This silver Post-Medieval hawking vervel was reported as Treasure in 2012 after being discovered by a metal detectorist near Sutton upon Derwent in the East Riding of Yorkshire.
Hawking was a favourite form of hunting for centuries in England and was at its most popular in the seventeenth century. Trained birds of prey were used to catch animals such as hares and, as these birds were prestigious and expensive, their owners fitted them with vervels. Vervels were small rings attached to the leg straps and leash of the bird. The leash, when held in the hand, enabled the bird to be trained in short distance flight. It could also be used to fix the bird to its block or perch.
Vervels gave the owner’s name, residence or coat of arms, allowing lost birds to be identified and returned. Arms were especially useful, as not everyone could read.
This example of a hawking vervel comprises a circular ring inscribed with the name *F. VAGHAN and a shield shaped plaque soldered onto the external surface. The plaque bears a crest depicting of a male head with a snake wrapped around his throat.
This crest is thought to be attributed to the Vaughn family who had branches in East Yorkshire and Herefordshire though their family seat was at Tretower near Crickhowell, Wales. The Vaughan family crest depicted the heads of three boys with snakes around their necks. This motif derived from a story concerning their ancestor Moreiddig Warwyn, who was belived to have been born with a snake around his neck.
While this object was found in East Yorkshire, the Herefordshire branch of the Vaughn family were based at Hergest Court, which was allegedly the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes adventure The Hound of the Baskervilles.
An object featuring the same design was found in Baffins, Porthsmouth in 2018 (ref: HAMP-D99A92). Made of copper-alloy and decorated with enamel, this object was originally thought to be Roman though further research showed the potential connection to this vervel, suggesting a much later date. The type of object however remains a mystery.
Similar heraldic vervels have been reported as Treasure from around England, including DUR-775EF0 from Hutton Conyers, North Yorkshire, depicting a stylised horse’s head and an inscription naming a member of a local family, Sir William Mallory.
Examples made of silver illustrate the development of hawking as an aristocratic pastime in the seventeenth century.
Hawking vervels made of silver are prestigious objects which provide personalised evidence of wealthy families and illustrate the development of hawking as an aristocratic pastime in the seventeenth century.
Medieval objects are the second most commonly recorded objects on the PAS database. They account for 23% of the data set behind Roman material which covers a huge 40%. The bulk of this material is made up of the more common finds, such as individual coins, buckles, brooches and vessel sherds.
Occasionally however, we come across something which really stands out. That was the case with this beautiful medieval enamelled mount.
Made of a thin sheet of copper-alloy this mount would have adorned the terminal of an arm of a processional cross.
The front of the mount is decorated with a winged bovine animal, standing right with its head facing back towards its tail. A ringed halo surrounds its horned head. The facial features are only faintly visible as are feathers on the wings. Areas of the background retain blue enamel and it is likely that the remaining recesses also originally contained enamel settings of various colours.
This style of decoration is known as ‘Limoges’, named after the town in Aquitaine where the method was widely employed from the mid-12th century onward. A design would be carved or cast into a sheet of metal. The recessed areas were then filled with powdered glass enamel and the object fired until the powder melted and filled each area. Polishing would finish the piece to show the coloured enamel framed shiny by metal.
Limoges works of high quality multi-coloured enameled pieces adorned a variety of objects such as books, horse furniture and reliquaries and were favoured by important ecclesiastical and royal circles. The works were internationally famed and, in England, the style saw its peak popularity in the 13th century.
Limoges mounts such as this example would have been one of a set of four. Each mount would depict a different winged emblem of an evangelist, placed in a predetermined order on the reverse arms of a cross, framing the central figure of Christ. This example depicts the Ox of St Luke and the orientation of the design suggests it was originally affixed to the right arm of the cross. Example recorded by PAS suggest that the position of each evangelist was not set and variations often occurred.
Similar mounts depicting the other three Evangelists have been recorded on the database including KENT-732442 showing the eagle of St John, DENO-4E91E9 depicting the lion of St Mark, and WILT-EACA46 representing the angel of St Matthew.
This object, and those like it, provide a wonderful glimpse into the vibrant medieval world.
In July 2020 the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) reached the amazing milestone of recording 1.5 million objects.
