Farewell

As I end my 16 years working as an FLO, I wanted to reflect on what kept me in the job for so long!

One of the things I loved most about being an FLO was handling a wide array of artefacts and continually learning about them. I have had the privilege of learning a lot about finds from many knowledgeable colleagues, some sadly no longer with us. I am extremely grateful to them all for sharing this knowledge with me.

During this time I have been involved with some exciting projects, such as the search for Bosworth battlefield and the associated Roman temple site. I’ve helped with major exhibitions such as Treasure at Snibston and the Vikings in the East Midlands at Nottingham university and I’ve even been on TV a few times (Time Team, The Story of England and the news).

I was proud to be the pilot county for PASt explorers and also extremely proud that ‘my’ Dr Phil Harding was our first ever self-recorder!

Myself and my volunteers have recorded over 32,000 objects, some of which have revealed previously unknown Anglo-Saxon cemeteries and illustrated early Medieval and Medieval settlement shift (look at Peckleton area finds). Many have expanded our knowledge of Roman settlement and all have added in some way to our knowledge of the past in our county and beyond.

Out of all the many artefacts I have handled the finds that stand out for me are ones that have massively changed the view of our area.   Processing the Treasure case that is now known as the Bosworth Boar (‘Bozzie’ to us LEIC-A6C834) was spine tingling. A small object with great significance,  pinpointing the spot Richard III fell in battle.

Other Treasure cases such as the linked gold bracteates from the Melton area (LEIC-EDD980 and LEIC-1E63A8) and the stunning gold buckle from Rutland (LEIC-47843A which also led to the discovery of a previously unknown Bronze Age barrow cemetery!) have shown that our counties were quite wealthy and perhaps an important area in the early Saxon period, rather than the backwater they were previously thought.

But for me personally the highlight has been recording several Scandinavian brooches that have helped to map the extent of this culture in the area and most important of all, the Anglo-Viking coins found in the north of the county (LEIC-4FC58C LEIC-B7F405 LEIC-19C0DA and  LEIC-B230B8) . These, along with the Thurcaston hoard (LEIC-C6D945), show that the area must have been home to Scandinavian populations, as these coins were not legal tender, so unlikely to be used by the natives. Along with two silver ingots from the Breedon area (DENO-34FB88 and  DENO-CE6103) , they show that a ‘dual economy’ was practised, a key indicator for Scandinavian settlement.

I will continue to develop my interest in the Scandinavians in England, as I work on the Lenborough coin hoard and explore the impact of Anglo-Danish rule for my Doctorate.  I will never forgot my time as an FLO. We are all changing the face of English and Welsh Archaeology one find at a time and long may this continue!

Rare Bronze Age Sword fragment donated by finder

Bronze age Sword handle fragment

This lump of Bronze doesn’t look much, but it is in fact part of a rare Bronze age sword handle.
It’s special because the hilt (handle) fragment – the U shaped outer part shown in the image surrounding the blade fragment – would normally have been constructed of an organic material such as wood or bone. In this example the entire hilt has been made of Bronze and wraps around the blade. It even has dummy rivets (see sketch) echoing the way that the organic hilts would have attached, with two halves riveted together.

Sketch showing ‘dummy’ rivets

This type of sword belongs to a small group of British and Continental types which date to the ‘Ewart park’ phase of the late Bronze Age c. 950-800BC. Another example was found recently in the Cherry Burton Hoard from Yorkshire (see YORYM-958D05). The fragment would have formed the hilt of a sword similar to the ‘Witham’ sword (illustration no 751) and others in the British Museum.

 

images of similar, more intact, swords

 

 

 

This example was found in the Whissendine area and is an extremely rare find for the Midlands.  This object has very kindly recently been donated by the finder, Mr Allan Mason, to Rutland County Museum. We are extremely grateful to him for doing so; it may not look much, but objects like this provide important information about objects used in the past. It’s very important that rare objects like this are in public ownership so they are available for engagement and further study.
See the full record here

 

 

Treasure 20 Rutland County Museum – Roman portrait ring

Late Roman Gold Finger Ring

Late Roman gold ring

This wonderful  ring from Whitwell depicts a man and woman and may be a betrothal gift or a love token? The portrait is contained within a beaded border and a raised edge with a very fancy  embossed border surrounding it. It’s  ‘shoulders’  where the bezel joins the hoop,  are decorated with applied wire and gold globules and the hoops edge also has a raised border.

