In January a stunningly beautiful Anglo Saxon pendant was discovered in South Norfolk. The find is thought to be of national importance
As always the find was due to the luck of a dedicated metal-dectectorist, Tom Lucking, who in December discovered the top of a bronze bowl. This time, however, the find was dutifully covered up and the authorities called in for a proper excavation. Which means that the context was preserved at the same time, as the finder could be secure of his fee.
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 hung from a girdle as well as a necklace. This included 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, probably near Marseilles, so we know the grave must be dated after this.
The pendants, along with two gold beads, formed part of a ‘choker’-style necklace of which the star find, though, was an exquisite 7cm pendant, which had been made with gold ‘cells’ and red garnet inlays. Some of the garnets were cut to make animal ‘interlace’, a popular and highly-skilled design technique where representations of creatures are stretched out and intricately interwoven.
The finds also included the beaten bronze bowl, which may be another French import, a wheel-thrown pot which has been identified as a definite import, plus a tiny knife and an iron buckle.
“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”, says Steven Ashley, who actually lifted the pendant from the myddy and cold earth.
The bones of the noblewoman have already been taken to Norwich Castle Museum for analysis. It is expected that the archaeologists will be able to discover more about the age and lifestyle of this woman who probably lived at the same time as the king buried at Sutton Hoo. Hopefully it will also be possible to uncover information about 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.