In its 23 year history numerous people have contributed to the success of the PAS. This is not only Finds Liaison Officers (FLOs), but volunteers, interns and students, without whom this immense achievement would not have been possible. The finders who have volunteered objects for recording have also played an integral part in helping to increase our knowledge of the archaeological record of England and Wales.
To celebrate this achievement this post will highlight some favourite finds from North and East Yorkshire.
Yorkshire has two FLOs. The North and East Yorkshire post was established in 1996 and is based at the Yorkshire Museum, while the FLO post for South and West Yorkshire, established in 2004, is based at the West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service.
In York we’ve recorded over 38,000 objects & coins. As the graph below shows 40% of these are Roman, 25% and 20% are medieval and Post-Medieval respectively. The Prehistoric period, Palaeolithic to Iron Age, is represented by just 7% of the finds recorded. The reasons for such differences in numbers are many and varied. This could lead us down a rabbit hole from which we may never return, so I won’t tackle them now. Some reasons for variations in the numbers and distributions of archaeological objects that have been recorded are discussed here though: https://finds.org.uk/research/advice
Below, I will highlight just one object from each period. No mean feat given the wealth of material I have to chose from.
Palaeolithic flint hand axe (YORYM-818451)
Only seven Palaeolithic objects have been recorded with the PAS from Yorkshire, including this flint hand axe. Mined from prehistory onwards, flint was used for the manufacture of the oldest known tools.
Tools such as this hand axe were created by taking a flint nodule and striking small flakes off it until the desired shape was achieved, a process known as ‘knapping’. They were used for a variety of purposes, such as butchery, digging, harvesting plants and chopping wood.
Mesolithic flint Microlith (YORYM-BC4031)
Small flint blades, known as Microliths, are a characteristic tool type of the Mesolithic period. Long, thin pieces of flint were carefully removed from a core by applying controlled pressure, known as pressure-flaking, to shape the piece, leaving visible scars on the edges. Groups of these tiny flints would have been used together to form composite tools. These small and light blades were a perfect accompaniment to the nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the Mesolithic.
Neolithic stone axehead roughout (YORYM-55A842)
An evolution in the production of axeheads emerged into the Neolithic period which saw these objects being highly polished at the end of the shaping process. This resulted in a smooth, glossy and tactile finish.
This example though is unfinished. It did not make it to the polishing part of its production. We can’t know the reason for this piece remaining unfinished but the final stage of an axeheads production at this time are thought to have taken place away from the quarry site.
The axehead is made from a grey-green fine-grained siliceous tuff – a sedimentary volcanic rock possibly from the Great Langdale quarries in Cumbria. This stone was most probably chosen for its colour and fineness which allowed it to be highly polished. It is likely that axeheads such as this were high status and probably not functional. If functional however the axehead would have been hafted to an organic handle or haft. Axe heads made of Langdale stone have been found throughout England and represent important evidence for the exchange of goods and materials in the Neolithic period.
Bronze Age flint barbed and tanged arrowhead (YORYM-B4DC69)
This barbed & tanged arrowhead is a distinctive Bronze Age type finely shaped by pressure-flaking. They are generally triangular with two small notches chipped into the base to form the central tang and flanking barbs. The tang was used to secure the arrowhead to its shaft and the barbs prevented the arrow being dislodged from its target. If removed, these sharp projections would cause a vicious wound, ensuring the hunters did not have far to track their prey.
Iron Age copper-alloy mount (YORYM-C0BAAA)
This is a really unusual object and we don’t really know what it is but it appears to be unique. It has features in common with a number of objects of Iron Age date including a figurine head SOMDOR-DC9D32 from Dorset, a vessel mount from Kent (KENT-9AF2C1) and a pin from Hampshire (HAMP-997D86). While clearly serving different functions the distinct similarities with each of these objects do support an Iron Age date. A particularly notable parallel is also seen in the handle of the North Grimston sword.
Roman copper-alloy and enamel patera (YORYM-20B68C)
A wide variety of copper-alloy vessels were available in the Roman period, of which the patera is just one example. Patera could however perform a number of functions. Some patera used to contain liquids for ceremonial, sacrificial or domestic purposes. Very elaborate vessels such as the Staffordshire Pan (WMID-3FE965) were non-functional and are likely to have been souvenirs of Hadrian’s Wall or commemorative issues awarded to an individual. On the other hand, simpler forms were carried by roman soldiers as part of their standard kit and used as general cooking and eating utensils.
