I’ve received a couple of interesting emails from Leslie Webster, who is the Keeper at the Department of Prehistory and Europe in The British Museum with some of her thoughts about the find.
Here is some of what she tells me:
David was in yesterday and confirmed that his reading agrees with the above. These are also definitely Anglo-Saxon runes; we think that G D E represents the end of a verb, and David therefore very sensibly suggests that as this looks very like the end of the object, that T AE A must be the beginning of another word. But he will get back to us with a definitive verdict on what all this might mean.
Neither of us are sure what object this scrap might come from yet, and that will need some further thought. But having looked closely at the style and scale of the inscription, which was almost certainly originally inlaid with niello,it fits very well with a series of gold finger rings with runic and non-runic inscriptions which are conventionally dated to the 9th century. This makes it rather more likely that this tiny piece of chopped gold, though Anglo-Saxon in origin, owes its present shape to Viking intervention, and is actually a piece of Viking ‘hack-gold’, bullion intended for remelt into ingots or for exchange.
I have shown it briefly to Professor James Graham-Campbell, who is the leading expert on Viking gold and silver hoards in England, and he will be back to examine it properly in a few days. In the meantime, David, who as well as being a runologist, is head of the English Place-Name Survey, has pointed out that the area around XXXXXXX is the only part of Essex which shows clear Viking influence in the place names. So – just possibly – there may be a Viking factor at work here?
Watch this space!