Anglo-Saxon cross fragments, Louth

 

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 Anglo-Saxon cross fragments found in Louth rectory garden

Fragments from a 10th Century Anglo-Saxon stone cross have been discovered in a Lincolnshire rectory garden.

One stone was discovered during maintenance work at St James’ Church rectory in Louth, while church verger Christopher Marshall found the second.

Historians said the stones are proof that Louth was an important centre for Christianity in medieval times.

Verger Mr Marshall believes the stones are the earliest Christian artefacts to be found in the town.

It is thought the cross would have been on a 3-4m (10-13ft) plinth.

Mr Marshall said: “The cross was erected at a very important time in the development of Louth and the early church. So far, it is the only tangible evidence that has been found from that period.”

Built in the 15th Century, St James’ Church on Eastgate has an imposing 295ft (90m) spire overlooking the town.

The discovery of the cross provides a link between the present church, an 8th and 9th Century Anglo-Saxon monastery, and the town’s 10th Century shrine to the Anglo-Saxon bishop of Lindsey, St Herefrith.

Reverend Nick Brown said: “It is truly inspiring to find an object that may have been a focus for devotion and prayer many centuries ago here in Louth.”

Conservation work will begin on the stones in summer, and they will go on public display in the church later this year.

Published in: on Sunday, 1st May, 2016 at 9:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Viking coins from Dublin found in Wales

Hoard of Viking coins unearthed in field and dating back 1,000 years declared treasure

Portable Antiquities Scheme: NMGW-038729

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One of the Viking Sihtric Anlafsson Long Cross pennies from Dublin © National Museum Wales

 

A hoard of historic Viking treasure found in a field has been declared treasure.

The haul, which includes ancient ingots and fragments of coins dating back almost a thousand years to the time of King Cnut the Great, was found by treasure hunter Walter Hanks from Llanllyfni, near Caernarfon, using a metal detector in nearby Llandwrog back in March.

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One of the Viking pennies of Sihtric Anlafsson from Dublin obverse and reverse © National Museum Wales

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A total of 14 silver pennies produced at Dublin under the Hiberno-Scandinavian ruler Sihtric Anlafsson (989-1036), which archaeologists say are rarely found on the British mainland, also make up part of the find.

Eight of the coins date back to AD 995 while the other six were believed to have been produced in AD 1018.

Experts believe that the hoard was purposely buried in the ground between 1020 and 1030 in a bid to store the silver – and could even have been used as part of a burial ritual.

The astonishing discovery was officially declared treasure by the North West Wales coroner Dewi Pritchard-Jones during an inquest at Caernarfon.

A spokesperson for National Museum Wales could not confirm the value of the coins and said the museum is seeking to acquire the hoard with grant funding from the Collecting Cultures stream of the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The spokesperson added: “Now that the hoard has been declared treasure by the coroner, the next step will be to courier this to The British Museum for temporary safe keeping.

“The independent Treasure Valuation Committee, will commission an expert valuer to offer their view on current market/collector value and the committee will consider this, before making their recommendation. Finders and landowners are consulted and are able to offer comment or commission their own valuations, if they wish.

“Usually what happens is that the value is split equally between the finder and the landowner with each getting 50% of the current market value.”

Among the more interesting artefacts in the hoard were are fragments of three or four pennies of Cnut, King of England (1016-35), which were most likely all from the mint of Chester.

Cnut the Great, more commonly known as Canute, was a king of Denmark, England, Norway, and parts of Sweden who ruled from the year 985 or 995 to 1035.

Dr Mark Redknap, Head of Collections and Research in the Department of History and Archaeology at the National Museum Wales said the find will help historians to form a picture of the eleventh century Gwynedd economy.

He said: “There are three complete finger-shaped ingots and one fragmentary finger-shaped metal ingot.

“Nicking on the sides of the ingots is an intervention sometimes undertaken in ancient times to test purity, and evidence that they had been used in commercial transactions before burial.
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“At least four hoards on the Isle of Man* indicate that bullion retained an active role in the Manx economy from the 1030s to 1060s, and the mixed nature of the Llandwrog hoard falls into the same category.

“As such it amplifies the picture we are building up of the wealth and economy operating in the kingdom of Gwynedd in the eleventh century.”

