NMS-E95041: Gold spacer bead. Catalogue Number 2

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ASSEMBLAGE

Unique ID: NMS-E95041

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Awaiting validation Find awaiting validation

An assemblage of artefacts most probably deriving from an early Anglo-Saxon female furnished burial. Each object is discussed in turn below.

1. Merovingian coin pendant with (detached) gold suspension loop

Pale gold solidus of Sigebert III (634-56), minted in Marseille, pierced in order to be riveted to a suspension loop, now detached. The suspension loop comprises a rectangular strip of ribbed gold sheet with one terminal curved over into a loop. The strip has a small circular perforation at the other terminal for a lost rivet that would have fixed it to the coin. The loop is apparently of higher quality gold than the coin itself, which has been alloyed with a high proportion of silver, reflecting a widespread pattern of debasement within the gold coinage of the 7th century. The coin is a die-duplicate of object no. 5, which suggests that the two were directly associated.

Dimensions of coin:

Diameter: 19.4mm

Weight: 3.69g

Dimensions of suspension loop:

Length (bent): 8.5mm

Width: 5.8mm

Weight: 0.47g

Coin pendants with attached suspension loop are classified as Type PE7-a by Hines and Bayliss (2013, p. 213, fig. 5.167), who date their use to the sixth and seventh centuries (p. 365). Williams (2006, p. 169) notes that in general, fewer coins were being made into jewellery after the AD 630s. However, imported solidi of the Frankish ruler Sigebert III appear to feature in a distinct later group. Solidi of Sigebert III, similarly looped for suspension, have been recovered from graves at Boss Hall, Ipswich, Suffolk (Grave 93) and Finglesham, Kent (Grave 7) (Abdy & Williams 2006, nos. H 14, 35; Williams 2010, nos. H14, 133). The Finglesham pendant was found in association with a transitional pale-gold 'Pada' tremissis, type Pa 1A, looped for suspension in silver. Although the precise dating of the Pada series remain the subject of debate, the deposition of this coin is unlikely to have taken place before c. 670 at the earliest. The Boss Hall burial contained a silver penny (sceat) of the primary phase, series BI, leading to a suggested date for the grave of c. 690-700, and Archibald (2009) notes the presence of coins of the same period in the cemeteries at Finglesham and St Peters, Broadstairs, each of which produced a worn solidus of Sigebert III made into a pendant, although not directly associated in those cases with the Series BI coins. A further solidus of Sigebert III in the Fitzwilliam Museum, unfortunately unprovenanced, is also quite worn, and has been pierced. From the appearance of the hole, this was also for the attachment of a riveted loop rather than directly threading through the hole. Overall, this suggests a pattern of continued use of solidi of Sigebert III as pendants in both East Anglia and Kent well into the late 7th century.

Merovingian coins made into pendants have been found in a number of early Anglo-Saxon burials, particularly in Kent e.g. Buckland, Dover grave 29 (British Museum 1963,1108.153) and Finglesham grave 7 (Chadwick Hawkes and Grainger 2006, p. 36). A necklace from Sarre (British Museum 1860,1024.2) is threaded with four coin pendants, while six more were discovered at King's Field in Faversham (British Museum 1881,1212.4, 7-12). The fact that the two coins discussed here were die duplicates, and therefore very possibly obtained together, makes it highly likely that the two coin-pendants formed part of a single necklace. Since the Sarre find, and possibly others, combined coin-pendants with other non-numismatic material to form a necklace, it seems likely that this is the case with the other gold beads and pendants here.

2. Gold biconical spacer bead

A hollow biconical bead made from plain gold wire which has been wound around repeatedly into shape. At one terminal is a piece of beaded wire wound around twice.

Dimensions:

Length: 13.8mm

Diameter: 7.6mm (max)

Weight: 2.03g

Biconical beads made from gold, silver or copper alloy wire are classified as Type BE2-a by Hines and Bayliss (2013, p. 208), who date their use to the sixth and seventh centuries (p. 358). They are often referred to as 'spacer' beads because they were threaded between pendants on high-status Anglo-Saxon necklaces like that from Desborough, Northamptonshire (British Museum 1876,0504.1). Such necklaces are thought to date to the later seventh century (Geake 1997, p. 43). Biconical beads are typically made from beaded wire, but were also made from plain wire as in this case. Similar beads have been found as stray finds and recorded on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database: see NMS-6F95B0, PAS-CF6701, KENT-7009B3 and PAS-2B1E44.

