he said: “Amidst the errors there shone forth men of genius; no less keen were their eyes, although they were surrounded by darkness and dense gloom”.
Petrarch – Dark Ages

Another theory could have it as the Dark Ages of Catastrophism where repeated disasters struck the coastal areas. Perhaps the Early Middle Ages were a history of tidal waves, Velikovsky sloshings, layers of foreign material rapidly deposited, with conflagrations and the burning of most objects above ground. Chuck in a few Viking raids and the like, bit of pillaging and not much chance of objects of worth surviving in the local area. In this scenario perhaps paper, unless precious stone encrusted books, would not be considered worthy of hauling away.

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle

The origins of the English longbow are disputed. While it is hard to assess the significance of military archery in pre-Norman Conquest Anglo-Saxon warfare, it is clear that archery played a prominent role under the Normans, as the story of the Battle of Hastings shows.
Origins – English Longbow | Wikipedia

Although much archaeological evidence for Anglo-Saxon weaponry exists from the Early Anglo-Saxon period due to the widespread inclusion of weapons as grave goods in inhumation burials, scholarly knowledge of warfare itself relies far more on the literary evidence, which was only being produced in the Christian context of the Late Anglo-Saxon period.

These literary sources are almost all authored by Christian clergy, and thus do not deal specifically with warfare; for instance, Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People mentions various battles that had taken place but does not dwell on them. Thus, scholars have often drawn from the literary sources from neighbouring societies, such as those produced by continental Germanic societies like the Franks and Goths, or later Viking sources.

As Underwood noted, Warfare in the Anglo-Saxon period cannot be viewed as a uniform whole. This is because Anglo-Saxon society changed greatly during this period; in the fifth century, it constituted an array of small tribal groups while by the eleventh it had consolidated into a single state.
Evidence – Anglo-Saxon warfare | Wikipedia

A nationally significant Anglo-Saxon cemetery with 200 graves dating back to the 7th Century has been revealed. The graves were uncovered in Oulton, near Lowestoft in Suffolk, ahead of construction of a housing development.

The burial ground contained the remains of men, women and children, as well as artefacts including brooches, small iron knives and silver pennies. Many of the skeletons are only visible as sand-silhouettes, a delicate form of preservation.

A spokesman said the site lies within the Kingdom of the East Angles, made famous by the royal burial ground at nearby Sutton Hoo.
Oulton burial site: Sutton Hoo-era Anglo-Saxon cemetery discovered

Despite a considerable number of other finds, the discovery of the ship-burial at Sutton Hoo, probably interred in the 620s, transformed the history of Anglo-Saxon art, showing a level of sophistication and quality that was wholly unexpected at this date.

Jewellery is far more often found from burials of the early pagan period, as Christianity discouraged grave-goods, even the personal possessions of the deceased. Early Anglo-Saxon jewellery includes various types of fibulae that are close to their Continental Germanic equivalents, but until Sutton Hoo rarely of outstanding quality, which is why that find transformed thinking about early Anglo-Saxon art.
Metalwork – Anglo-Saxon art | Wikipedia

Anglo-Saxon East Anglia history written evidence

Anglo-Saxon art survives mostly in illuminated manuscripts, Anglo-Saxon architecture, a number of very fine ivory carvings, and some works in metal and other materials. Metalwork is almost the only form in which the earliest Anglo-Saxon art has survived.

… as the Vikings, Normans and Reformation iconoclasm between them left virtually nothing in England except for books and archaeological finds.

… However Anglo-Saxon society was massively disrupted in the 9th century, especially the later half, by the Viking invasions, and the number of significant objects surviving falls considerably, and their dating becomes even vaguer than of those from a century before.
Anglo-Saxon art | Wikipedia

An indispensable source on the early history of the kingdom and its rulers is Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, but he provided little on the chronology of the East Anglian kings or the length of their reigns.

