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September 29, 2009

Massive Anglo-Saxon hoard found
Posted by Teresa at 11:45 PM * 79 comments

Srsly, everyone’s saying “bigger than Sutton Hoo” and “biggest Anglo Saxon hoard ever found” and “It will redefine the Dark Ages.” They’re calling it the Staffordshire Hoard. It already has its own website.

Specifics: Metal detector, farm field, Staffordshire (Mercia!). The Crown has called dibs on it: v. good thing.

The BBC version of the story. Sample quote:

“Swords and sword fittings were very important in the Anglo-Saxon period,” Dr Leahy added.
The Guardian’s version. Sample quote:
Delicate ornament, stunning craftsmanship and gold were like Kalashnikovs in the battle for land and loyalty. Now, 1,300 years on, they command our intellect and our awe. “It’s going to shake up all our ideas,” says [Anglo-Saxonist Leslie] Webster. “And what fun that will be!” The Mercian flag is on the march.
Why the difference: The Guardian sagely got Mike Pitts, editor of British Archaeology magazine, to write their article for them.

Since these are modern times, there’s a Flickr set where you can look at all 644 photos thus far. Some of the stuff I liked best:

A Fish and Eagles zoomorphic mount reminiscent of the eagles on the Sutton Hoo purse lid and shield mount.
A crumpled gold cross, plus jewelry fittings.
Something they’re calling a gold plaque with entwined stylised arms.
A hilt fitting with inlaid garnets. A whole bunch of sword fittings. Some pyramidal sword finials.
A black-and-white-checked enamel gem in a cloisonne frame. Get up close and look at the tiny fine gold beading around its edge.
And an interesting strip of gold with a biblical inscription.

Medievalist B. Hawk has it pegged:

As pointed out in the hoard catalogue, “The inscription reads: ‘surge d[omi]ne [et] disepentur (for dissipentur) inimici tui et fugent (for fugiant) qui oderunt te a facie tua’ (‘rise up, o Lord, and may thy enemies be scattered and those who hate thee be driven from thy face’).” The catalogue also notes that this passage comes from Numbers 10:35; it has been noted, however, that (given biblical transmission) the passage more likely derives from Psalm 67:2, which includes the same passage.

A search of the Fontes Anglo-Saxonici database reveals that only one text (or set of texts, as will be revealed) known in Anglo-Saxon England also quotes this passage from Numbers 10:35/Psalm 67:2: Felix’s Vita S. Guthlaci. This Vita was written in c.730-49, and, according to E. Gordon Whatley, the text was present in Anglo-Saxon England in at least eight extant manuscripts, one of these (a fragment) from the late eighth or early ninth century. The corresponding use does appear in the Old English prose Life (which corresponds closely to Felix’s Latin version), but not in Vercelli Homily XXIII or Guthlac A or B.

What is interesting about the passage in which this verse is used is that it is not merely a quotation; instead, Guthlac himself uses the Psalm to ward off evil spirits. According to the Old English prose version, Guthlac “þone sealm sang: Exurgat deus et dissipentur, et reliqua. Sona swa he þæt fyrmeste fers sang þæs sealmes, þa gewiton hi swa swa smic fram his ansyne” (“sang the psalm: Exurgat Deus et dissipentur, et reliqua. As soon as he had sung the first verse of the psalm, they departed like smoke from his presence”). What we find, then, is an act of warding off evil, a use of the psalm to achieve victory over one’s enemies.

Cool.

Addendum: Michael Drout at Wormtalk and Slugspeak has an interesting short entry. He calls it a treasure-hoard, not a funeral offering like Sutton Hoo; also:

One of the most intriguing finds is a strip of gold inscribed with Latin:
[.] I R G E : D N E : D I S E P E N T U // [.] F I N I M I C I T U I [:] E/T
[.] U G E N T Q U I O D E R U N // T T E A F A C I E T [U] A (…)

It has not yet been determined what the inscribed strip is, though it may have been part of a shield or helmet. Michelle Brown … dates the script to the eighth or ninth century. There is already some speculation that the hoard could be part the immense treasure supposedly paid to King Penda of Mercia by King Oswiu of Northumbria, but there really isn’t any specific evidence at this stage.