3. Gold openwork pendant with filigree decoration

A circular gold pendant with four oval-shaped perforations, creating the form of a Maltese cross in openwork. The pendant is constructed from a disc of gold sheet, from which the four oval-shapes have been cut out. A rectangular strip of ribbed gold sheet bent into a U-shape is attached to the top of the disc to form a suspension loop. On the front of the pendant, the outer edge of the disc and the edges of the cross-arms are bordered by a single strand of gold beaded wire. Each cross-arm is filled with interlacing designs in gold filigree, although their precise designs are currently obscured by earth. In the centre of the cross is a large gold boss within a setting constructed from a strip of gold surrounded by a beaded wire collar. The back of the pendant is plain.

Dimensions:

Diameter: 22.5mm

Height: 24.7mm (incl. loop)

Weight: 2.46g

This pendant does not fit precisely into Hines and Bayliss's (2013) classification, but perhaps sits best in their Type PE-1, which are circular gold or silver composite pendants decorated with filigree and settings, usually of semi-precious stones (p. 211). They date these pendants to the seventh century (p. 364). Gold sheet pendants, particularly with cruciform designs, became popular during the seventh century and reflect a growing influence from the Mediterranean region in the period after the Anglo-Saxon conversion to Christianity (Webster and Backhouse 1991, p. 55). Usually these pendants are made from complete gold sheet rather than in openwork. The design of the 'Near Winfarthing' pendant is similar to another from Breach Down, Kent (British Museum 1879,0524.22) which features a (non-openwork) Maltese cross with filigree-decorated arms, central domed setting with beaded wire collar (a garnet rather than gold boss) and a beaded wire border for the cross-arms and outer edge of the disc. Another pendant from Wye Down, Kent (British Museum 1893,0601.188) also has a Maltese cross design with oval-shapes (non-openwork) between the cross-arms and interlace motifs filling the arms, although executed in repoussé rather than filigree.

4. Gold biconical spacer bead

A hollow biconical bead made from plain gold wire which has been wound around repeatedly into shape.

Dimensions:

Length: 15.2mm

Diameter: 7.5mm

Weight: 2.36g

See no. 2 for discussion of this type of bead.

5. Coin pendant with gold suspension loop

Pale gold solidus of Sigebert III (634-56), looped for suspension. The suspension loop comprises a rectangular strip of ribbed gold sheet with one terminal curved over into a loop. The other terminal extends down onto the back of the coin, to which it is fixed by a gold rivet passing through a piercing in the strip and coin. The flattened head of the rivet can be seen on the front of the coin, just below the centre of the suspension loop. The gold of the coin is noticeably paler than that of the suspension loop and rivet.

Dimensions:

Diameter: 19.9mm

Height (incl. suspension loop): 24.4mm

Weight: 4.27g

See no. 1 for discussion of coin pendants.

6. Gold composite pendant with inlaid garnets

A circular gold composite pendant decorated in the garnet cloisonné technique. The pendant is constructed from a sheet of gold to which has been attached a network of gold cells, formed from upright strips of gold sheet set with garnets. The cells create a design of six concentric bands of decoration, each one with differently-shaped cells. From the outside working in, they comprise:

  1. Square cells
  2. Interlocking mushroom-shaped and stepped cells
  3. Interlacing serpents, made from slivers of garnets in 'lidded' cells (covered with lids of gold sheet) that were probably made as separate panels and then inserted into a sunken field on the pendant
  4. Rectangular cells inlaid with domed, rectangular garnets
  5. Interlacing serpents, as no. 3
  6. Stepped cells, separated into panels of three by a single rectangular cell

The design is separated into quarters by four bosses arranged in a square, making the bands of serpent ornament into the arms of a Maltese cross. The top and bottom bosses on the left are incomplete, containing only remains of white material, possibly shell, showing green copper alloy staining in places. The two right-hand bosses are largely complete, comprising domes of probably the same white material (obscured by earth) topped with a gold setting inlaid with a garnet. Each boss is bordered by a cloisonné band of alternating square and rectangular cells. In the centre of the pendant is a large cloisonné boss decorated with diverse cell shapes that cannot be fully described due to earth encrustation.