Nothing is known of the earliest kings, or how the kingdom was organised, although a possible centre of royal power is the concentration of ship-burials at Snape and Sutton Hoo in eastern Suffolk. The North Folk and South Folk may have existed before the arrival of the first East Anglian kings.
Pagan rule – Kingdom of East Anglia | Wikipedia

Celtic and Iceni East Anglian’s

Only the mention of the tribe in the name Venta Icenorum. Is there any evidence from their own time written down or carved somewhere? If there is please let me know.

Iceni Celtic East Anglia

Pre history Norfolk and Suffolk

No writings or language survives of the ancient civilisations that constructed the impressive earthworks at Warham Camp.

That seems to be the case for a lot of European countries including Malta’s megalithic ‘Temples’. Were they wiped out by similar natural disasters? There does seem to be Dark Earth and other multiple chaotic layers of debris in areas of the UK, Europe and the Mediterranean. Claude Schaeffer was a French archaeologist who investigated layers of ancient destructions.

Other Iron Age dated structures include the eroded remains of circles, ditches and rings at Bloodgate hill fort, Warham Camp and Holkham Camp. Bloodgate fort is not near a water supply (with today’s geology). Warham Camp is in an idyllic location next to a chalk stream (with today’s geology) but is not on the highest location.

history of East Anglia Norfolk Suffolk

The old wooden henge, with huge upturned oak tree in the middle, known as Seahenge.

But when were these built and by whom? How are they dated so precisely but not a clue who they were.

Many historians have questioned the conventional dating of the beginning and end of the Middle Ages, which were never precise in any case and cannot be located in any year or even century.

Some scholars have advocated extending the period defined as late antiquity (c. 250–c. 750 ce) into the 10th century or later, and some have proposed a Middle Ages lasting from about 1000 to 1800. Still others argue for the inclusion of the old periods Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation into a single period beginning in late antiquity and ending in the second half of the 16th century.
The Middle Ages

Some of these tribes lasted longer in different areas. Just because experts say it is one age or the other does not always mean a group of tribes has not continued. Sudden technological and weaponry advancement will create invasions but the locals are not always killed. Who is going to do all the dirty manual work and pay taxes?

Some groups lineage could have continued between and through the various ages, as they morphed and were taught or discovered technical advances.

A rough standard chronology of the Man Ages from archaic to atomically modern humans.
Paleolithic (c.3.3 Ma – c.10 ka)
Stone Age (c.8700 BCE – c.2000 BCE)
Bronze Age (c.3000 BCE – c.1050 BCE)
Iron Age (c.1050 BCE – c.500 CE)
European Migration Period (300 CE – 700 CE)
European Middle Ages (476 CE – 1453 CE)

Homo Britannicus

We end or start with the surprising discoveries and the search for the wonderfully titled Homo Britannicus.

The coastline of Suffolk and Norfolk, two adjoining counties in the East Anglian region of Britain, is proving to be a treasure trove for those in search of the earliest evidence of ‘Homo britannicus’. Excavations at Pakefield, Suffolk, provided evidence for human activity around 700,000 years ago. Parfitt et al now describe an archaeological site near the village of Happisburgh, Norfolk, which seems to be even older, perhaps extending back 950,000 years.

At Happisburgh, the excavators found that the sediments in which the artefacts were buried record a period when Earth’s magnetic field had reversed polarity. That is, if one had a compass, it would have pointed south at that time instead of north. There is a well-known timescale of polarity reversals, the last of which occurred 780,000 years ago
Early human northerners | Nature

Happisburgh Man and Tribe are dated as being over 800,000 years old. But they were discovered at sea level on a very low and flat county. Geologists own dating of the strata proves that is where they Project Happisburgh has to be slotted into the levels of Norfolk and planet Earth’s murky history.

chronology history norfolk england evidence

The footprints are more than 800,000 years old and were found on the shores of Happisburgh.

The markings were first identified in May last year during a low tide. Rough seas had eroded the sandy beach to reveal a series of elongated hollows … The hollows were washed away not long after they were identified.
Earliest footprints outside Africa discovered in Norfolk | BBC