Comments on Massive Anglo-Saxon hoard found:
#1 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 03:27 AM:

Thanks for the context of the Biblical quotation.

I would go on about how the animal imagery and cloisonne remind me of the Chi-Rho page of the Book of Kells, which I did a term paper on in college. Very fascinating stuff, 8th Century art. But it's too cloee to bedtime for me to drudge up facts from research I did 41 years ago. I'm looking forward to whatever new understanding of the era and its culture come from this find.

#2 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 03:55 AM:

Best news I've read in a while. Note how the British system allows for private profit in this sort of operations: the Crown gets automatic rights on the "loot", but the various institutions that will actually host it have to bid for it, with proceedings going to finders and landowners.

Compare with the Italian or Egyptian systems, where there is no compensation for finders. This means that the (usually accidental) finders have no incentive to declare a discovery. Much better to either ignore it, destroy it, or hide it.

#3 ::: Nicholas Waller ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 04:44 AM:

It may be bigger than Sutton Hoo, but presumably it is qualitatively different, in that this is a hoard comprising various pieces of plunder gathered piecemeal from hither and yon, whereas Sutton Hoo was a careful burial of presumably meaningful (to the buryee) selected artefacts, complete with outline of ship.

#4 ::: Andy Brazil ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 05:30 AM:

What sprang to mind when I first read about this was this

It evokes images of the night before the battle, with folk desperately scraping holes in the ground into which to stuff their loot. Presumably the hordes we find belonged to people who didn't survive to dig it up again.

#5 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 06:02 AM:

#2:  right on, except, to be pedantic, the word automatic in the Crown gets automatic rights on the “loot”.  In England, the Crown gets rights to the loot only if a coroner’s court decides that the find is treasure (no longer “treasure trove”), as it has in this case.  Then the treasure is the property of the Crown, but as you say, the finder and landowner (and tenant, if any) get paid.

#6 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 06:16 AM:

Ah, this brings back fond memories of Roald Dahl's piece on the Mildenhall Treasure.

Some of the items will be on display at the Birmingham museum until October 13, before the hoard is brought to the British Museum for valuation. Which means, if I read it correctly, that it'll be at least a year before the public has a chance to see the stuff again. It would be nice to live in Birmingham this coming weekend.

#7 ::: Christopher Kastensmidt ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 07:15 AM:

Calling this "shiny" applies in so many ways. Excellent news!

#8 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 07:27 AM:

This is such an impressive find. It's stunning.

#9 ::: Janice in GA ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 08:13 AM:

So there are what, 12 pieces total?

I need to redefine "hoard" in my mind to something that does not equal "big boxes of treasure."

Still, lovely and amazing.

#10 ::: Abby N ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 08:31 AM:

#9 Janice in GA: Last week news was saying 1,500 pieces. A quick look around this morning seems to say that that's been scaled down a bit. The Guardian article linked above says 1,345. Not big boxes, perhaps, but a huge find.

#11 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 08:34 AM:

Janice, I gather from another source that there are further finds. In their current form, they're balls of dirt which, when x-rayed, have stones and settings inside them. There may also be more excavation of the site, though that's unclear.

#12 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 08:39 AM:

We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious. They stole it from us. Sneaky little hobbitses. Wicked, tricksy, false!

#13 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 08:58 AM:

At first glance my misfiring brain suggested the title of the post was Massive Anglo-Saxon word hoard found. It sounded intriguing; did someone find a cache of new words?

The true story is more interesting. At least, it lends itself to better photographs.

#14 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 10:02 AM:

it's a brilliant find, and very exciting.

but i think the 'bigger than sutton hoo' line is guff, unless they have a lot more going on at the find-site than they have revealed. (and fair enough if so--i read that they are keeping the find-site under wraps so they can investigate further).

sutton hoo is an entire cemetery with ship-burial of a chieftain. it has context. hell, it practically has a narrative arc (measured in cubits).

if this new hoard just reflects a hole hastily dug in the middle of nowhere, with no further remains, no context, and no connections, then as wonderful as it is, it will still not shed the flood of light that sutton hoo did.

not to knock the artefacts themselves, which really are breath-taking in their intricacy.