This stunning example is decorated with enamel & bears the inscription “VTERE FELIX” meaning “Use in happiness”. This featured on various Roman objects such as rings, buckles, brooches, spoons & military dress as an invocation of good luck.
Early-Medieval gold, silver and iron hoard (YORYM-CEE620)
I’ve sung the praises of the Bedale Hoard a number of times in the past, and fairly recently in another blog post, so I won’t go on about it too much here. It remains however one of the most significant finds I have ever had the privilege to be a part of.
Comprising an iron & gold sword pommel & associated fittings, a selection of silver jewellery & 29 silver ingots the Bedale Hoard highlights the extent of the Viking world with Scandinavian, Irish & Russian influences evidenced in the jewellery. This broad range of cultural influences apparent within the hoard stresses the cultural connections between Jorvik and the rest of the Viking world.
The Bedale Hoard was discovered in a part of Yorkshire where very little is known about in the Viking period. As such, it represents a new and exciting piece of evidence that offers a unique insight into life in the region one thousand years.
Medieval silver seal matrix (YORYM-13A179)
Seal matrices are common medieval objects which were used to make an impression in wax to seal a document or authenticate a signature.
This particular example is interesting as it is set with a reused Roman intaglio. The intaglio is made of a red stone, and the design, a winged Victory facing a seated figure (possibly Jupiter) matches the legend which reads ‘Secret Messenger’ suggesting the matrix was made to fit with the intaglio’s design.
Ancient gems were commonly reused in personal seal matrices throughout the medieval period. It is unclear exactly how Roman intaglios came to be reused in such quantities, although it is possible that they were found locally by peasants working the land and passed to their lords. It is equally possible that they were imported specifically. The way in which intaglios were viewed and interpreted by medieval people shows the continuing impact of one civilisation on another.
Post-Medieval lead hornbook (YORYM-FA8FF1)
This lead hornbook reflects increased literacy in the Post-Medieval period as it represents a form of teaching aid. ‘Real’ hornbooks were large tablets, with paper bearing a text to be learnt, usually the Lord’s Prayer or alphabet. Small versions like this are mass-produced and often have errors making them unhelpful for teaching. It has been suggested they are toys that mimic hornbooks for children in poorer or less-educated families, or even that they were hornbooks owned by dolls.
The reverse inscription on this example reads, ‘Thomas of other good art made me. 1670’, but is oddly produced in a mixture of English and Latin. It is unusual to have any text on the reverse of toy hornbooks.
Find your favourites
Those are just a few of my favourite objects which I have been privileged to work on during my time as FLO for North and East Yorkshire but there are so many more wonderful things to be explored. Why not take a look yourself and pick out some of your favourites: https://finds.org.uk/database/myscheme/myinstitution
What could be more exciting than an unusual object coming across your desk? The thrill of getting to research something you’ve never seen before, the joy of sharing it with other people, the thought that you may be significantly contributing to research in to a particular period or object type!
Ducks! That’s what!
Much of a Finds Liaison Officers time is spend recording familiar objects. Roman coins, medieval buckles, lead spindle whorls and so on. Occasionally though something different will cross our path giving us a nice break from the norm.
YORYM-C37EB7 is one such object. It is an Iron Age copper-alloy strap fitting with three large bird, possibly duck, decorations which was found in Thwing, East Riding of Yorkshire.
We have over 56,000 Iron Age objects recorded on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database though over 46,000 of these are coins. 713 of these are from the East Riding including 316 coins.
Despite the quantity of material on the PAS database and elsewhere in literature, no direct parallel for this object could be found at the time of recording though similar features are noted in a number of different object types.
Similar ring shaped objects with decorative knops include triple knoped terret rings such as YORYM-71FC10 and SWYOR-3A981A. These are dated to the early Roman period c.AD 43 – 150. The absence of a strap bar makes this an unlikely function for our ducks though.
Pins such as HAMP-A63ECB and BH-00BCA1 have similar knotted elements and are all dated to the 2nd century BC. The birds are paralleled in Roman furniture fittings such as LIN-F1A832 and LVPL-273BD0 and also a late Iron Age to Roman fob dangler recorded as SUR-8328CA.
