Rosemary Cramp 1929-2023

Posted On: May 3rd, 2023

We are sad to share the news of the passing of Professor Dame Rosemary Cramp, who has died at the age of 93.

Image credit: Jeff Veitch

An internationally renowned archaeologist specialising in the archaeology and art of the early medieval world, Rosemary’s contributions were far-reaching. Her interest in Anglo-Saxon archaeology began at Oxford University, with early interests in Old English poetry and literature as well as material culture, architecture and colour. Rosemary joined Durham University in 1955 from St Anne’s College, Oxford, and was instrumental in the founding of the Department of Archaeology. She developed a strong interest in pre-Conquest sculpture soon after arriving, encouraged by V E Nash-Williams, and began to publish on sculpture in the 1960s, initially on the southern Scottish monuments. In the 1960s and 70s Rosemary led the excavations at the twin monastery of Wearmouth and Jarrow in Co Durham, the home of the Venerable Bede, conducting some of the first excavations in Europe of early medieval monastic complexes. In 1972 the Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture was formally recognised and funded by the British Academy as a national project, and after assembling a team of scholars, the first volume, by Rosemary herself, was published in 1984 and dealt with the sculptures of Durham and Northumberland.

After serving as Head of Department in Archaeology at Durham University for 19 years, from 1971-1990 Rosemary remained a key and active member of the department as an Emeritus Professor, publishing her Wearmouth-Jarrow excavations in 2005, and her second CASSS volume on the south-west of England in 2006. She also completed her excavations of the proprietary church and cemetery at The Hirsel, in southern Scotland, publishing this with the Society of Medieval Archaeology in 2014.

Rosemary was present on the day in April 1957 at Burlington House when ‘a new society for dark age and medieval studies’ was proposed and supported, setting the foundations for the Society of Medieval Archaeology and in the same year she published ‘Beowulf and Archaeology’ in the very first issue of the Society’s journal Medieval Archaeology. In 2004 Rosemary became a lifelong Honorary Vice President for the Society, and contributed to the Society’s celebratory volume, Fifty Years of Medieval Archaeology, 1957-2007.

Rosemary has been a leading expert and voice on Anglo-Saxon and early medieval archaeology for 70 years and her rich legacy of published work on the subject will continue to be profoundly influential for all scholars. Rosemary will be deeply missed by colleagues and friends.