(doesn't northrop frye somewhere comment that "curiously inwrought" was an aesthetic accolade in this age? many of these jewel-like marvels show just what it means to praise something as "curiously inwrought".)

#15 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 10:20 AM:

The minute I heard about this I thought about you. It has Teresa written all over it. In uncial.

And my God, the work on some of those pieces is gorgeous.

#16 ::: Lisa L. Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 10:27 AM:

The "bigger than Sutton Hoo" reference was taken out of context; it refers merely to the quantity of gold, that's all, not the cultural context or overall historical value.

This is a hoard that includes coins too, which helps enormously in terms of dating etc.

There's a gold Byzantine coin, as well as a number of silver pennies and partial coins, and some loose chain-rings.

#17 ::: wychwood ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 10:56 AM:

If you're thinking of going, beware of the queues, though; mid-week mid-afternoon the queue took nearly two hours from start to finish, and weekends will be an awful lot busier. Bring a folding chair if you don't want to stand the whole time, and a couple of books. The second hour was spent queueing inside the building, but we did spend an hour outdoors first, and the longer the queue the more time outside, so be prepared for that.

Also, be aware that the stuff on display at the moment is only a tiny fraction of the finds - three or four cases with half-a-dozen or a dozen objects in each. It does have most of the "big" finds, though - the folded cross, the inscribed strip, a lot of the gold-and-garnet work, and an adorable little gold snake that looks like a plain bent strip until you look through the provided magnifying glass and see the teeny-tiny eyes.

(Also, there's a half-marathon on in the city centre on the 11th; public transport and general traffic will be very disrupted, and a lot of roads and pedestrian areas will be closed off for part of the day.)

It was worth it, though!

TNH - thanks!

#18 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 11:36 AM:

So lovely. Thanks for the photo links, and the context of the quote from Psalms.

My mind is full of glittering anglo-saxon warriors, all in red and gold.

#19 ::: linnen ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 11:57 AM:

I was sort of hoping one of the transcriptions would read;
When light from the lost land shall return,
Six Sleepers shall ride, Six Signs shall burn,
and where the midsummer tree grows tall
By Pendragon's sword the Dark will fall

But of course that chalice was found in Cornwall.

#20 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 12:07 PM:

When the Dark comes rising, Six shall turn it back:
Three from the circle, three from the track
Wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone
Five shall return, and one go alone

Loved those books.

#21 ::: sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 12:22 PM:

Iron for the birthday, bronze carried long;
Wood from the burning, stone out of song;
Fire in the candle-ring, water from the thaw;
Six Signs the circle, and the grail gone before.

It was my first exercise in poem recitation and performance in 4th grade. I still have it memorized.

I've been drooling over this find for the last week. And plotting. There will have to be a trip to the BM sometime next year.

#22 ::: Del Cotter ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 12:28 PM:

Giacomo, I believe landowners being offered a piece of the action, even after the material has been legally found to be treasure, is a recent legislative innovation in Britain.

Before that, archaeologists complained about just such a perverse incentive to fence the stuff stealthily. They had to watch as trinkets were advertised on ebay, having lost all their context, which is painful for an archaeologist.

#23 ::: Wrye ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 12:31 PM:

But no coconuts?

#24 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 12:39 PM:

Fire on the mountain shall find the harp of gold
Played to wake the Sleepers, oldest of the old

Yeah, that would be fun. But there are ways in which this is better... Reality interconnects in so many ways that fiction often can't be more than a pale shadow.

#25 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 12:41 PM:

"Bigger than Sutton Hoo"? Oh, great. Now all the fundamentalist Hoovians are going to burn their records.

#26 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 12:47 PM:

Wrye @ 25... They're in the Castle of Arrrrrrrrrghhhhhhh.

#27 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 01:01 PM:

*I* want to see the little cloisonne bauble after all the mud and other dirt has been cleaned away

#28 ::: odaiwai ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 01:07 PM:

#27: "'Bigger than Sutton Hoo'? Oh, great. Now all the fundamentalist Hoovians are going to burn their records."

