Rights Holder: Suffolk County Council Archaeology Service
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Rights Holder: Suffolk County Council
CC License:

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Unique ID: SF5471

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find published

Enigmatic object made of cast copper alloy with a long, slightly flaring base, a central loop and a human-head terminal. The base is rectangular in section, 5 x 6 mm, with chamfered edges; it is 12 mm long and hollow, and perhaps served as a socket. The central loop sits on top of the base; its perforation runs from side to side and measures 3.5 mm internally. The loop is cracked through at the top, just under the chin of the human-head terminal. It is decorated on the reverse with three small, slightly asymmetrically set ring-and-dot motifs. The human-head terminal has simple decoration. Two sub-circular grooves form the eyes, either side of a flat relief nose. The mouth is a short straight groove. Although parallels have horns extending from the head, this example does not; might it have lost its horns? The top of the head has a low relief band about 1.5 mm wide running from side to side, and it seems possible that this might originally have held horns which subsequently broke off and were rubbed down. The back half of the top of the head has grooving to represent hair. These grooves are apparently worn off on one side and it is possible that the entire object has received a fair amount of wear. Overall length 30 mm.

The function of this little figure is uncertain. There are parallels known from Oland, Sweden; Old Ladoga, Russia; and a recent find from Tuddenham St Martin, Suffolk (TDM 023, recorded on the PAS database as SF3807). All are thought to date from the early 7th century AD. The Oland and Old Ladoga examples have the sideways perforation running through the head (precluding the use of the perforation for separate arms), and all three parallels have horns (which would foul a suspension loop running through the perforation). Presumably the horns indicate that these are figures of Woden, and they may have been personal charms or amulets. Now that there are two Suffolk examples, we may have to reconsider our ideas about cult centres and contacts between Scandinavia and East Anglia in the pre-Viking age.

Postscript: Further parallels have been found in M. Gaimster (1998). Gaimster terms these objects 'tool-grips' or 'tweezer-grips' and illustrates the two examples from Oland and Old Ladoga in fig. 59, together with a more distant parallel. In fig. 76 another parallel is shown, from Ihre, Hellvi, Gotland; on p. 84, she references B. Nerman (1969), Die Vendelzeit Gotlands II, fig. 1100-1, and P. Olsen (1952), 'Ett vendeltida nyckelskaft', TOR 1949-51, fig. 1. Although the Ihre example is not shown in detail, it seems now that there may be at least two parallels from Sweden and one from Russia.

Find of note status

This has been noted as an interesting find by the recorder.

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


Broad period: EARLY MEDIEVAL
Subperiod from: Early
Date from: AD 600
Date to: AD 650

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 30 mm
Width: 8 mm
Thickness: 7.5 mm
Weight: 5.7 g

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Monday 15th March 1993

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Dr Helen Geake
Identified by: Dr Helen Geake

Materials and construction

Primary material: Copper alloy

Spatial metadata

Region: Eastern (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Suffolk (County)
District: Babergh (District)

Spatial coordinates

Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 10 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
General landuse: Cultivated land
Specific landuse: Character undetermined

References cited

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Find number: SF3807
Object type: FIGURINE
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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: SF
Created: 18 years ago
Updated: 4 years ago

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