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A strange discovery at Wainford

At Wainford Maltings in January 1960, something strange was discovered as building work began: four human skulls, one filled with plaster of Paris. As builders removed the concrete floor of a brick building which had been on the site since 1946, they found the four skulls below the foundation.

Wainford, named for the lowest fordable point of the river Waveney, is in South Norfolk, around a mile from Bungay. This is an area rich in history with Neolithic long barrows and Bronze Age round barrows and ring ditches nearby which have revealed human burials, pottery, flint artefacts and arrowheads.

Pyramid of Skulls, c. 1901, by Paul Cézanne,

But while other nearby skeletal remains have been linked to burial sites, this one was very different: the skulls were buried together, 18 to 24 inches below the foundation level and were entirely different from each other in terms of age. One was Iron Age or Roman, one was medieval, one was 18th century and another was identified as being Arabic, of unknown age.

The skull that was buried the deepest was entirely filled with plaster of Paris, presumably to protect it from crumbling.

Norfolk Heritage Explorer notes the discovery and that the inspector who came to visit the site in 1960: “…retained the skulls for lecturing purposes”. Different times.

It was said, at the time, that the skulls were believed to be the remains of a local antiquary’s personal collection, although why they were buried – and what else was buried alongside them – was never revealed…

And of course, the abiding mystery remains: WHERE ARE THE WAINFORD SKULLS?


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