Well, at least they won't get fooled again! *GDANG*

#29 ::: linnen ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 01:18 PM:

Wrye @25;
And now I have an earworm of "Send in the Coconuts."

And where are the Coconuts?
There ought to be Coconuts.
Well, maybe next year.

#30 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 01:22 PM:

"Since these are modern times, there’s a Flickr set where you can look at all 644 photos thus far."

Some of the other sets of portableantiquities are interesting, too.

#31 ::: Rymenhild ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 01:46 PM:

#21, 22, 23, 26: Y maent yr mynyddoedd yn canu ac y mae'r arglwyddes yn dod.

My favorite finds in the hoard are the bent-out-of-shape crosses. Were they intentionally bent? Why? Who wants to crumple a golden cross? Could they have been damaged in violence or hard use somehow, and then discarded respectfully in a hoard of other things? The one in the picture I've linked has a setting for a stone that is missing; when was the stone taken away? What happened to it?

That's the dazzling thing about this hoard; it gives us a chance to ask so many questions.

#32 ::: Stevey-Boy ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 01:49 PM:

I'm guessing it was bent on purpose to fit in a chest/bag/basket as loot, and then buried for safe keeping. Just a guess mind.

#33 ::: Rymenhild ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 01:56 PM:

That's interesting and possible, Stevey-Boy. I wonder what shape the baskets/chests/bags would have been. A thin flat cross would take up less space in many kinds of containers than a crumpled cross in three dimensions.

#34 ::: Stevey-Boy ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 02:09 PM:

Rymenhild @35: That's a good point. In one of the photos it shows everything from the first day and the cross is bent such that it's size is similar to the sword hilts etc...

Something else i found fascinating was just how close to the surface some of these items appear in the documenting photos. It's quite astounding that they have not been unearthed and possibly damaged by ploughs, or other farming equipment.

#35 ::: Stevey-Boy ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 02:11 PM:

Did I seriously just type an "it's"?

On Making Light?

"The Horror!"

#36 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 02:12 PM:

I think the issue of bigger probably has to wait for more context, but there are some really interesting insights already, which Sutton Hoo didn't have.

The very nature of it (being a random slice of things thought to be of value; not a selected set of "important" artifacts) gives a different understanding.

It's quite arguable that, were it not for Sutton Hoo, and the things we think we know based on it, this hoard would be little more than a pile of trinkets.

But we accrete knowledge, and that makes it much harder to evaluate. Certainly it will be years before we have any real idea of the wonder of it.

To put it in some context:

In 2006 I was at Culloden. I got to handle a William and Mary schillng. Had it not been known that it was found on a battlefield, it would have been nought more than a rare (and lovely) coin. Dropped perhaps in the course of someone walking the Nain Road (perhaps making camp for the night, while hauling trade goods).

But it was found in a battlefield (and but an hour before). Which means it was probably someone's enlistment schilling (and a grizzled veteran too, from the age of the coin).

I don't know where it is now, but I have a picture of it in my hand, reminiscent of the "plaque" Teresa linked to.

#37 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 02:33 PM:

Stevey-boy@36 and 37: It's OK. The "it's" that you used, and that I just used, is a contraction for "It is" and is perfectly legitimate. The problem is when people write "it's" for the possessive of "it"; that's considered bad grammar these days. It wasn't always; once I was reading a collection of writings by Thomas Jefferson and was amused that he apparently always used those two the "wrong" way around by our 20th and 21st Century standards. I then realized that those standards hadn't been set in stone yet in TJ's era.

#38 ::: Stevey-Boy ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 02:43 PM:

Lois Fundis @39 I actually used it both ways. So, by either account, I got it wrong.

#39 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 03:16 PM:

Relatedly, Google Video has Britain BC and Britain AD, hosted by Francis Pryor. (One-sentence summary of AD: "Britain did NOT descend into the dark ages after the Romans left, dammit; if anything, the Britons turned up the lights!")

#40 ::: pm215 ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 03:17 PM:

Of course if you're going to use Latin as a magic inscription, it's important to get the wording right, as somebody from Cambridge's ASNaC department pointed out in a letter to the Times...

