AS-jewelry-art - 4/11/96
Jewelry found at Anglo-Saxon archeological sites.
This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.
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Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
From: jennyb at pdd.3com.COM
Subject: Anglo-Saxon Costume- course review (long)
Date: 19 Feb 1996 09:57:33 -0500
I went to Bristol last Saturday for a course on Anglo-Saxon costume, I thought
there might be people on this group interested in a course report?
There was a Dr John Hines from the University of Wales who gave a fascinating
paper on work he's done with analysing Jewellery. Some academics believe that
the Vikings arrived in England around the 8th century having had no contact
with the country before because until the 8th century their ships hadn't
advanced sufficiently to make it across the North Sea. Other academics
contended that this was a load of rubbish & pointed out that polynesians
could cross the pacific on rafts, so why on earth couldn't vikings make it
across a tiny little bit of North Sea when they'd had boats better than
rafts since at least the bronze age?
Problem is there was very little to prove anyone's theories one way or another,
so it was all just so much academic arguement. Then John Hines came along &
for his doctoral thesis compared English jewellery with Norwegian & found rare
types appearing simultaneously in England & Norway. he also found decorative
elements on brooches that appeared simultaneously in England & Norway which
provide pretty good evidence for links between teh two countries in 5th &
He followed up this part of his talk with a load of pictures of Gold foils
showing men in long coats with diagonal crossovers at the front, & showed us
pictures of the dancing men from the Sutton Hoo helmet who wear similar coats.
Next he went on to describe early Saxon dress accessories, which included a
pair of small pins linked by a fine chain which he keeps finding at the neck
in female burials, he thinks they may hold on some sort of head-dress.
It is very rare for one woman's grave to produce the "full set" of dress
accessories, usually some item is missing, newnham croft produced a complete
set of pins & chain, wrist clasps, annular brooches & festoon of beads,
Then he told us about his current research which is identifying different
ethnic groups in Anglo-Saxon Britain by their dress accessories.
Apparently in the 1st century when Tacitus described the tribes to the east
of the Rhine in free Germany there were very many tribes with names that
nobody today recognises. However by teh 4th century other Roman chronicles
mention far fewer tribes: under pressure of their war with Rome the Germans
seem to have consolidated into a few larger tribes, and their names are ones
which sound familiar even today: Franks, Goths, Danes, Turingians, Saxons....
The saxons came from an area just t0o the west of the bottom of the Jutland
peninsula (the peninsula is modern day Denmark). Many brooch types found
across Anglo-Saxon England appear here intermixed. Perhaps the many brooch
types are a result of many diverse tribes each with their own distinctive
style being forced to amalgamate into one group which the Romans called
Traditionally 3 groups from this area are identified as colonising England:
the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes. The Angles got East Anglia & parts
further to the west, The Saxons got the home counties (the counties around
London) & the Jutes got Kent with the Isle of Wight.
The Jutes came from the Jutland Peninsula & generally most Jutish material
looks like any general scandinavian material, such items would not look
out of place in Norway or Sweden, but when they are found in Kent we
assume they are Jutish. (There are some distinctibe features which crop up
identifying material as Jutish, but an equal number of Frankish or Roman
The Angles aren't the most prominent group in the archeological record
because they practiced cremation so we omly have metal artefacts surviving
in their cremation urns, but still we can identify distinctive features in
their brooches, particularly a type with a cruciform top & spatulate foot.
Dr Hines has been excavating a cemetary at Edicts Hill, Barrington. he has
a new technique for putting graves in chronological order which he wanted to
try out at this site. Basically the graves all have slight differences from
each other: here a decorative line has shortened, there a brooch has a slightly
different outline, at another place a different item has been deposited.
You work out how many differences the graves have from one another & a computer
can put them all on a graph with similar hraves close together & different ones
far apart. This should give you a timeline of graves with early ones at one
end & late ones at the other.
Dr Hines got his curve allright, but when he dated some of the graves from
evidence like coins he found that he had early graves at both ends of the
curve & late ones in the middle, not at all what anyone expected.
