SWYOR-1C644F: Early Medieval Vessel; hanging bowl hooked escutcheon

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Unique ID: SWYOR-1C644F

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

A copper alloy Early Medieval hooked escutcheon from a hanging bowl, probably dating from AD 500 - 700. The plate is broadly shield shaped, with a flat top and curved sides tapering towards each other, but there is a rounded projection at the base. This shape probably represents a bird as a whole.

The zoomorphic hook in the form of a bird's head projects from the centre of the flat top. It is decorated with three grooves running along the back of the hook, and terminates in a stylised rounded head and long tapering and downward curving beak. There are recesses to represent the eyes. The hook curves towards the back of the escutcheon. There is a projecting semi-circular ridge across the base of the hook, in line with the top of the plate.

The escutcheon plate is decorated with zoomorphic chip-carved designs. There are two opposed beasts, their heads in the two upper corners and their tails in the rounded lower terminal, their backs following the line of the edge of the plate. heir heads look similar to dog or bear heads, with rounded ears, a blunt snout and a smiling mount with an incised eye on each. Beading on the outside of the back of the neck could suggest a mane and thus lions, or a horses mane, or a dorsal fin. Each creature has one limb held forward, as if rampant. The two limbs meet, as if the animals are palm to palm, and the paw is wide and decorated with short incised lines along the edge. This gives the limb an appearance of a fish's fin, or a feathered fetlock. The body of each animal is decorated with a long narrow triangular panel, filled with transverse incised lines, making a ladder pattern. The body flares at the lower end and terminates with a D shaped element, again with short incised lines perpendicular to the straight edge, making it look like a fishtail or fin. One possible interpretation is that the beasts are merlions.

Both of the spaces between the beast's heads and front limbs is occupied by a drop-shaped motif. This has short incised nicks in the rounded edge, and two circular depressions in the rounded end. These give the motifs the appearance of bird's heads (Ravens?) seen from above, with a rounded head and long beak, the circular depressions being eyes.

The space between the two animals below their front legs is also decorated. There is a round reserved pellet in the base, with a fishtail above which extends upwards. In the centre, the fish body divides into two, one part curving to each side forming a Y shape, and each part terminates in an upward pointing beast's head, snout to snout. These heads have long pointed muzzles, an incised eye and pointed ears. It has been suggested that these could represent wolves suckling. The space between the two necks is filled with a reserved pointed oval or drop-shape.

The outer edge of the whole escutcheon plate is embellished with short nicks in the outside edge of the outer border. Traces of silvering survive, but there is no evidence of enamel. The silver coating has been worn off on the inner side of the hook from use ware, the the metal here is scratched. The reverse is slightly concave. There is a rougher area round the edge, perhaps indicating where the plate was soldered to the vessel. There is no other evidence of attachment. The mount is 47.7mm long, 22.9mm wide and 13.4mm in depth. It weighs 9.15g

This hook is one of probably three suspension loops from a hanging bowl. No close parallel for the shape or decoration has been found on the PAS database, but a differently shaped shield-shaped example is SWYOR-942873, though it is not certain that this is from a hanging bowl. A more complete hanging bowl is SWYOR-9C315A.

A parallel for the arrangement of the animals depicted is HAMP-235970 which is a 7th century chatelaine (pers comm Kevin Leahy 13/2/19) which may be modelled on a Frankish type (pers comm. Barry Ager, 20/2/19).

The use of fishtail and fin-like designs is interesting. Compare NMS-AA0858 which may be a fish shaped mount from a hanging bowl. WILT-E637D0 is another mount with a fish like design motif. Some hanging bowl mounts have a shape which is reminiscent of fish-tails too: LON-554844 and WILT-6925E4 for example. Aberlemno Churchyard Cross Slab (Stone II) has been suggested as a parallel for the finned tails, which can be seen on a pair of intertwined waterhorses or hippocamps (https://www.historicenvironment.scot/archives-and-research/publications/publication/?publicationId=533f0f32-ac75-4919-8efa-a74400d10abd). The imagery is also similar to paired dolphins as depicted on late Roman artefacts. The "fish- monsters" or "S-dragons" on Rodney's Stone have similar rounded heads (https://canmore.org.uk/site/15529/brodie-rodneys-stone). Barry Ager (pers comm 20/2/19) agrees that the style and arrangement of the animals may be linked with the style of Scottish/Pictish sculptures.

Malcolm Jones (pers comm. 20/2/19) cites Longley BAR 22 (1975), and suggests that this escutcheon falls into Longley's type 5b, "Bird-shaped with internal decoration".

Compare also YORYM-975799 and WMID-6E17E0. The latter includes a discussion about how hanging bowls are found almost exclusively in early Anglo-Saxon graves, and Geake (1999) argues that all graves containing hanging bowls should be dated to the seventh century.

ESS-DCB785 notes that: A typical hanging bowl has a diameter of between 250 to 350mm, with a re-entrant in the base forming a raised platform inside. Most have three suspension loops around the rim mounted on escutcheons, and may have additional decorative appliqu├ęs on the exterior, and sometimes on the base, both internal and external. One of the best known, from the Sutton-Hoo ship burial first excavated in 1939, also has an enamelled model of a fish mounted on a pedestal set into the interior.

ESS-DCB785 continues: much speculation has ensued concerning the use to which [hanging bowls] were put, with no conclusive result. Their presence in richly-furnished graves implies that they enjoyed a high status, and the predominance of English finds spots suggests that they were probably acquired peaceably rather than as loot - were this not the case one would expect more findspots to be within the 'celtic fringe.' The figures published by Rupert Bruce-Mitford (Bruce-Mitford R, 2005) are largely based on pre-metal detector finds, so the statistics are not skewed by circumstances of discovery method and reporting bias as with some other types of find. Bruce-Mitford suggests that some English bowls may have been made locally, but in the native style not Saxon, which raises interesting questions as to how they were regarded and used.

Find of note status

This is a find of note and has been designated: Regional importance

Class: Hanging bowl
Sub class: hooked escutcheon

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


Broad period: EARLY MEDIEVAL
Subperiod from: Early
Subperiod to: Middle
Ascribed Culture: Anglo-Saxon
Date from: Circa AD 500
Date to: Circa AD 700

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 47.7 mm
Width: 22.9 mm
Thickness: 13.4 mm
Weight: 9.15 g

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Sunday 30th September 2018 - Sunday 30th September 2018

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Ms Julie Scriven
Identified by: Ms Amy Downes
Secondary identifier: Mr Barry Ager

Other reference numbers

Other reference: PAS form number 3279

Materials and construction

Primary material: Copper alloy
Manufacture method: Cast
Completeness: Incomplete
Surface Treatment: White metal coated

Spatial metadata

Region: Yorkshire and the Humber (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: East Riding of Yorkshire (Unitary Authority)
District: East Riding of Yorkshire (Unitary Authority)
Parish or ward: Skirpenbeck (Civil Parish)

Spatial coordinates

4 Figure: SE7456
Four figure Latitude: 53.99474783
Four figure longitude: -0.87272551
1:25K map: SE7456
1:10K map: SE75NW
Grid reference source: Generated from computer mapping software
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 1 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
General landuse: Cultivated land

References cited

No references cited so far.

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: SWYOR
Created: 7 months ago
Updated: 6 months ago

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