#41 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 03:19 PM:

Stevey-Boy, we assumed you were just starting to go into Gollum-speak and caught yourself. Hard not to with a treasure like this.

#42 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 04:07 PM:

Re: The use of the apostrophe and "its"

I was taught: "It's" = it is and "Its'" = belonging to "It"

So "it's" indicates a state of being, and "its'" indicates possession.

#44 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 04:40 PM:

Lois, I've read a lot of pre-20th C. text, all vintages, and I don't think there was ever a period when its and it's swapped. If Thomas Jefferson consistently reversed them, he was consistently getting them wrong.

As we used to say when researching our Chelsea House litcrit volumes, a sufficiently old error becomes an interesting historical fact.

#45 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 04:47 PM:

TNH @44:
a sufficiently old error becomes an interesting historical fact

AKA If you're dead and a genius, anything scans.

#46 ::: Seeker after Photos ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 04:56 PM:

Is there a place where a full set of larger-size photos can be downloaded without dealing with Flickr's horrific browsing interface?

#47 ::: Zvi ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 05:28 PM:

"The Hoard contains approximately 5kg of gold and 1.3kg of silver, giving it a 'scrap' value of over £100,000 (by contrast the Sutton Hoo find contained 1.6kg of precious metals)."

Whoo. I say again. Whooo.

#48 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 06:20 PM:

That sword hilt - the one with the hole with a pointy end and a blunt end. Is that possibly evidence that the Anglo-Saxons used one-sided blades? Because that alone will set the cat among the pigeons :)

#49 ::: AutumnHeart ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 07:13 PM:

Saw the display at the Birmingham museum today - definitely get there early in the morning if you want to visit! The museum is handing out tickets with a time-slot for when you will be allowed in - we got there at 11, and the next available time was 3pm, but there were queues inside as well, so it was after 4 by the time we saw anything. People who turned up after lunch didn't get in at all. Entry is free, but the museum is asking for donations towards bidding for the horde to be added to its collection.

As has been mentioned above, only a small number of pieces are on display at the moment, but the workmanship is exquisite: the knotwork seems to be on a similar scale to the panels on the Ardagh Chalice.

Many of the pieces appear damaged, as if they have been torn away from their original mountings. My personal guess is that this could be a cache of precious metal and gems stolen from a more contextual site and reburied (not by the recent finder - I mean much longer ago than that) but this is based more on whimsy than any claim of scholarship!

Well worth a visit if you are in the area, and hopefully the full collection will be catalogued and made available for viewing in a reasonable amount of time.

#50 ::: AutumnHeart ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 07:25 PM:

To Vian at #48:
The description card in the display cabinet against this piece (there are two of these on display) states that it is a fitting from
a single-edged seax. I can't speak to the controversy value of this, but it will be interesting to find out.

#51 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 07:28 PM:

I can't help but wonder if there are any tags reading "If found, please return to Alberich, 1 Forge Way, Nibelheim. Postage and resonable expenses reimbursed."

#52 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 07:29 PM:

I can't help but wonder if there are any tags reading "If found, please return to Alberich, 1 Forge Way, Nibelheim. Postage and resonable expenses reimbursed."

#53 ::: cisko ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 09:37 PM:

I'm just finishing up Barbarians to Angels: The Dark Ages Reconsidered. It's a good read, digging into its thesis through reviewing on archaeological evidence like this find, and I'd recommend it for anyone who wants to hear more about such things. Wells asserts that the "Dark Ages" were less Dark and less distinct from Roman rule than commonly held. At times, he pushes a bit hard to make his points, but he generally sticks to the evidence, making for an informative book and an enjoyable read.

#54 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 10:08 PM:

Larry @51: "Ruler of creeper, mortal, and scallop / This is a sleeper that packs quite a wallop."

#55 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 10:11 PM:

Ah, it's the Most Quoted Fantasy Novel of the 20th Century. Again.

#56 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 10:36 PM:

Thanks for posting, I've been waiting to hear what you had to say about it, Teresa.