The ring was ‘Treasure Trove’ when it was found in the early 90’s, but only because it was found along with 6 silver ‘siliqua’- late Roman coins. Because the coins and ring together made up a ‘hoard’ and were probably hidden with the intent to recover them later, they were classed as ‘Treasure Trove’.  If found today both the ring and the coins would be Treasure, whether found together or not. There is now no need to prove they were deliberately hidden, their age and material alone qualifies them as Treasure.

The ring can be seen  at Rutland County Museum

For more info on the Treasure Act to go  finds.org.uk/treasure

Treasure 20 Rutland County Museum – Ketton founders Hoard

  Ketton Founders Hoard

These late Bronze Age looped and socketed axes make up part of the Ketton  ‘founders’ hoard.  Containing  16 axes in total, along with a socketed knife or dagger and a fragment of casting scrap. It is believed to be the hidden stock of a travelling bronze founder. The Hoard was found in 1972 during works at Ketton Portland Cement Company Works and donated to the Museum Service.

Some of the axes from the hoard

When it was found Prehistoric base metal hoards were not considered Treasure. In 2003 the new Treasure Act was amended to include this category. Since then many hoards have been found and acquired by museums and such hoards are revolutionising our knowledge of Bronze Age metal work and society.

The dagger  can be seen  at Rutland County Museum

For more info on the Treasure Act to go  finds.org.uk/treasure

Treasure 20 – The Tinwell Roman coin hoard

 The Tinwell Roman coin hoard

The hoard was found by a metal detectorist in 1999. The 2830 coins were found in a Lower Nene valley white colour-coat vessel. The Nene valley in Northamptonshire was an important pottery manufacturing area of Roman Britain and their products are common in the Midlands.

Some of the Tinwell Hoard

The coins are debased Radiates, which should be solid silver but are copper alloy with a silver surface. These coins date to  253 to 275AD. The presence of a coin of the empress Severina minted in 275AD, suggests that this hoard was deposited sometime after that date. The different coins making up the hoard are similar to other hoards of this period, which are common throughout Roman Britain.

 

For more information on hoards in Roman Britain, see this post or you can search the database for ‘Roman hoard’.

The Hoard can be seen at Rutland County Museum

Treasure 20 Rutland County Museum – silver necklace

 

 

     Early Medieval silver ‘Lunula’

This wonderful Early Medieval silver Lunula or necklet has stamped decoration and three triangular patches of gilding.  It was found at Market Overton and dates to the 6th century.  Necklets like this are rare, especially in precious metal.  Parallels for this have been found, made of copper alloy, in other excavations in Rutland. The Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at Empingham II (Oxbow Monograph 79, 1996) recorded two examples. They came from Graves 85b and 96c and, in the first grave, were associated with broad annular brooches and a pin, confirming the 6th century date.

Early Medieval silver Lunula

The necklet would have formed part of a high status grave assemblage, probably accompanied by large gilded brooches and exotic beads.

Because it was found before 1996, and is a a grave good, it did not qualify as Treasure. If found today, a stunning object of this age would automatically be Treasure.

The necklet is part of the Oakham School Collection and is on loan to Rutland County Museum

For more info on the Treasure Act to go  finds.org.uk/treasure

 

Treasure 20 Rutland County Museum – Roman ‘Hacksilver’ Hoard

Roman Hack Silver Hoard

This amazingly rare hoard containing 9 pieces of sheet silver from at least three vessels and an incomplete solid silver hair pin, was found during excavations just outside the Fort in 1954.

The hoard was buried outside Great Casterton, beside one of towns wall’s projecting bastions. This spot might have been chosen because the tower provided an obstacle to hide behind whilst burying the hoard, and a landmark to help locate it, when the owner wanted to recover it.

The hoard was buried in the late fourth- or early fifth-century AD,  a time of crisis across the empire, as barbarians crossed the frontiers and ransacked towns and cities. Some of the pieces in the hoard were centuries old when they were buried. Its owner, faced with such a perilous situation, may have felt it was better to cut up their heirlooms to use as currency. The hoard was never recovered and we can only guess what fate befell its owner.

This is a true ‘hoard’ under the old laws of ‘Treasure Trove’ – a collection of objects made of [precious metal that have been hidden for safe keeping. It has very few parallels in Britain, the most obvious one being the spectacular Traprain Law Treasure from Scotland, which contains many pieces of silver plate as well whole artefacts.

The objects are part of the Oakham School Collection and are on temporary display at Rutland County Museum

For more info on the Treasure Act to go  finds.org.uk/treasure

Meet Rutland’s ‘Flintstones’

Ellie Cooper, Museum Intern shares her love of Prehistory.