Given the form of our duck object the function of strap fitting is suggested. It is possible the object was designed to hang from a strap or belt with the space between the knot terminals designated to hold the strap.
Reb Ellis, PHD Student at The University of Hull, comments that bird decoration in general appears in pockets in England and Wales, as well as in Ireland and on the Continent, though in stylistically different ways. Miss Ellis suggests a date of approximately 100BC-0BC/AD for this object based on the style of the bird which is paralleled in other Iron Age material (as discussed above).
Despite the richness of metal work in the East Riding of Yorkshire, animals are somewhat rare making this object especially interesting and important. The absence of any known direct parallels for this object suggests it is nationally unique.
Click on this link to see all the Iron Age material from East Yorkshire recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme: https://finds.org.uk/database/search/results/broadperiod/IRON+AGE/county/East+Riding+of+Yorkshire
Last week saw the 8th anniversary of the discovery of the Bedale Hoard. So what better time to revisit it.
This fantastic hoard of silver and gold objects was an exciting find representing the most northerly assemblage of Viking material from the region. It was acquired by the Yorkshire Museum after being reported as Treasure to the Portable Antiquities Scheme (Accession number – YORYM : 2014.149).
It was discovered on Tuesday 22nd May 2012 by two metal detector users who were searching a field in Bedale, North Yorkshire as they had done many times before.
Realising the potential significance of their discovery the finders left some of the material in-situ and reported it to me. Along with my colleague Adam Parker, Assistant Curator of Archaeology, we attended the site and excavated the remaining material ourselves, a very rare and exciting opportunity.
Once excavated the hoard was found to contain an iron and gold sword pommel and associated fittings, a selection of silver jewellery and 29 silver ingots.
Thanks to the finder leaving much of the hoard in situ we were able to gain valuable contextual evidence relating to the deposition of the hoard which would have otherwise been lost. We were able to determine was that the hoard was deposited in a clear order. Firstly the ingots were packed in a neat 20cm square area suggesting the presence of a box-like container. No traces of a container survived and soil samples taken from around the ingots were inconclusive. The jewellery was then placed on top of the ingots and finally the sword.
The lack of any other features discovered by the excavation suggested that the hoard had been buried in open ground, like most hoards, rather than on a settlement.
The pommel and hilt bands
One of the most interesting pieces in the hoard is an iron sword pommel. It is decorated with gold plaques which feature Anglo-Saxon Trewhiddle style designs of interlaced animals. The use of gold foil in the decoration of pommels is very uncommon. It is usually applied to silver and copper alloy objects making the Bedale pommel unique.
Analysis of the pommel showed evidence of mineralised textile on one side of the pommel which indicates that it was wrapped when buried. Traces of wood above the surface of the textile also suggest that it was boxed after wrapping.
Four gold oval hoops and six gold rivets were found close to the pommel. The hoops match the pommel in decorative style and quality and were probably used as embellishments on the grip and hilt of a sword. It is likely that these fittings were removed from a complete sword before being buried as part of the hoard.
The Trewhiddle style decoration used on these objects derives from Cornwall and only a handful of objects from York have ever been discovered bearing this decoration.
The neck ring
This twisted silver neck ring is the largest item in the hoard and is also unique. It comprises four ropes of twisted rods which were hammer-welded at each end into solid terminals with hooked ends. These hooks would link together when the neck ring was worn.
Although the techniques used in this piece are seen in other jewellery from the British Isles and Scandinavia, its overall design represents an unparalleled ‘Yorkshire’ variant. In addition to its unique style, the sheer size and weight of this piece suggests it was owned by a person of wealth who wanted to display their individuality and status.
Most of the other jewellery in the hoard was distorted or broken in to hack to be used as bullion. This is a common feature of Viking hoards and hack was an important part of the Viking economy.
Two particularly notable pieces of hack are the ‘Permian’ ring and bossed penannular brooch.
The ‘Permian’ ring is a type of neck ring made from a single twisted rod of silver incised with fine spiral grooves. This is a style which originated in northern Russia before spreading into Scandinavia and the West.