 

*Glenfaba c. 1030 (464 coins, 25 ingots, armlet fragment)

Andreas parish churchyard ingots c. 1045

West Nappin, Jurby c. 1045

Kirk Michael parish churchyard c. 1065

 

 

Published in: on Thursday, 19th November, 2015 at 3:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Stolen Anglo-Saxon stone sculpture

Appeal following theft of unique Anglo-Saxon stone sculpture

Police are appealing for information after a unique stone artefact was stolen from a church in Hovingham, near Malton.

Some time between 23 May and 6 June 2015, offenders entered All Saints Church in Hovingham and stole a carved stone which was on display in the recess of a window.

The statue, originally part of a stone cross, dates from the late eighth or early ninth century, and is likely to be contemporary with the shrine panel still preserved in the church. It is particularly notable for its ornate and accomplished carving.

The stone itself is a sandstone from the quarries at Aislaby near Whitby, demonstrating the links between the Anglo-Saxon church at Hovingham and Whitby Abbey, which owned the quarries and exported stone for sculptural monuments to sites across North and East Yorkshire.

The piece measures 51cm high, 23.2cm at its widest, and 12.8cm at its deepest. It is very heavy and will have required a vehicle to remove it.

PC Nick Durkin, of Scarborough Police, said: “Experts have described the stolen sculpture as unique in its form, layout and the quality of its carving. We are making extensive enquiries to return this important historic artefact to its rightful location, and I would urge anyone who knows its whereabouts to get in touch straight away.”

Published in: on Tuesday, 30th June, 2015 at 8:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Anglo-Saxon butter churn lid

Saxon artefacts discovered in Stafford during construction of WCML improvement project

Archaeologists have discovered an Anglo-Saxon wooden butter churn lid at a rail development near Stafford. 

But radiocarbon tests have revealed the lid of the butter churn dates from the early medieval period.

The tests have put a fragment of wood found with the lid as dating between AD715-890, so the lid is from the same period as the Staffordshire Hoard.

Dr Emma Tetlow, of Headland Archaeology is senior archaeologist at the site where Network Rail is building a new flyover and 11 bridges on the West Coast Main Line as part of the £250million Stafford Area Improvements Programme. 

Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of earth have been moved at the site to date, but checks are undertaken by Dr Tetlow during ground works. She said she was surprised but delighted by the news as there was so little evidence of this period archaeologically.

During this period this part of Staffordshire was part of the Mercian heartland and was populated by a pagan tribe called the Pencersaete.

She added: “Existing knowledge of this period for the north and east of the Midlands and the UK in general is very scarce, so this find is fantastic and of regional significance.”

A number of Victorian stoneware bottles bearing the names of breweries from Bristol to Manchester have also been unearthed. Local residents will have the chance to view some of the objects and discuss them with Dr Tetlow and other colleagues working on the site at an information day in June.

A young man made for the corner where he knew
she was standing; this stripping youth
had whipped up her dress, and under her girdle
(as she stood there) thrust something stiff,
worked his will; they both shook.
This fellow quickened: one moment he was
forceful, a first-rate servant, so strenuous
that the next he was knocked up, quite
blown by his exertion. Beneath the girdle
a thing began to grow that upstanding men
often think of, tenderly, and acquire.

Riddle 54 (answer: a butter churn) from The Exeter Book of Riddles

Further reading: Unriddling the Exeter Riddles by Patrick J. Murphy 

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Published in: on Thursday, 21st May, 2015 at 7:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Radcliffe Tower

Medieval past uncovered as new excavation begins at Radcliffe Tower

WORK began this week to discover more about Radcliffe Hall and Tower’s medieval past.

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Radcliffe Tower

The Close Park dig is being run by archaeologists from the University of Salford, who initially excavated the site in October 2013, and has so far attracted almost 100 volunteers.

The team is hoping to mark out the medieval foundations of the structure, after a 15th century doorway and stone plinth bases from the great hall were uncovered last year.

Organisers have been delighted with the response from the local community and say they are already making some fascinating discoveries, after selecting Close Park as one of their two flagship excavations in the Dig Greater Manchester initiative.

Vicky Nash, who is leading the dig, said: “The main aim is to finally piece together the foundations of the medieval hall, but also the later development of the site.

The reason we came back is because we have dug here three times before and we have only just started to see evidence of the medieval hall popping up.