Prior to my role as a Collections and Interpretation Intern at Rutland County Museum I did not know much about Rutland. Admittedly, I presumed it was part of Leicestershire. Now understanding it’s the smallest county in England and given its rich history, I thought it would be great to share what I’m learning through a blog. My interests lie heavily with the Old Stone Age and so I will begin here with the Palaeolithic. This is the earliest prehistoric period — think before iron, before bronze, before farming and permanent settlements. Importantly, this was a time when people lived off the land, utilising natural resources from their environment – making stone tools much like The Flintstones!

It’s worth bearing in mind that compared to other counties, little is known about Rutland’s Palaeolithic: Rutland has no caves which make ideal preservation areas for archaeology to last the centuries.

Ancient humans occupied southern Britain intermittently from nearly 1 million years ago (800,000 years)! Though not like us, they were actually quite close to ‘becoming’ human. Living in Rutland was impossible until 130,000 years ago as a huge ice sheet covered the county before then. Rutland’s earliest evidence for ‘human’ occupation comes from [the more recent] Upper Palaeolithic [roughly between 50,000-10,000 years ago]. This was a time when modern humans made it to Britain over the ‘land bridge’ that connected us to the continent – a time when the climate warmed.

Here are some bullet points to help you get your head around the dates; the gaps are during really, really cold times when Britain was un-inhabitable during parts of the ‘Ice Age’.

Period 1 (950,000 – 450,000 years ago): Cromerian and Intra-Anglian

Period 2 (450,000 – 250,000 years ago) Pre-Levallois

Period 3 (250,000 – 150,000 years ago) Levallois

Period 4 (60,000 – 40,000 years ago) Mousterian [Neanderthals]

Period 5a (40,000 – 27,000 years ago) Early Upper Palaeolithic [Modern Humans]

Period 5b: (13,000 – 9,500 BC) Late Upper Palaeolithic

Rutland’s early Upper Palaeolithic site: GLASTON

In 2000, archaeologists unearthed Stone Age animal bones and flints from Glaston. Finding a particular spear tip (flint leaf point) provided the find’s early Upper Palaeolithic date: tools of this type date in the lab to around 30,000 years old. This was a time when Rutland’s inhabitants likely included 2 species of human: us and Neanderthals. This makes it really hard to determine who the maker of this tool was!

Here, the treeless landscape allowed herds of herbivorous animals to roam. Excitingly Rutland County Museum contains fossils of woolly rhino, bison, horse, reindeer and woolly mammoth. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors did not however live an easy life with spotted hyena, cave lions, wolves, and cave bears around. I’m yet to spot these in the stores.

Ice Age fossils in Rutland County’s Museum stores

Glaston produced few flint tools but the ones it did were fresh – they hadn’t be used many times before. It makes sense then that it’s recognised as a temporary hunting camp; a place where people on the move would have hunted and consumed meat which we know was horse! The bones tell us that they were extracting their very nutritious bone marrow too – I’m yet to try it but keep spotting it in supermarkets.

Hyena also inhabited the site before or after the people left: they dug their own dens in the soft sands. The gnawed bones tell us the hyenas too enjoyed a feast. Our ancestors must have interacted with hyenas sometimes – I wonder if these relationships came near to those we’ve recently watched on BBC’s Planet Earth 2?

Rutland’s Terminal Palaeolithic site: LAUNDE

Around 20,000 years later the site of Launde was used as a short term ‘home’ by our ancestors. This wasn’t a cave but an open air place, so it’s possible a shelter was made. The 3000 pieces of ‘fresh’ flint tools / debris among a central hearth suggest it was a place for stone tool manufacturing and maintenance. Nearly all of these tools are left unfinished. Did something happen that made these people leave the site in a hurry? Probably not – Launde’s boulder clay geology would have provided much flint: Flint would have been so easy to come by that tools may have been left behind as more could easily be produced. Launde would have been a great location for overlooking prey across a wide plateau – providing similarly good views for intercepting prey like at Glaston.

Take a trip to Rutland County Museum to see some of the Stone Age for yourself!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thistleton Roman town

Thistleton is a very interesting Roman site in Rutland,  including a long running temple precinct with Iron Age origins, evidence for a small industrious town and a villa site. It was excavated by the Ministry of Works (the forerunner of English Heritage)  in the 1950s to early 1960s, which sadly was not published. Objects from the site can be seen in Rutland County Museum, such as this stunning dog brooch.