The folded over remains of a bossed penannular brooch also feature filigree and zoomorphic decoration in the form of animal heads. Such brooches are an Irish type but this example represents a previously unknown variant.
The Bedale Hoard contains 20 silver bar-shaped ingots. These ingots could be cut to size for use in financial transactions. Nick marks are present on a number of the ingots, indicating that the quality of the silver had been tested with the point of a knife.
A selection of the ingots were subjected to surface metal analysis and were found to contain, on average, around 96% silver, 2% copper, 1% gold and 1% lead.
The objects within the Bedale Hoard highlight the extent of the Viking world with Scandinavian, Irish and Russian influences evidenced in the jewellery. This broad range of cultural influences apparent within the hoard stresses the cultural connections between Jorvik and the rest of the Viking world.
Despite the lack of coins in this hoard which would typically assist in its dating, comparisons of the objects can be made to those from other, datable Viking hoards such as the Cuerdale and Vale of York Hoards. This indicates that the Bedale Hoard objects date from the late 9th to early 10th century. The burial of hoards is often associated with periods of uncertainty or instability. We do not know why the Bedale Hoard was buried, or why its owner failed to recover it. Perhaps it was in light of Viking and Saxon power struggles for supremacy in the region at this time.
The Bedale Hoard was discovered in a part of Yorkshire where very little is known about in the Viking period. As such, it represents a new and exciting piece of evidence that offers a unique insight into life in the region one thousand years.
Seal matrices were used to make an impression on a wax seal as a means of authenticating a document or, more practically, to keep it closed.
There are over 7,500 seal matrices recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme. The earliest of these is from the Early-Medieval period (Fig 1) though these are rare. Over 6,000 examples date to the medieval period, particularly the 13th and 14th centuries, after which their use declines.
Though initially limited to the higher ranks of the church and state, the use of seals became more general from the 11th century onward and by the end of the thirteenth century tradesmen and peasants also used them.
Medieval seal matrices are usually made from copper-alloy or lead, but silver examples are also known. They are typically either flat or conical and have a central design and surrounding inscription on the die, usually added by engraving. Flat matrices tend to be circular or pointed-oval (often referred to as vessica-shaped), while conical matrices are usually circular. Many silver examples include a re-used Roman intaglio as the central design.
It is such an example which is the focus of this post.
This silver seal matrix with reused Roman intaglio was reported as potential Treasure in 2015 (Fig 2: YORYM-13A179). It was found by a metal detectorist in Markington, North Yorkshire.
The matrix itself is of 13th – 14th century date while the intaglio dates from the second to third centuries AD.
The intaglio is made of a red stone, possibly agate, jasper or carnelian, and is engraved with a winged Victory facing a seated male figure with a cockerel at his feet. This is likely to represent a winged messenger saluting the god Jupiter. The surrounding legend + SECRETI NVNCIVS means ‘Secret Messenger’ suggesting the matrix was made to fit with the intaglio’s design and that whoever made the seal understood the meaning of the intaglio.
Ancient gems were commonly reused in personal seal matrices throughout the Medieval period, and were often employed as privy or counter-seals by officials. Se below for three examples of medieval seal matrices with reused Roman intaglio.
It is unclear exactly how Roman intaglios came to be reused in such quantities, although it is possible that they were found locally by peasants working the land and passed to their lords. It is equally possible that they were imported specifically. The way in which intaglios were viewed and interpreted by medieval people shows the continuing impact of one civilisation on another.
Downes, A, and Griffiths. R. (2017) 50 Finds From Yorkshire : Objects From the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Stroud: Amberley Publishing.
Geake, H. (2016) Finds Recording Guide: Seal Matrices; https://finds.org.uk/counties/findsrecordingguides/seal-matrices/ (accessed 03/04/2020)
Harvey, P.D.A. and McGuinness, A. (1996) A Guide to British Medieval Seals. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
The Portable Antiquities Scheme database has, to date, recorded nearly 1.5 million objects of all periods and materials (Fig 1). With over 46,500 examples, brooches are the third most common of these (Fig 2). Roman brooches in particular account for 31,456. That’s nearly 70%.
Fig 1: Number of objects and records geld on PAS database.
Hidden amongst these vast quantities of brooches are a distinct group of ten unusual examples, known as Double Headstud types.