My urge when seeing it has been to reproduce some of the pieces of it in needle-felt. I have no particular reason for this, only an overpowering urge. And some gold and red and brown wool.

#57 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2009, 10:54 PM:

vian, I noticed that asymmetry myself, but hadn't realized it was going to set cats among pigeons. I think it's because blades with backs are so common (think every kitchen knife you've met).

#58 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2009, 12:22 AM:

Anglo-Saxon swords may not have been single-edged (I've never heard of them being described that way, anyhow), but the classic seax knives certainly were.

#59 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2009, 12:42 AM:

vian: But the seax was a single edged blade, so I don't see the "cat among the pigeons" problem.

It looked a perfectly proper sort of cross guard.

It might also be a personal quirk on a larger blade. Rapiers (and some other double-edged designs) have preferential moutings, to account for defensive furniture.

#60 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2009, 01:06 AM:

Lori Coulson @ 42: Argh! I'm sorry, I can't help myself: "its-with-no-apostrophe" is the possessive pronoun; "its-with-an-apostrophe-after-the-s" basically doesn't exist. And "it-apostrophe-s" is the contraction for "it is."

Can you tell I just got finished with a set of freshmen essays? Believe me, I would much rather have spent the last few hours looking at these pretty pictures . . . this is an amazing find.

#61 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2009, 01:19 AM:

The items are gorgeous.

Having said that, the information I want, isn't there--what's the stratrigraphy? What was the relationship of the different objects spatially in the ground--was it a bunch of loot likely looted/scavenged off a battlefield and then dropped/lost in a river/hidden in a dug hole, or was it a cache that was for whatever reason in building--perhaps plague took the people who had put it there, or war, or famine, or slavery took them away, or.... is that any context to place the treasure in?

It's not likely to be of the nature of some of was it the ballast in holds of ancient ships at the bottom of the Med, where armless statues and broken off hunks of metal, apparently were being hauled to a port for offloading to go to metals smelters, and be remade it other objects of contemporary value (as opposed to busted statuary, old busted adorns, and other metal gathered for recycling).

The current treasure has its value for the metals and gems content, and artistic merit. But where is/is there archeological value beyond that? As noted above Sutton Hoo was a burial and the grave goods had context to them, mute testimony to the importance of the deceased and the culture's values as regards send off of the deceased, the objects that the culture considered fitting to bury with the deceased--which presumably also reflected cultural and social values for living persons, of objects valued for everyday life.... Sutton Hoo communicates cultural information and values. The current treasure trove in the public eye, consists of what to me seems to be an assemblage of battlefield loot--fittings without the objects they were fit to, in what seems to have been a jumble deposited more than a thousand years ago. That says little of culture beyond "these are fittings removed from the context and employment, and removed from the social matrix which showed relationship in culture and society, other than 'this looks like loot, things that battlefield scavengers, brigands, and/of grave robbers would have collected and kept'" (as opposed to iron-based blades and helmet of non-precious metals, which the objects got parted from).

#62 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2009, 09:01 AM:

The items are gorgeous.

Having said that, the information I want, isn't there--what's the stratrigraphy? What was the relationship of the different objects spatially in the ground--was it a bunch of loot likely looted/scavenged off a battlefield and then dropped/lost in a river/hidden in a dug hole, or was it a cache that was for whatever reason in building--perhaps plague took the people who had put it there, or war, or famine, or slavery took them away, or.... is that any context to place the treasure in?

It's not likely to be of the nature of some of was it the ballast in holds of ancient ships at the bottom of the Med, where armless statues and broken off hunks of metal, apparently were being hauled to a port for offloading to go to metals smelters, and be remade it other objects of contemporary value (as opposed to busted statuary, old busted adorns, and other metal gathered for recycling).