We’ve had a really good response from the people of Radcliffe. It’s been one of the most popular digs we’ve done.

This dig is only a few days in and we’ve had a lot of interest and are already uncovering a lot of what we came here to find.

We are very familiar with the site now and that means we are getting more and more of the results we want to see.”

The dig is running until Friday May 15, with places still available in the final weeks of the excavation for volunteers to join in.

The event is open to anybody over the age of 16, though younger volunteers are able to attend on Saturday, May 2 and Bank Holiday Monday, May 4, providing they are accompanied by an adult.

An open day will then be held on Saturday, May 16 to showcase the team’s findings, with other stalls around the site showcasing the history of the area.

Radcliffe towerdig

Also:

 Ancient cross which stood in Radcliffe is rediscovered – at the library

Archaeologists praise community spirit as Close Park dig concludes

Radcliffe Interactive Map

Update Volunteers offer special preview of heritage trail to showcase Radcliffe’s medieval past

Published in: on Tuesday, 12th May, 2015 at 6:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

St James Church in Jacobstowe, Devon

Historic Devon church find ‘as rare as hens’ teeth’

The remains of an ancient structure described as being “as rare as hens’ teeth” has been uncovered under the floor of a Devon church.

Excavations at St James Church in Jacobstowe have unearthed the ruins of what is believed to be the building’s original foundations, complete with a rear Western apse formation.

Only two other similar structures have been recorded in Britain – including one at Canterbury Cathedral – and on-site archaeologists say it could provide new insight into the South West’s church-building history.

Rod Lane, who is overseeing the excavations, said the “shock” discovery could date the church back as far as pre-Anglo-Saxon times.

What has been uncovered are the foundations of a western apse, together with the foundations of the former Eastern limit of the early church,” he explained.

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This takes our knowledge of the development of church history in the southwest back much further than is currently known.

We know that Irish monks were coming to the West Country in the 5th-7th centuries so perhaps they came here too and formed a Christian community.

We really didn’t expect to find this when be took up the floors – it’s a find is as rare as hens’ teeth.”

The remains were exposed during works to replace St James’ pew platforms, which have been threatening to collapse for several years.

The refurbishment project only recently got the go-ahead after the church secured financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Devon Historic Churches trust.

But when the floor and topsoil were removed, they revealed the building’s original Eastern wall and a semi-circular wall – or apse – at the Western end.

The potentially significant find has already attracted specialists from across the country, including teams from English Heritage.

But Mr Lane said the church was hoping to use it as an opportunity for residents to learn about local history.

We want to get the word out and involve the wider community,” he said.

In April work will start and the remains will be covered up, never to be seen again. So before that we want to hold a open day to allow people who are interested to engage with their heritage.”

Published in: on Monday, 16th March, 2015 at 8:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Anglo-Saxon pendant, South Norfolk

A stunning gold and jewel Anglo-Saxon pendant has been uncovered in a Norfolk field in one of the most spectacular archaeological discoveries for years, it can be revealed today.

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The stunning Anglo-Saxon pendant emerges from the Norfolk mud.

In her role as one of the experts in Channel 4’s long-running Time Team series, Dr Helen Geake saw many exciting finds come to the surface. But the discovery of the stunning gold and jewel pendant, dug out of a muddy South Norfolk field and announced today, tops the lot.

It’s the single most exciting discovery I have ever been present at,” Dr Geake said.

She is an expert on the early Anglo-Saxon period, that time when the new Kingdom of East Anglia was being established after the chaos following the end of Roman Britain.

That means she is also an expert on the world-famous Sutton Hoo burial – thought to be of King Raedwald from the early seventh century – and was also involved with research into the fabulous Staffordshire Anglo-Saxon Hoard discovered in 2009.

Now the South Norfolk pendant, the latest in a long line of spectacular discoveries from Norfolk, is set to join that famous list. “It’s going to be a nationally-important thing,” Dr Geake added. Nothing else has been found quite like it.

The exquisite 7cm pendant is stunningly made with gold ‘cells’ and red garnet inlays. Some of the garnets have been cut to make animal ‘interlace’, a popular and highly-skilled design technique from the period where representations of creatures are stretched out and intricately interwoven.

But all of these discoveries were still in the future when Tom Lucking, a first-year UEA landscape archaeology student and keen member of the Suffolk Archaeological Field Group, was exploring the field – with the landowner’s permission – just before Christmas.