The suspension loop at the top of the pendant is also decorated with cloisonné garnet work in a lattice pattern. The cells are rather irregular, more so on the front of the loop than the back. On the back at the base of the suspension loop is an extra cloisonné element, triangular in form with the point extending downwards. Its decoration is partially hidden by earth but there are two clear circular inlays at the top and perhaps other differently-shaped cells beneath these.

Otherwise, the back of the pendant is plain gold. The rivets fixing the five bosses to the front of the pendant pass through the sheet and were hidden with gold settings inlaid with cabochon garnets. Two are in situ (at the base of the pendant), while the other three are now detached and preserved in a separate bag.

It is not possible at this stage to confirm how many garnet inlays may be missing, due to earth encrustation. The visible garnets show evidence of hatched gold foils underneath, as is typical for garnet cloisonné metalwork of this period.

Dimensions:

Diameter: 57.8mm

Height (including suspension loop): 65.3mm

Weight: 50.17g

The style and technique of this pendant date it to the early seventh century, when elaborate necklaces were growing fashionable due to Mediterranean influences following the Anglo-Saxon's conversion to Christianity. It is likely that this pendant formed the focus for a necklace that also carried the gold beads and coin pendants in this grave.

The design and construction of the pendant resembles large composite disc brooches primarily found in Kent (Avent 1975). A composite disc brooch from Sarre, Kent (British Museum 1860,1024.1, Avent 1975, no. 177) has a similar layout, with four smaller bosses surrounding a large central boss, creating the design of a Maltese cross, although the arms are decorated with filigree in this case. Composite pendants of this complexity are uncommon. Another example from Cranmer House, Canterbury (Canterbury City Museums 1982.14.23) is simpler in construction, with fewer bands of cloisonné and four semi-circular cloisonné panels instead of large bosses, but it does have a large central cloisonné boss and a Maltese cross design created by the layout of the elements on the front of the brooch. The cross-arms are plain gold sunken fields, but may have contained another element originally.

Further research into the combination of cell-shapes and how this compares with other known cloisonné artefacts will be beneficial; but in summary: square, rectangular, mushroom and stepped cells are widely found but garnet interlace is less common. It appears, for example, on a buckle component from Thurnham in Kent, recorded on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database (KENT-AC1CE6), an unprovenanced pyramidal scabbard mount (Webster and Backhouse 1991, p. 57, cat. no. 41), fittings from the Staffordshire Hoard (e.g. see PAS database STAFFS-C10A93) and the purse-lid and shoulder-clasps from the Sutton Hoo ship burial (British Museum, 1939,1010.2-3 and 1939,1010.4-5). Design-wise, the interlacing beasts on the present brooch most resemble those on the Thurnham find and pyramidal mount, their bodies interlacing and their heads at each end of the panel, their jaws open. Compare with the Staffordshire Hoard and Sutton Hoo shoulder-clasps beasts, which bite back on their own bodies. On the Continent, garnet interlace appears on a mount in the cathedral treasure at Tongres, Belgium and on the well-known Wijnaldum brooch from the Netherlands (Bruce-Mitford 1974, pls. 90-91 and 88 respectively).

7. Continental pottery bi-conical bowl

A continental pottery bi-conical bowl, complete but badly cracked in antiquity and more recently broken, sandy, wheel-thrown, sandwich-fired with a reduced core, oxidised margins and reduced surfaces, darker externally. The reduced core is absent from the upper one third. Decoration on the non-burnished surface comprises a wide and a narrow horizontal cordon on the neck and seven horizontal grooves on the very high shoulder. The base is slightly concave. Height 160mm. Rim diameter 100mm. Waist diameter 146mm. Basal diameter 78mm. Weight 44.18g.

Vera Evison illustrated several vessels from Northern France and Belgium which provide good parallels for the distinctive form with its characteristic low waist (Evison 1979, fig. 31 c-i).

(Andrew Rogerson)

8. Copper alloy bowl

A copper alloy bowl constructed from a single piece of sheet-metal, corroded, the base detached and surviving in a fragmentary state, the almost straight sides in two joining pieces, the integral rim at right angles to the vessel wall. No fixings or rivets are visible. Diameter 345mm. Depth at least 73mm. Width of rim at least 12mm. Found by metal detector, prior to controlled excavation.

