The Novum Inventorium Sepulchrale

Resurrecting Research

The Novum Inventorium Sepulchrale was, originally, a fully functioning database of Kentish Anglo-Saxon graves and grave goods, with a searchable interface showcasing images and descriptive metadata. 

After this project went offline in 2018, all that remained was a single project webpage with two spreadsheets, one containing a list of graves and the other containing the objects found within them. With the support of the projects Principal Investigator, Professor Helena Hamerow (School of Archaeology), the Sustainable Digital Scholarship service team was able to bring this project back to life.

Thanks to the Sustainable Digital Scholarship team, a valuable, web-based archaeological resource that had fallen off-line years ago is again being used. The team were hugely helpful and efficient - a real pleasure to work with. I had given up hope of seeing this resource brought back to life and am delighted with the outcome.  

In addition to bringing this project back online again, we had the opportunity to take a very hands-on and curatorial approach to cleaning the project’s metadata (c. 4,800 records and c. 6,000 images) before ingestion into the SDS Figshare repository. The addition of mandated Figshare fields to allow DOI creation for each record is an excellent improvement on the original database and necessary process for ingest. We were also able to rationalise some of the metadata fields by the omission, merging or adding of new fields; the hope is that the quality of metadata attached to the collection has improved by undergoing this process.

Exploring the Collection

The county of Kent is exceptionally rich in Anglo-Saxon cemeteries. Systematic excavations of some of these cemeteries in the 18th and early 19th centuries provided a wealth of finds that reflect Kent's close political and economic ties to the Frankish world in the 5th to 7th centuries. Excavations by the Revd Bryan Faussett in 1757-73 uncovered c. 750 graves from sites at CrundaleGuiltonKingston DownBishopsbourneBarfrestone and Sibertswold DownsBekesbourne and Chartham Down. Further excavations, in particular those carried out at Bifrons and Sarre in the 19th century, raised the number of excavated graves to well over 1000. The bulk of information was made available to subscribers in the Inventorium Sepulchrale (Faussett 1856) and in the journal Archaeologia Cantiana. 

By using the 'Group Project' function on Figshare, the SDS team were able to group the graves and objects found within the various dig sites, and these can be accessed via the links included in the description above.