7 ancient treasures you can see in Ipswich

Ipswich Museum is home to a variety of treasures and artefacts

Ipswich Museum is home to a variety of treasures and artefacts - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

This year’s Festival of Archaeology will be taking place between Saturday July 17 and Sunday August 1. Established by the Council for British Archaeology, it aims to get everyone involved in the historical activity, and is the country’s largest celebration of archaeology. 

The theme is 'Exploring local places' - and what better way to do that than by visiting your local museum to see what rare and fascinating finds they’ve unearthed. 

Here are just some of the ancient and historical finds on display right here in Ipswich.  

Polished axes from the Neolithic age

Polished axes from the Neolithic age - Credit: Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service

Polished axes  

This pair of polished axes were found in 1948 in Woodbridge and Wherstead respectively, and are believed to date back to the Neolithic age between 12,000 and 800 BC.  


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“The Neolithic hand axes have been chipped from stone and then polished over days and possibly weeks to get a smooth sleek appearance. Various abrasives were used before they were finally rubbed with fine sand,” explains Bob Entwistle, senior conservation officer at Ipswich Museum. 

“The axes would have been very valuable as so much time and effort had been expended on their manufacture.” 

A Palaeolithic hand axe 

A Palaeolithic hand axe - Credit: Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service

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Palaeolithic hand axe 

Discovered in 1942, this hand axe which was found in Ipswich’s Henslow Road, can be traced back to the Palaeolithic era.   

Also known as the Old Stone Age, the Palaeolithic era took place between 700,000 and 12,000 years ago, and was the stage of human development where rudimentary chipped stone tools came into use.  

“This particular hand axe had remained in the ground in this area for thousands of years, and we believe there was a small temporary camp of early hunters in the area. They probably followed the animal herds, and returned to the same area every year to hunt and make a camp.” 

A mummified Egyptian cat

A mummified Egyptian cat - Credit: Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service

Ancient Egyptian cat 

Back in 1932, this mummified Egyptian cat was uncovered in Egypt and brough to Ipswich Museum where it has been ever since. 

Cats were sacred to the Egyptian goddess Bastet, and were mummified and offered to her in her temples. While the exact date of the cat is unknown, the ancient Egyptian period took place between roughly 3000 BC up until 30 BC. 

“This cat mummy has been X-rayed, and you can see the bones and pins holding the bandages together,” adds Bob.  

An Atys plaque uncovered from Castle Hill Villa

An Atys plaque uncovered from Castle Hill Villa - Credit: Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service

Atys plaque 

This jet plaque was found in 1931 at the Castle Hill Villa in Chantry, and represents Attis - an ancient Near Eastern vegetation deity. 

“The Romans were quite happy to worship gods from many lands, and many soldiers and people from the Near East lived, served and settled in Britain.” 

The gold mummy mask of Titus Flavius Demetrios

The gold mummy mask of Titus Flavius Demetrios - Credit: Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service

Mummy mask 

Currently on display in Ipswich Museum is the gold mummy mask of Titus Flavius Demetrios, an Ancient Roman citizen.  

Believed to date back to round 110 AD, the mask was excavated in Hawara, Egypt by famed Egyptologist Flinders Petrie in 1888. 

“Titus lived in Egypt, but was a Roman citizen, and it is thought he took his name from the Flavian emperors, Vespasian Titus or Domitian.  

“By the time Titus died, Egypt was being ruled by the Romans who had ousted the Ptolemys. Ptolemy was one of the generals of Alexander the Great, and after Alexander’s death, Ptolemy took over the Egyptian part of Alexander’s Empire.  

“Ptolemy founded a dynasty which lasted for 300 years, and even though they ruled Egypt, they considered themselves Greek. The last Ptolemy was Queen Cleopatra.” 

The mask came into the museum about 1921, and was loaned to London’s Two Temple Place but has since been returned to Ipswich.  

An assortment of Anglo-Saxon treasures found at Sutton Hoo

An assortment of Anglo-Saxon treasures found at Sutton Hoo - Credit: Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service

Sutton Hoo mound 

This assortment of objects, which includes gold fragments, was excavated by Basil Brown in 1938 from Mound 2 at the historic and famous Sutton Hoo.  

“The mound had been robbed in antiquity, but some boat rivets and these objects survived,” explains Robert.  

The mound is now thought to be the grave of Raedwald’s father King Tyttla, who lived between 578-599. 

“These pieces show the wealth of the Anglo-Saxons living in this area. They also show links with different parts of Europe, as some of the objects found at Sutton Hoo were imported from as far away as the Middle East and Constantinople.” 

An Anglo-Saxon gold bead uncovered in Rendlesham

An Anglo-Saxon gold bead uncovered in Rendlesham - Credit: Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service

Anglo-Saxon gold bead

This gold bead was found near Sutton Hoo at Rendlesham, and dates back to the Anglo-Saxon period. It is made from gold, and is inlaid with red enamel. 

“There have been many similar finds from this area, which has led archaeologists to believe there may have been a palace or rich settlement in this area. Perhaps the people who lived at Rendlesham used Sutton Hoo as their cemetery.” 

It was brought to Ipswich Museum in 2014, but was with the Coroner and English Heritage beforehand.  

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