He quickly realised that what he actually had was two curves: two different
ethnic groups had used the same burial grounds, over time they had grown
together & the differnces between the groups vanished where the curves finally
When the same analysis was tried on other Saxon cemataries the same curves were
found. Eventually Dr Himes managed to identify four different groups: group
A are the most distinctive wearing saucer brooches & never having wrist clasps.
Groups B, C and D are distinguished by different types of cruciform brooches
& group D also uses annular (ring shaped) brooches.
in the 6th century groups B, C, and D merge, whilst group A with the saucer
brooches stays seperate.
At Edicts hill there was a group of graves in a line, all with women of similar
status & buried awqay from the rest of the cemetary. It was assumed that these
graves were a family group, but all the costume types are distinct! there is
one pure A one pure C one pure D and one mixed. What could the explanation
be for one family having women of different ethnic groups? Of course they could
not be from one family, but the identical status & separate location does make
it likely. Dr Hines thinks that the practice of exogamy may explain these
graves. Exogamy is the practice of Women being married away from their homes.
Up to the last century in Germany when women were married all the posessions
they would need for their married life were loaded onto a cart & they drove
off to another area totally away from their family. whereas the men stayed
put tied to the land which was passed down generations through the male line.
If this happened in 4th - 6th century England then it would explain why one
family group might have women from distinct ethnic groups within it, and
would also explain why the different groups were co-existing: they were
intermarrying & exchanging women.
It would be interesting to see how the man's equipment compares with that
of the women, but the early Saxon Men are not buried with brooches or other
jewellery, so it is not to easy to analyse their ethnic groups. Maybe some
work might be done on knife, sword, spear or shield boss types? I don't
know enough about this area to know if there are enough distinct types to
make a useful analysis possible.
When Dr Hines had finished Gale Owen-Crocker gave a talk, I've heard her
before, so a lot of the talk wasn't news, but she had one interesting
observation: all illustrations of men with their tunics either split at the
side or hitched up at the side so their thighs show are barefoot too. Maybe
the split side tunics are underwear & when they strip down to that level
they also take off their shoes, or maybe the split side tunic is a low status
garment worn by people who can't afford enough cloth to make a flared tunic
& also can't afford shoes.
Gale Own-crocker mentioned that all Saxon sites which yield 3 shaft twills
also have signs of Roman influence, such as a Saxon Woman buried in hob-
nailed boots (popular with Romans, incredibly rare amongst Saxons). She
believes this may be because on sites showing strong Roman influence the
Roman 2-beam loom survived in use & was not superceded by the warp weighted
Brian Weightman gave a talk on tablet weaving & showed some stunning
reproduction samples. Having taken a degree in Archaeology & studied
archeological finds of tablet weaving he now makes a living supplying
reproduction braids & jewellery, he handed out sample books with explanations
of the techniques used in the sample braids, these must have taken ages to
produce, it was really good to have a sample of the braids to refer to as he
was demonstrating with scaled up equipment which totally failed to convey
the quality of the originals. Similarly slides of finds do not convey the
original colours or the scale of the weaving as well as the reproductions.
He gave demonstrations of many tablet weaving techniques, but teh one I
found most interesting was an Icelandic technique which was new to me: Two
wefts are used to give a double cloth. The tablets are threaded through the
two holes on one side with one colour and the two holes on the other side with
anothercolour. The tablets are just moved forwards & backwards being left on
their points so there are two sheds for the two wefts.
This gives two tabby weave cloths one above the other, with each cloth in a
Then the tablets can be flipped over occasionally, this brings the opposite
colour to the surface as the two colours of warp exchange. As the two colours
of warp exchange they also stitch the two tabby weave bands together.
I'm afraid I'm giving an awful explanation of the technique, it's really
difficult to describe without pictures.
There was loads more but I don't have time to type it all in, still I thought
you might be interested in hearing about the bits I have got time to type.
I'm afraid it's not a complete report as it's biased to teh stuff that was
new & interesting to me, I hope it's new & interesting to someone else out
jennyb at pdd.3com.com