The current treasure has its value for the metals and gems content, and artistic merit. But where is/is there archeological value beyond that? As noted above Sutton Hoo was a burial and the grave goods had context to them, mute testimony to the importance of the deceased and the culture's values as regards send off of the deceased, the objects that the culture considered fitting to bury with the deceased--which presumably also reflected cultural and social values for living persons, of objects valued for everyday life.... Sutton Hoo communicates cultural information and values. The current treasure trove in the public eye, consists of what to me seems to be an assemblage of battlefield loot--fittings without the objects they were fit to, in what seems to have been a jumble deposited more than a thousand years ago. That says little of culture beyond "these are fittings removed from the context and employment, and removed from the social matrix which showed relationship in culture and society, other than 'this looks like loot, things that battlefield scavengers, brigands, and/of grave robbers would have collected and kept'" (as opposed to iron-based blades and helmet of non-precious metals, which the objects got parted from).

#63 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2009, 02:12 PM:

TNH @ 54 - I had forgotten about that, but I supppose it was wedged in my brain and unconsciously surfaced in a (slightly) different context. Probably because my fiancee is an opera nut and dragged be to see the Ring Cycle last month. I somehow survived, and now want to see at least one performance from the LA Opera's new production. Note - video plays automatically.

#64 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2009, 05:09 PM:

"its-with-an-apostrophe-after-the-s" basically doesn't exist.

If we are writing possessive pronouns, its' apostrophes are omitted. :)

#65 ::: B. Hawk ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2009, 05:12 PM:

Thanks for the reference to my site. I'm glad to see my thoughts being so well received, & esp. that my contributions are wider than just the medieval community.

#66 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2009, 06:53 PM:

True, all mentioning the seax, but that hilt looked a good deal bigger than a mere knife-hilt; it were sword sized, and we've not seen one that big before.

#67 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2009, 09:12 PM:

Even without context, the new find will be of great value to SCAdians and others who want to copy old pieces or create new ones in the same style. The more authentic examples, the better.

#68 ::: Ambar ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2009, 12:21 AM:

The crumpled cross and other pieces do seem to fit the narrative of battlefield looting.

#69 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2009, 12:46 PM:

vian: The seax came in a lot of sizes, from "pocketknives" to monsters the size of a small sword.

What isn't common is for them to have fittings. The usual hilt was just forced on. So, if it's from a seax, it's still unusual.

The interesting (and unanswereable) question is more on the oder of, "Why did someone with the money to have that sort of decoration use it on a longseax, and not get a more traditional sword?"

My guess: he was comfortable wielding the longseax, and came into the money to buy a really good one/decorate a favored one.

#70 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2009, 01:53 PM:

Rymenhild @ #31

I've always wished that Cooper had actually consulted someone fluent in Welsh for that line -- preferably someone knowledgable about the era the inscription was supposed to have dated from. Even leaving aside the elementary grammatical error, it just ... *clunks*. Unlike the rest of the poetry in that series.

#71 ::: Harriet Culver ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2009, 02:19 PM:

Jenny Islander @ 67 -

Even without context, the new find will be of great value to SCAdians and others who want to copy old pieces or create new ones in the same style. The more authentic examples, the better.

On my first cursory viewing of the artifact slideshow, I had the most awful thought: What if, after they finish their careful archaeological cleaning and cataloging, they find the piece with the WETA logo on it?

#72 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2009, 02:44 PM:

Terry Karney @ 69... The seax came in a lot of sizes

...must... NOT!... make... dirty joke...

#73 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2009, 03:54 PM:

Serge @72:

Here, let me save you.

The seax came in a lot of sizes

Yes, there's alto seax and tenor seax. I have even heard of bass and contra-bass seax.

#74 ::: Liza ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2009, 04:44 PM:

abi, what about the soprano seax?

#75 ::: Leroy F. Berven ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2009, 05:21 PM:

abi @ 73:

All of which have been subject to a lot of "fiddling around" in popular culture, the results of which are disseminated via popular broadcast media.

Which explains why we see so much seax and violins on television.

#76 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2009, 01:25 PM:

So, is the new circle near Stonehenge "old news" to everyone here, or is there anyone who is as fascinated as I am to learn about it this morning? Here's a very brief announcement: Bluehenge. If anyone has more complete information, I'd love a link.

#77 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2009, 06:54 PM:

Mary Frances, here y'go, a bit more from www.megalithic.co.uk, and the BBC News site.

#79 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 12:01 PM:

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