The Headstud Brooch is itself one of the most common and longest-lived types known from Roman Britain (Fig 3). They are most frequently found in the north of England and are a native British type most likely produced by travelling crafts people.
Evidence for a major Roman metalworking industry was discovered during excavations at Castleford, West Yorkshire. High-status enamelled flasks and spoons were being produced in quantity and the discovery of unfinished headstud brooches (Fig 4) suggests that brooches were also made there. Unpublished examples of brooches bearing inscriptions which read ‘Fibula ex regione Lagitiense’ (‘brooch from the region of Castleford’) further support this theory.
Through recording with the Portable Antiquities Scheme we have identified a new sub-type of Roman Headstud brooch which we have inventively termed the Double Headstud.
While similar in form to their parent type featuring a solid, arched bow with a various decorative elements, the regular Headstud has only one knop at the apex of the bow while the Double type has two. These knops take on a variety of forms; they can be integral to the bow (Fig 5) or separately cast and fitted into a recess or held in place by a shank to the reverse (Fig 6). They are also decorated in a wide variety of styles (Fig 7).
The first examples of the Double Headstud brooch were identified from Yorkshire and Lincolnshire suggesting a northern phenomenon (Fig 8). Two later examples from Nottinghamshire and the Isle of Wight however suggest a wider distribution for this enigmatic type. It is highly likely that, as more of these brooches are recognised and recorded, the area of distribution will spread even more widely (Fig 9).
It has only been through PAS recording that we have been able to identify this new variety of Roman brooch and its distribution.
Fig. 9: Distribution of recorded Double Headstud brooches.
Double Headstud brooches Unique ID’s: YORYM-C2BBAC, YORYM-AEBBC2, YORYM-DC269B, YORYM-EDE045, SWYOR-AE1AF1, SWYOR-F32918, IOW-B485B5, YORYM-4EC333, DUR-B31622 and DENO-97782B.
Hi, I’m Emily Tilley and on 12th July I started working as the new Headley Trust Finds Liaison Assistant alongside Rebecca Griffiths, Finds Liaison Officer for North and East Yorkshire. On Thursdays and Fridays over the next nine months I will be working to help borrow, record, research, and interpret finds reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme in North and East Yorkshire.
My role is based at the Yorkshire Museum in York, and I’m no stranger to the site (or to Becky). Since November 2016 I have been working as the Collections Facilitator for Roman Archaeology at York Museums Trust and on Mondays to Wednesdays I’ll be continuing to work for the Trust as a Curatorial Assistant. Prior to working for York Museums Trust and the Portable Antiquities Scheme I completed a BA in Classics and an MA in Museum Studies. I feel very lucky to be able to put my qualifications to good use!
I started off as Finds Liaison Assistant by recording a whopping 123 Roman coins, building on my past experience working with Roman numismatics. Thankfully Dr. Sam Moorhead and Becky had already done most of the hard work by identifying them, so all I had to do was type up the records. It was a great crash-course in PAS numismatics documentation, the Roman coin issues that are commonly found in the region, and the condition of PAS finds. It also produced some very flattering statistics for my first two weeks of recording!
I have since moved on to documenting an array of different object types brought in by finders and am slowly getting to grips with the many, many reference books that we have available in the office. My favourite object so far has been a Medieval lead pendant (YORYM-C1D7B5) depicting the Virgin and Child on the obverse and the Crucifixion on the reverse. It’s one of four almost identical examples on the database, all of which were found within a 37 mile distribution to the east of York, suggesting local production.
I have also attended Finds Days in Hull and York and really enjoyed meeting finders and seeing objects as they come in for recording. And I’m currently working on my first Treasure case! In the next few weeks I’ll be learning the PAS approaches to photography which will allow me to finish my records, so look out for #FindsFriday pics on Twitter (@YMT_Emily)! I’ll also be attending several PASt Explorers object training sessions over the next few months, which will be a very exciting opportunity to develop my knowledge of the huge range of object types that the Portable Antiquities Scheme records.
Every single day working for the PAS is a fantastic learning opportunity and I already feel more confident working with small finds after just a short time on the job! It’s lovely to be able to continue working with colleagues at the Yorkshire Museum and to build new relationships with PAS colleagues across England and Wales. I can’t wait to meet you all in person!