Category Archive 'Anglo-Saxons'

19 Feb 2017

The Alfred Jewel

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Vintage News:

One of the most mysterious and celebrated treasures from Anglo-Saxon England, the Alfred Jewel is believed to be more than 1,000 years old. It was discovered in 1693 in a field at North Petherton, Somerset.

Made of enamel and quartz, this remarkable jewel was made in the reign of Alfred the Great with an inscription “AELFRED MEC HEHT GEWYRCAN” which means “Alfred ordered me made.” It is an unusual example of Anglo-Saxon jewelry because it begs all kinds of questions about where the materials came from.

The two-and-a-half-inch long jewel made of filigreed gold has an image of a man, which many historians believe is a picture of Christ. Shaped like a teardrop, it was once believed that this jewel was a pendant worn around the neck. However, this would mean that the image of Christ would be permanently hung upside-down.

Another theory is that it might have been the centerpiece of a royal crown but the setting seemed inappropriate for that purpose. According to Webster, the back of the jewel is a flat gold plate which is engraved with either a plant motif or an image of the Tree of Life.

Over the years, many suggestions have been made about the function of this jewel. The most common is that it was a pointer to use for reading manuscripts. It is assumed that it may have been Alfred’s gift to the abbey, which he founded at Athelney in 878 after his defeat of the Vikings.

A description of the jewel was first published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1698. Colonel Nathaniel Palmer bequeathed the jewel to Oxford University and it was on display in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. In 2015, after 297 years away, the Alfred jewel was put on display for one month at the Museum of Somerset, Taunton Castle.

17 Sep 2014

Mystery Object

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From the Staffordshire Hoard.

Wikipedia:

The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork yet found. Discovered in a field near the village of Hammerwich, near Lichfield, in Staffordshire, England, on 5 July 2009, it consists of over 3,500 items that are nearly all martial in character and contains no objects specific to female uses. The artefacts have tentatively been dated to the 7th or 8th centuries, placing the origin of the items in the time of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia.

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My guess is that it is a handle for some sort of small personal tool or weapon. There is a pommel. The problems with my theory are that the grip shaft is very short and would have to have been made to be held between two fingers and the cup-shaped hilt is very delicate and fragile. Might it be the handle for one of those scrapers for erasing your mistake when you are scribing a manuscript?

Staffordshire Hoard website

More videos of objects from the hoard.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

25 Sep 2009

Anglo-Saxon Gold Hoard Found in Staffordshire

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Metal detecting is a popular working man’s hobby here in the United States as well, but Americans can expect to find some coins or possibly Civil War relics. In Britain, there is a lot more history, and a lot older and more valuable treasure lying right in the fields.

The Daily Mail has terrific coverage of a spectacular new find.

The largest haul of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found has been discovered by a metal detector enthusiast on farmland in Staffordshire, it was revealed today.

Experts say the hoard, which is at least as significant as any other treasure from the Anglo-Saxon era ever unearthed, is worth millions and could have belonged to a king.

The discovery of at least 1,345 different items, thought to date back to the seventh century, is expected to redefine perceptions of the period.

Terry Herbert, from Burntwood, Staffordshire, came across the collection as he searched a field near his home with his trusty 14-year-old detector and is now in line for a seven-figure sum.

It had been hidden for more than 1,300 years but was recently thrown up by ploughing and amazingly, some was just sitting on the top of the ground.

Experts have already examined the 1,345 items but another 56 clods of earth have been X-rayed and are known to hold more metal artefacts, meaning the figure is likely to rise to around 1,500.

At least 650 are gold, weighing more than than 5kg, and another 530 are silver, weighing around 1kg. This is far bigger than previous finds – including the Sutton Hoo burial site in Suffolk.

Many of the items in the hoard are warfare paraphernalia inlaid with precious stones, including sword pommel caps and hilt plates.

Experts say it is the best example of Anglo-Saxon workmanship they have ever seen and may have belonged to Saxon royalty, possibly the King of Mercia.’

Archaeology expert Leslie Webster, who used to work at the British Museum, said: ‘(It is) absolutely the equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells.’

It was officially declared treasure by a coroner today, which means the haul will now be valued by committee of experts before being offered for sale.

They may take more than a year to value the collection and, given its scale, the financial worth will be massive.

Once a valuation and sale is complete, its market value will be split between Mr Herbert, who is unemployed, and the owner of the farmland where it was found.

Roger Bland, head of portable antiquities and treasure at the British Museum: ‘I can’t say anything other than we expect it to be a seven-figure sum.’

Hat tip to Bird Dog.

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The gold-proud of warriors, trod the mould grassy, exulting in gold-store.
–Beowulf (William Morris translation)

You can gloat over the treasure hoard looted from those puny Christians, just like a true follower of Odin, at the Staffordshire Hoard web-site.

22 Jul 2009

Who Killed the Men of England?

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Jonathan Shaw in Harvard Magazine explains that studies of population DNA suggest that an effective policy of sexual apartheid practiced by the newly arrived Anglo-Saxons could have eliminated British male Y chromosomal DNA in as few as five generations. The Spanish conquistadores in Colombia and the Vikings in Scotland and Ireland left similar DNA patterns, in which the male heredity of the modern population is overwhelming traceable to the invaders, but female mitochondrial DNA predominantly descends from the conquered population.

Moral? Successful invaders get the girls. At some level, history amounts to a contest over who gets to reproduce his DNA, and who does not.

There are no signs of a massacre–no mass graves, no piles of bones. Yet more than a million men vanished without a trace. They left no descendants. Historians know that something dramatic happened in England just as the Roman empire was collapsing. When the Anglo-Saxons first arrived in that northern outpost in the fourth century a.d.–whether as immigrants or invaders is debated–they encountered an existing Romano-Celtic population estimated at between 2 million and 3.7 million people. Latin and Celtic were the dominant languages. Yet the ensuing cultural transformation was so complete, says Goelet professor of medieval history Michael McCormick, that by the eighth century, English civilization considered itself completely Anglo-Saxon, spoke only Anglo-Saxon, and thought that everyone had “come over on the Mayflower, as it were.” This extraordinary change has had ramifications down to the present, and is why so many people speak English rather than Latin or Celtic today. But how English culture was completely remade, the historical record does not say.

Then, in 2002, scientists found a genetic signature in the DNA of living British men that hinted at an untold story of Anglo-Saxon conquest. The researchers were sampling Y-chromosomes, the sex chromosome passed down only in males, from men living in market towns named in the Domesday Book of 1086. Working along an east-west transect through central England and Wales, the scientists discovered that the mix of Y-chromosomes characteristic of men in the English towns was very different from that of men in the Welsh towns: Wales was the primary Celtic holdout in Western Britannia during the ascendance of the Anglo-Saxons. Using computer analysis, the researchers explored how such a pattern could have arisen and concluded that a massive replacement of the native fourth-century male Britons had taken place. Between 50 percent and 100 percent of indigenous English men today, the researchers estimate, are descended from Anglo-Saxons who arrived on England’s eastern coast 16 centuries ago. So what happened?


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