BUC-A84150: Early medieval grave assemblage

Rights Holder: Drakon Heritage
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Rights Holder: Drakon Heritage
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Rights Holder: Drakon Heritage
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Rights Holder: The Portable Antiquities Scheme
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Rights Holder: The Portable Antiquities Scheme
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Rights Holder: Drakon Heritage
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Rights Holder: Arwen Wood
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Rights Holder: The Portable Antiquities Scheme
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Rights Holder: Arwen Wood
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Rights Holder: Arwen Wood
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Rights Holder: Drakon Heritage
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Unique ID: BUC-A84150

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

An assemblage of Early Medieval grave goods comprising, two incomplete copper alloy vessels (AD.475-600) and two iron spearheads (AD.450-550). The objects were found in association with small pieces of of bone and a single human toe bone.

The vessels comprise a flanged bowl decorated with repoussé around the flange (also known as a beaded-rim or bead-rimmed bowl, or Perlrandbecker), and a  cauldron with carinated base and triangular lugs (also known as a carinated eared cauldron, Westlandkessel or Vestlandkessel).

The beaded-rim bowl is circular and has extensive damage to its structure. The foot ring has become detached from the base of the bowl and in doing so has created a circular hole in the bottom. The base of the bowl is flat, the walls rise sharply at a slight angle from the vertical. The flanged rim of the bowl runs around the entire circumference except in areas, where it has been damaged by the plough and come away, most pieces were found in association with the bowl. Aside from the repousse decoration on the flange there is no additional decoration that can be seen on the exterior or interior surfaces.

The second vessel, the carinated cauldron or Vestlandkessel, has a curved iron handle attached to the rim by two triangular or 'eared' lugs, one of which has been detached by a plough strike. This vessel is in extremely poor condition. The concave upper walls remain largely intact, but the convex base has been completely crushed inwards and is heavily fragmented. The rim emerges from the upper wall at a sharp angle. The iron handle has corroded, but seems to have retained a large amount of the original metal. There is no decoration on the inside or outside of the vessel.

The beaded-rim bowl draws its design inspiration from Late Roman designs and has numerous parallels, both on the PAS database and from excavations (summaries of the type's origins and dating can be found in Richards 1980, 15-17 and Hills and Lucy 2013, 83). An example was found at Great Chesterford (Evison 1994, Fig.34 No.4, also pl.7d) together with a corrugated spearhead, though of a different Swanton type. Evison dates this type of bowl to the 1st quarter of the 6th century and describes it as a continental import, drawing parallels with a similar bowl from a child's grave in Dover (Evison 1987, fig.13, 17). Another excavated example can be found from Butler's Field Gloucestershire Grave 11 (Boyle et al 1998 fig.5.38). Here the dating of the cemetery ranged from the mid 5th to 7th century.

The eared cauldron is a Vestlandkessel type. It is similar to the more common globular, uncarinated Gotlandkessel or Gotland cauldron (compare Gotland cauldrons recorded at LVPL-300957 and WILT-7E5176) but has a concave upper wall and a carination or change of angle low down, close to the convex base. Richards provides some discussion of the type and a list of examples from English cemeteries (1980, 11-15).

The spearheads, while corroded, also retain large amounts of the original metal beneath the corrosion product. The largest of the spearheads is a corrugated type conforming to Swanton 1973 Type I2. It has a long blade with a long taper towards the point. There is a single fuller running down two thirds of the length of the blade on each side, they are offset from each other giving the spearhead a Z cross section. The socket of the spearhead is split and accounts for almost half the total length of the object. There is no evidence from the x-radiographs of any pattern welding or other inlaid decoration on the object.

The smaller spearhead is of a Swanton 1973 Type B2. This is a long tapering spearhead with a central midrib that runs the length of the blade from tip to socket, it is clearly visible in the X-radiograph. The socket is again split in form and in this case has preserved mineralised wood. In the grave this spearhead was situated underneath the larger in very close association suggesting their deposition at the same time, possibly bundled together.

Both of these spearhead types are traditionally defined as Continental-derived forms. Their dating is proposed as being early in the Post-Roman period (Swanton 1973, Underwood 1999), AD.450-550. If correct, the dating of these weapons suggests that they took place within the first phases of the formation of the Early Anglo-Saxon successor kingdoms. The distribution as cited by Swanton is confined to the Thames valley and South East. Spears are a common grave-good from the early Anglo-Saxon period and go beyond simple martial connotations. They were the symbol of a freeman and there were heavy penalties for providing a slave with a spear.

Work on the dating of these assemblages continues and scholarly debate continues to refine their dating. However, based on the dates provide in the sources here, a date range of the early 6th century seems likely, AD.500-550. This is an early phase of the development of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms around the Thames Valley. It is a transitional phase as the last vestiges of Western Roman influence were fading away and Germanic influences were moving to the fore. However, the fact that the copper alloy vessels from the grave were likely imported speaks of a strong connection to the continent and a broader knowledge of the wider European and Mediterranean world.

The sex of the individual remains debatable as only a single bone was excavated at the time (This was a toe bone brought up during the lifting of the 'cauldron') and the rest of the skeleton left in situ. Spears are traditionally associated with assemblages characteristic of men's graves; if found in the graves of women, they tend to have been modified for re-use. The vessels are found in graves of both sexes and of all ages. 


Donated to Bucks County Museum

Subsequent actions

Current location of find: Bucks County Museum
Subsequent action after recording: Donated to a museum


Broad period: EARLY MEDIEVAL
Subperiod from: Early
Date from: Circa AD 450
Date to: Circa AD 550

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Saturday 10th March 2018

Personal details

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Other reference numbers

Other reference: AYBCM 4815
Museum accession number: AYBCM : 2018.150

Materials and construction

Completeness: Complete

Spatial metadata

County or Unitary authority: Windsor and Maidenhead (Unitary Authority)
District: Windsor and Maidenhead (Unitary Authority)
To be known as: Near Marlowe

Spatial coordinates

Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 1 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
Discovery circumstances: Date found
Current location: Bucks County Museum

References cited

Author Publication Year Title Publication Place Publisher Pages Reference
Boyle, A., Jennings, D., Miles, D. and Palmer, S. 1998 The Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at Butler's Field, Lechlade, Gloucestershire: 1, Prehistory and Roman Activity and Anglo-Saxon Grave Catalogue Oxford Archaeological Unit
Evison, V.I. 1987 Dover: The Buckland Anglo-Saxon Cemetery London HBMC
Evison, V.I. 1994 An Anglo-Saxon Cemetery At Great Chesterford, Essex York CBA
Hills, C. and Lucy, S. 2013 Spong Hill Part IX: chronology and synthesis Cambridge McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Richards, P.M. 1980 Byzantine Bronze Vessels in England and Europe: the origins of Anglo-Saxon trade University of Cambri Unpublished PhD dissertation
Swanton, M.J. 1973 The Spearheads of the Anglo-Saxon Settlements Leeds Royal Archaeological Institute

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: BUC
Created: 4 years ago
Updated: About one year ago

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