(Erica Darch)

9. Iron knife

An iron knife of uncertain form, currently encrusted in earth and corrosion.

Dimensions:

Length: 68.8mm

Width: 17.8mm

Weight: 9.2g

Knives are the most common artefact found in early Anglo-Saxon graves, and were buried with both men and women (Hines and Bayliss 2013, p. 229). They have not been widely studied and no typology or chronology currently exists (Geake 1997, p. 102). Härke (1989) has researched the connection between the length of blades and the age of the deceased.

10-22. 13 copper alloy chatelaine rings

Thirteen cast copper alloy rings (originally identified as silver, but have every appearance of copper alloy under the microscope). Each ring is roughly equivalent in size, oval or circular in section and a number are decorated with stamped annulets around the circumference on one or both sides, where it is possible to see. Some are encrusted with earth and iron corrosion, possibly from an artefact that was originally suspended from them.

Dimensions:

Diameter: approx. 19.00mm each

Weight: approx. 3.0g each

These rings appear to come from a chatelaine, a complex of chains, rods and rings that were used to suspend various personal items from the waist. Chatelaines appear to have been worn during the sixth and seventh centuries (perhaps continuing later), primarily by females (Geake 1997, 57-58). Many chatelaine rings are made from iron, but there are a number known that are made from copper alloy (e.g. Buckland, Dover graves 204 and 222: Parfitt and Anderson 2012; and Shorwell, Isle of Wight: British Museum 2006,0305.240). One example from Buckland, Dover (Evison 1987, fig. 63:164/2) has similar punched ring-and-dot decoration around its circumference. A copper alloy probably chateleaine ring from Fincham, Norfolk recorded on the PAS database (NMS-1C02FB) is decorated with transverse lines instead of annulets.

23. Copper alloy chatelaine ring with fragment of another artefact

A cast copper alloy ring with a fragment of another artefact (possibly a girdle hanger) attached to it. The ring is circular in section. The fragmentary artefact comprises a copper alloy rod of circular section that has been bent in half to form a loop, upon which the cast ring is threaded. The two ends of the rod have been flattened and surviving rivets suggest they were fixed together. Three ring-and-dot stamps are visible on the shorter terminal. A detached fragment of the flattened part of the rod also survives in a separate bag.

Dimensions:

Length (of rod fragment): 25.2mm

Width (of rod fragment): 6.7mm

Diameter (of ring): 16.0mm

Weight: 3.8g

An extremely similar fragment was excavated from grave 164 at Buckland, Dover (Evison 1987, p. 252 and fig. 63:164/2). The rod is decorated with the same three ring-and-dot stamps and has the same construction. Ring-and-dots also decorate the ring.

24. Iron nail

An iron nail, bent at one end and in a very corroded and fragile condition.

Dimensions:

Length: 38.9mm

Weight: 4.03g

25. Copper alloy chatelaine ring (spoil heap)

A copper alloy ring, oval in section and decorated with punched annulets around its circumference on both sides. An orange-red substance, probably iron corrosion, covers part of the ring.

Dimensions:

Diameter: 18.94mm

Weight: 1.76g

See nos. 10-22 and 23 for discussion of these rings. This example was found in the spoil heap during excavation but is clearly associated with the other similar rings found in the burial.

26. Iron buckle (spoil heap)

A small, probably iron, buckle encrusted in earth and corrosion. It is just possible to see part of a loop and the shape of a plate, but not to verify any further details before cleaning or without an x-ray.

Dimensions:

Length: 25.5mm

Width: 13.9mm

Weight: 4.42g

27. Iron nail (spoil heap)

Fragment of an iron nail, comprising the head and part of the shaft. Very corroded.

Dimensions:

Length: 19.7mm

Weight: 3.93g

28. Iron nail fragment (spoil heap)

Fragment of an iron nail, comprising the head and part of the shaft. Very corroded.

Dimensions:

Length: 31.1mm

Weight: 3.17g

29. Copper alloy chatelaine ring fragment (spoil heap)

Half of a copper alloy ring, oval in section and decorated with punched annulets around its circumference on both sides.