His detector found a large and deep signal, and he dug down just far enough to reveal the top of a bronze bowl. Instead of carrying on he did exactly the right thing: carefully re-filling the hole and calling in the Field Group’s geophysics team to survey the site, and Norfolk County Council’s Heritage Environment Service to assess any finds.

Dr Andrew Rogerson and Steven Ashley from the HES then asked Dr Geake to join in the excavation, which took place over two cold days in January.

The bowl turned out to be at the foot of a grave with the badly-preserved bones of an adult Anglo-Saxon. As the excavation continued it was clear that this was a female because of the jewellery being discovered. It included a ‘chatelaine’, a long strip with probably silver rings which would have been hung from a girdle.

The pendant is the undoubted star find from the excavation, but there are other items to indicate that this was a noblewoman of wealth and taste. Some of them were made in the Kingdom of the Franks, part of what was to later become France.

They include two pendants made from re-used gold coins. One of them has been dated to between 639-656 when it was minted for Frankish king Sigebert III [example] probably near Marseilles, so we know the grave must be dated to just after this. The pendants, along with two gold beads, formed part of a ‘choker’-style necklace.

It’s that theme that we see running right up to the present day, where we turn to France for style and cultured items,” Dr Geake explained. The finds also included the beaten bronze bowl, which may be another French import, a wheel-thrown pot which Dr Rogerson has identified as a definite import, plus a tiny knife and iron buckle.

So who was the mysterious noblewoman? We will never know her name but we can tell that she was someone who was living at the very highest levels of society. “She’s going to have known the kings of East Anglia, and France,” Dr Geake said. The noblewoman may even been alive when burials were still going on at Sutton Hoo.

Steven Ashley, from the Gressenhall-based Historic Environment Service, was the archaeologist who actually brought the pendant to light after 14 centuries.

They were terrible conditions to dig in over the two days,” he said. “Lots of mud everywhere, and cold and wet! But I think it’s the most exciting discovery I have ever uncovered – one of those things you dream of finding.

It’s so beautifully made. The garnet cells even have scored gold ‘foil’ at the back of them to catch the light. And you can’t see the back of the pendant in the photograph but it has rivets going through from the bosses on the front – and these have been decorated with garnets too.”

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An X-ray of the Anglo-Saxon gold and garnet pendant discovered in South Norfolk in January 2015, showing its intricate design.

The bones of the noblewoman have already been taken to Norwich Castle Museum for analysis. We should be able to discover more about her lifestyle, including her age and clues to her diet and medical conditions. The finds will be considered at a special inquest to decide if they are Treasure.

The debate will then begin about what happens next to this amazing discovery, and whether the finds can be kept in Norfolk. This is a story 14 centuries in the making, and there’s a lot more to come yet.

Published in: on Friday, 27th February, 2015 at 8:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Anglo-Saxon sculpture

Museum of Somerset in Taunton buys £150,000 Anglo-Saxon sculpture

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MUSEUM visitors will be able to inspect a unique Anglo-Saxon sculpture that had been used as a tombstone on a cat’s grave.

A builder had the artefact in his garden at Dowlish Wake, near Ilminster, until it was realised how important it was.

It has now been bought for £150,000 by The Museum of Somerset, in Taunton , with the help of a £78,600 Heritage Lottery Fund grant and assistance from other groups.

The 45cm square limestone panel, which depicts St Peter, probably dates from about 1000AD.

The builder died over ten years ago, so no-one knows exactly where he found the item, although experts believe it was created for a religious building in South Somerset – possibly Muchelney Abbey, which is dedicated to St Peter and St Paul.

Steve Minnitt, head of museums for the South West Heritage Trust, said: “We were keen at the time to acquire it for the museum, but the price was beyond us.

So when it recently came up for sale again we were determined to raise the money if we could.”

It will go on permanent display in the museum from Saturday.

Tom Mayberry, chief executive of the trust, said “We are delighted that this unique and beautiful sculpture has returned to the county.

Working with Somerset County Council we want to make sure that objects as outstandingly important as this one can be preserved in Somerset for everyone to enjoy and appreciate.”

