skip to content

Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology


Early Medieval
Cambridge, England
D 1924.41

"Most of the Early Medieval pottery here has been in storage longer than any of us have been alive. From our first day at work, vessels like this taught us about the museum people and practices that went before us. Finally getting them ready for their close-ups was a great feeling."

Stores Move Team

Get my Good Side

After a nail-biting five-month delay, the Stores Move Project finally got underway in September 2020. We didn't really know what to expect from the store, never mind how we would work during a global pandemic. As our very first project, the Early Medieval collection has made a lasting impression on each of us.

As we unpacked each box, we learnt about how museum practice has changed over time. We found pots packed in corrugated brown paper, kitchen towel and newspaper. From calligraphic labels written on the backs of ball invitations to pots repaired with Velcro, these vessels served as reminders that museum objects do not rest in our institutions unchanged. Our work just becomes part of a constantly evolving story.

Many of the vessels we worked with served as containers for cremated people, each hand-made and representing the work of an individual, possibly with a dead family member or friend in mind. As we cared for these vessels, we developed a sensitivity to the forms and decoration that made each one unique; dainty, narrow-waisted vessels decorated with neatly impressed stamps, large urns with flamboyantly curving rims scattered with different designs, and restrained, methodically symmetrical pots. These urns would have become the final physical shape of the person they contained. 

We didn't want to display an urn in an exhibition that wasn't going to concentrate on the person it belonged to. Instead, we've chosen an example buried alongside someone from the early medieval cemetery at Girton, possibly carrying food or drink as a gift from the people who loved them.

Explore these objects further:

Explore the full collections database:

Two million years of human history. One million artefacts. Countless astonishing stories.