After the Staffordshire field at Hammerwich had been ploughed again last month, archeologists examined it again and discovered a new wealth of artefacts of the Anglo-Saxon period. In July 2009 the same field yielded 3,900 items, which are known worldwide as the Staffordshire Hoard. This time the scale is smaller, but the surprising fact is that many new pieces fit with parts found earlier. It means that the hoard is essentially the same. Some parts had been buried at a deeper level and were not excavated in 2009. However, the official decision will be pronounced January, 4th by South Staffordshire Coroner Andrew Haigh who will rule if the new findings are part of the Staffordshire Hoard and should be declared treasure.
The 90 metalwork items include a helmet cheek piece, an eagle shaped mount, a gold and garnet cross, as well as a whole array of very small parts that weigh less than a gram. All of them are now examined and x-rayed.
The original Staffordshire Hoard is on display in Stoke-on-Trent and Birmingham. Its gold and silver artefacts are dated to the 7th and 8th centuries. It was discovered by Terry Herbert. The hoard is rather enigmatic in nature, because there is no grave or hut nearby. This might be war booty, since most of the items seem to be part of warrior equipment. Many of the objects were twisted.
Archeologists say they would like to go back in a couple of years and have a look at the Staffordshire field when it is ploughed again.
Photo: Staffordshire county council/PA
The Thames Scramasax is a blade that was recovered from the Thames River in England in 1857. It was discovered by a common laborer by the name of Henry Briggs, who in turn sold the find to the British Museum, where it is currently still on display. The single-edged blade is more commonly referred to as the Seax of Beagnoth. “Seax” is derived from the Old English word meaning “knife” and “Beagnoth” refers to either the knife’s owner or maker.
Here are 3 interesting things you should know about the discovery of the Thames Scramasax and its historical significance.
The single-edged knife has been dated to the 9th century, and as late as 900 AD. It’s a remarkably intact discovery that bears intricate inscriptions which allow historians to trace its origins and also garner some information on the rune, Old English language of the markings.
A 9th century seax was likely used either as a hunting knife, weapon or both. It is a long weapon with a single, sharpened edge that comes to a point. It is reminiscent of a flat-sided sword. The design and composition of the blade support the notion that it would have been made for someone of wealth and status, as it is intricately inlaid with copper, silver and brass.The wire inlaying technique required much skill from the artisan and can also be found on Viking swords from the same era. [click to continue…]
At some time early in the first century AD, the Greek geographer Strabo set out what he considered to be the main reason why the Romans had not pursued their initial interest in conquering Britain. The expeditions that Julius Caesar had launched in 55 and 54 BC were not followed up because: although the Romans could have held Britain, they have rejected the idea, seeing that there was nothing to fear from the Britons, since they are not powerful enough to cross over and attack us, nor was there much advantage to be gained if the Romans were to occupy it.
Eventually in 43 AD, the lame and unloved emperor Claudius, in an attempt to garner some military glory for himself, did decide that it was worth sending the legions to bring Pax Romana to this distinctly unpromising corner of the world. However, one always suspects that the Roman imperial authorities had significant reservations about their new acquisition.
When Greek and Roman writers bothered to mention Britain it was usually to pass comment on its geographical remoteness and the barbarity of its native inhabitants. Other northern frontier provinces would produce their quota of bright young things who blazed a trail in the rarefied stratosphere of the Roman court. However, these tales of success stand in stark contrast to the deafening silence that surrounds the achievements of the Romano-British elite on the wider imperial stage.
This ancient ambivalence is in marked contrast to the enthusiasm of 19th- and 20th-century writers and scholars for whom the history of Roman Britain has mattered a great deal. In an age of empire when Britannia really did rule the waves, comparisons with Rome were just too tempting to resist. Thus, the concept of Romanisation, the process through which Britain and its inhabitants became Roman, came into being. The introduction of towns, villas, baths, classical education and law to a land which supposedly had previously possessed none of these things could be comfortably equated with the civilizing mission that cohorts of British colonial administrators were engaged in around the globe. [click to continue…]
Last July the Yorkshire Museum raised £35,000 to purchase a unique Anglo-Saxon gold and sapphire finger ring. It had been found in April 2009 by a metal detectorist Michael Greenhorn, a railway technician who is also member of the York and District Metal Detecting Club. The find was reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme and declared treasure.
Sapphires were associated with high status like royalty, upper nobility or bishops. The find is so rare that there is literally nothing to compare it with, so that dating of the ring represents some difficulty. The gold beading is characteristic for the Viking period but red and blue glass set in gold is found in earlier Anglian jewelry. It is possible that at some stage sapphire was used to replace blue glass to create a unique and expensive ring for the archbishop of York, one of the earls of Northumbria or even a king. The museum launched an investigation to find stylistic parallels in other pieces of Anglo-Saxon jewelry and narrow down the age range. No less interesting is the geological origin of the sapphire itself. It may have come from India or Sri Lanka.
The only other sapphire found in a jewel of the Anglo-Saxon period is the coronation ring of Edward the Confessor. The gemstone from this ring is now part of the Imperial State Crown of Great Britain, at the center of the cross on top of the crown.
The gold used for the ring is of a very high standard. It is an alloy of 90% gold, 8% silver and 2% copper. It weighs 10.2 grams.
Hopefully, the Yorkshire Museum will reveal more concerning this rare find in the near future.
Photo: © independent.co.uk
Bamburgh sword is a rare Anglo-Saxon sword from the seventh century. It once belonged to an Anglo-Saxon king or a member of a royal family. The sword was made up of six individual strands of iron: this technique is known as pattern welding, Babmburgh sword thus being a six pattern-welded sword. Cold weapons of such structure are also called ‘snake patterned’ because of the herring bone appearance created by the forged strands. Six strands or layers of carbon steel forged together made it a perfect weapon: in comparison, Sutton Hoo sword had only four layers. Bamburgh sword is the only one of its kind ever found.
The recovery of the sword is rather peculiar. It was dug out during the first excavation at Bamburgh castle, Northumberland, in 1960. After that it was forgotten in the attic of the broadcaster and archeologist Brian Hope-Taylor who took part in the excavations. After his death in 2001, some of his former PhD students came to his house hearing that his books were being sold off. The sword was going to be dumped in a skip by workers who were clearing the house. It was returned to Bamburgh Castle in 2005, where Paul Gething and Graeme Young were working on the Bamburgh Research Project. It is then that the rare nature of the artifact became known. The sword was sent to the Royal Armouries for further examination.
Discovering such a sword is a unique chance for an archeologist. More excavations at the Bamburgh castle may reveal more details as for this exceptional weapon.
Photo: Bamburgh sword