Commenting on the grant award, HLF’s head of South-West Nerys Watts said: “We were delighted to be able to help the Museum of Somerset acquire this unique object from the county’s past, ensuring that it can be understood and appreciated in the future by local people and visitors alike.”

Published in: on Wednesday, 14th January, 2015 at 10:19 am  Leave a Comment  
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Anglo-Saxon stone and Roman sarcophagus

Gardener unearths Anglo-Saxon carving in job lot of rockery stone

Looking for some natural stone for a rockery in his garden, John Wyatt thought he had found a bargain when he saw a job lot advertised for £50.

He was more right than he knew. For when he took the ton and a half of rock home he discovered that it contained an ancient stone carving worth thousands of pounds.

Mr Wyatt, 32, was cleaning mud and moss off the pieces when he spotted one with a Celtic cross carved on one side and a mythical birdlike beast on the other.

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He had the 21 by 15in piece examined by an expert, who told him it dated from Anglo-Saxon times.

It is believed to have once formed part of a cross-slab from an early Christian monument.

It is possible that it was smashed by Viking invaders in the 9th century, in a deliberate act of desecration against Britain’s Christian population.

The rock is now being sold at auction with a pre-sale estimate of £10,000.

Mr Wyatt, of Chester, said: “I was doing a bit of work in my own garden and saw an advert for some natural stone. I phoned the people up and went to collect it in my pick-up. There must have been a ton and a half and I paid about £50 for the lot.

The stones were covered in mud and moss and when I got home I saw what I thought was the tail of the dragon on one of them. It was lucky I was looking.

I cleaned it off and realised it was carved. It looked like some of the things you see round here in museums so I contacted a museum and the archaeologists got very excited.

No one could really say exactly what it was but they knew it was important.”

He intends to pay off part of his mortgage if and when it is sold.

Guy Schwinge, an auctioneer, said: “The Anglo-Saxon stone is an important find and the stylistic vocabulary on the cross is indicative of an Anglo-Saxon origin and it probably dates from the 9th or 10th century.”

Also going under the hammer at the same sale is a Roman sarcophagus that for years acted as a plant pot in an Oxfordshire garden. The estimate for that is £25,000.

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Mr Schwinge said that the sarcophagus dates from the 2nd or 3rd century AD and, although damaged, remains a rare and important find.

Made from white marble, it depicts two river gods holding horns of plenty while reclining on the back of dolphins and flanked by palm trees.

In the centre is Cupid embracing a mourning figure, who in turn is holding a quiver of arrows.

Mr Schwinge said: “We can only speculate on how this important Roman artefact ended up in an Oxfordshire garden, but in all probability it was brought back in the 18th century by a gentleman on the Grand Tour.

It had been used for bedding plants to bring a bit of colour to the garden.

Both these lots [1139 and 1140] show just what value can be found in gardens across the country.”

Both pieces are being sold in Dorchester, Dorset, on Friday.

Published in: on Wednesday, 3rd December, 2014 at 10:05 am  Comments (1)  

Viking hoard Dumfries and Galloway

 Spectacular Viking treasure hoard found on Church land

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A hoard of Viking treasure described as the largest found in modern times has been discovered on land owned by the Church of Scotland.

The historically significant find was made by Derek McLennan, a committed metal detector enthusiast who has been searching around the area in Dumfries and Galloway for the last year. The hoard contains more than one hundred artefacts, many of which are unique. They are now in the care of the  Treasure Trove Unit and considered to be of international importance.

Derek, who’s 47, says he was rendered speechless when he made the discovery. He became so emotional when he phoned his partner, Sharon, to tell her the news that she thought he had been in a car crash. Derek is no stranger to finding treasure. He was part of a group which discovered more than 300 medieval silver coins shortly before Christmas last year. He says his latest discovery has enthused archaeologists, who believe it has the potential to reveal many new insights into the Vikings and other cultures of the time.

Among the objects within the hoard is an early Christian cross thought to date from the ninth or tenth centuries. The solid silver cross has enamelled decorations which experts consider to be highly unusual. Derek believes they could represent the four evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. He says “I think they are remarkably similar to the carvings you can see on St Cuthbert’s coffin

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in Durham Cathedral. For me, the cross opens up the possibility of an intriguing connection with Lindisfarne and  Iona.”

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Published in: on Tuesday, 14th October, 2014 at 1:20 pm  Comments (1)  
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