Dimensions:

Length: 20.3mm

Width: 10.8mm

Weight: 1.19g

See nos. 10-22 and 23 for discussion of these rings. This example was found in the spoil heap during excavation but is clearly associated with the other similar rings found in the burial.

30. Fragment of bone (spoil heap?)

A fragment of bone, now in two pieces.

Dimensions:

Length: 47.4mm

Weight: 5.40g

Date: The coins provide a tpq of the reign of Sigebert III (634-56), but both are quite worn, and the evidence of the comparable pieces from Boss Hall and Finglesham indicates that coin-pendants of this ruler could have been deposited rather later in the 7th century. A date of the mid- to late 7th century is also consistent with the other items in the deposit.

Conclusion: Several of the items in this find are made of gold, or gold/silver alloys. Given their age, each of these would individually constitute Treasure under the terms of the Treasure Act (1996). Given that the appearance of the assemblage as a whole suggests a single Anglo-Saxon female grave of the 7th century, it is recommended that the non-precious items should also be considered as Treasure by association with the precious metal items.

References:

Abdy, R. and Williams, G., 2010. A Catalogue of hoards and single finds from the British Isles, c. AD 410-675. In: Cook, B. and Williams, G. (eds.), Coinage and History in the North Sea World, AD 500-1250: Studies in Honour of Marion Archibald. The Northern World, Volume 19. Leiden: Brill, pp. 11-73.

Archibald, M.M., 2009. Coins. In C. Scull, Early Medieval (Late 5th-Early 8th Centuries AD) Cemeteries at Boss Hall and Buttermarket, Ipswich, Suffolk. London: The Society for Medieval Archaeology. Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph 27, p.101.

Avent, R., 1975. Anglo-Saxon Garnet Inlaid Disc and Composite Brooches. British Archaeological Reports, British Series No. 11

Bruce-Mitford, R., 1974. Aspects of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology. London: Gollancz

Chadwick Hawkes, S. and Grainger, G., 2006. The Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at Finglesham, Kent. Oxford University School of Archaeology Monograph 64. Oxford: School of Archaeology, Oxford University

Evison, Vera I. (1979) Wheel-Thrown Pottery in Anglo-Saxon Graves. The Royal Archaeological Institute.

Geake, H., 1997. The Use of Grave Goods in Conversion Period England AD 600-850. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports

Härke, H., 1989. Knives in Early Saxon Burials: Blade Length and Age at Death. Medieval Archaeology 33, pp. 144-148

Hines, J. and Bayliss, A., 2013. Anglo-Saxon Graves and Grave Goods of the 6th and 7th Centuries AD: A Chronological Framework. London: The Society for Medieval Archaeology. The Society for Early Medieval Archaeology Monograph 33

Webster, L. and Backhouse, J. (eds.), 1991. The Making of England. London: British Museum Press

Williams, G., 2006. The Circulation and Function of Coinage in Conversion Period England, c. AD 580-675. In: Cook, B. and Williams, G. (eds.), Coinage and History in the North Sea World, AD 500-1250: Studies in Honour of Marion Archibald. The Northern World, Volume 19. Leiden: Brill, pp. 145-192

Williams, G., 2010. Anglo-Saxon Gold Coinage. Part 1: The transition from Roman to Anglo-Saxon coinage, British Numismatic Journal 80,51-75

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Submitted for consideration as Treasure

Treasure details

Treasure case tracking number: 2015T37

Chronology

Broad period: EARLY MEDIEVAL
Subperiod from: Early
Period from: EARLY MEDIEVAL
Subperiod to: Middle
Period to: EARLY MEDIEVAL
Date from: Circa AD 650
Date to: Circa AD 650

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 29

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Sunday 21st December 2014 - Wednesday 7th January 2015

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Dr Andrew Rogerson
Identified by: Ms Sue Brunning

Other reference numbers

SMR reference number: 62302
Other reference: TL012015
Treasure case number: 2015T37

Materials and construction

Primary material: Gold
Secondary material: Gem
Completeness: Complete

Spatial metadata

Region: Eastern (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Norfolk (County)
District: South Norfolk (District)
To be known as: SOUTH NORFOLK

Spatial coordinates


Grid reference source: GPS (From FLO)
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 1 metre square.

References cited

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: NMS
Created: 3 years ago
Updated: 4 months ago

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