RELIQUARY

Unique ID: ESS-2C4836

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find validated and published by finds advisers

A medieval reliquary pendant of lozenge shape with a suspension loop. The reliquary pendant is gold and dates from the first half of the sixteenth century.

The front panel of the reliquary is engraved with an image of a female saint, probably the Virgin Mary, supporting the cross. The cross is speckled in a manner suggesting that it is splattered with blood. To the left and right of the figure are foliate tendrils. The saint stands on a chequerboard design, probably indicating a tiled floor or pavement.

The back panel slides out to reveal a cavity, undoubtedly designed to contain a relic. This panel has suffered some damage and was upon discovery immovable, since it has been pressed at its bottom into the interior of the pendant. It is engraved with the five wounds of Christ and a profusion of droplets indicating blood. Devotion to the blood and wounds of Christ was one of the hallmarks of late medieval piety. The engraved detail was probably originally enamelled. Marilyn Hockey, Head of Metals Conservation in the British Museum's Department of Conservation and Scientific Research, undertook a procedure working under microscope and using a specially made miniature probe to prise the lid free. It now slides in and out along grooves cut into the side panels, as designed.

The contents of the reliquary were matted root hairs. They were examined by Caroline Cartwright, Organics Conservator in the British Museum's Department of Conservation and Scientific Research, under scanning electron microscope and small but identifiable fragments of the outer stems of flax (Linum usitatissimum) were also visible. These represented unprocessed flax stem pieces, possibly from flax plants grown locally. They are not processed flax fibres from linen textiles or clothing.

The side panels of the pendant carry on three faces the names of the Magi: Iaspar, Melcior, Baltasar (Jaspar, Melchior and Balthazar). The fourth side panel is engraved with foliate ornament. The letters of the inscription are of a type of Lombardic script in use in the sixteenth century, as evidenced, for instance by Sergeants' rings of the period.

There is a coiled suspension loop, which has a notch cut into it to enable the removal of the back panel.

The British Museum's Department of Conservation and Scientific Research conducted non-destructive X-ray fluorescence analysis of the surface of the pendant, which indicated a gold content of 69 to 73%, a silver content of 19 to 21%, with copper making up the rest of the alloy.

Notes:

Due to its age and precious metal content, the pendant meets the criteria for Treasure according to the Treasure Act 1996.

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Submitted for consideration as Treasure

Treasure details

Treasure case tracking number: 2009T256

Chronology

Broad period: POST MEDIEVAL
Subperiod from: Early
Period from: POST MEDIEVAL [scope notes | view all attributed records]
Subperiod to: Early
Period to: POST MEDIEVAL [scope notes | view all attributed records]
Date from: Circa AD 1500
Date to: Circa AD 1550

Dimensions and weight

Length: 33 mm
Width: 25 mm
Weight: 8.68 g
Quantity: 1

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Sunday 17th May 2009

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Laura McLean - [ view all attributed records]
Identified by: Laura McLean - [view all attributed records]
Secondary identifier: James Robinson - [ view all attributed records]

Other reference numbers

Treasure case number: 2009T256

Materials and construction

Primary material: Gold [scope notes | view all attributed records]
Completeness: Complete [scope notes | view all attributed records]

A resized image of 2009 T256 Medieval Pendant

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Spatial metadata

Region: Eastern
County: Essex
District: Rochford
To be known as: Hockley Area

Spatial coordinates

Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 1000 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector [scope notes]

References cited

No references cited so far.

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Audit data

Created: Tuesday 19th May 2009
Updated: Friday 17th August 2012

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