Anglo-Saxon golden pendant found in Norfolk declared to be treasure

22 March 2019

PORTABLE ANTIQUITIES SCHEME

A GOLD pendant that was discovered in a Norfolk field and dates from the earliest days of Christianity in Britain will help to shed light on the faith and the status of women in Saxon times, experts say.

The beadwork design of a cross set in three concentric rings was unearthed near the town of Diss, in Norfolk. Little more than half an inch across, it dates from the late sixth to the mid-seventh centuries. The Finds Liaison Officer of Norfolk County Council’s archaeology department, Julie Shoemark, said that it probably belonged to an Anglo-Saxon woman of “high social status”.

“It dates to an important turning-point in Saxon history during the first flowering of Christianity,” she said. “This latest pendant, although tiny, makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of Saxon society, religion, and the position of women during a period of immense social and cultural change. It also contributes to an overall interpretation of the historic landscape.”

The find is similar in age to a gold and garnet pendant unearthed in 2014 in the village of Winfarthing near by. That, too, was believed to be the property of an aristocratic Anglo-Saxon woman, who died between 650 and 675. It was described at the time as of “national significance”. The pendant was bought for £145,000 by Norwich Museum.

Ms Shoemark said: “The Winfarthing burial was an intact grave assemblage which included a number of gold and/or silver artefacts, along with a copper alloy bowl, pottery, and other base metal objects; so comparing the two in terms of significance or financial value doesn’t really work. Rather, it’s important to understand the two finds in their wider landscape and cultural setting.

“By recording these objects, and examining them in their wider landscape context, we can build up a picture of where and how people lived, what they believed, how these beliefs changed over time and were influenced by contact with different groups, and many other questions.”

A coroner’s inquest last month declared the latest find to be treasure, and therefore the property of the Crown. It will now be valued by experts at the British Museum and offered for sale to a museum. The proceeds will be shared between the finder and the owner of the land where it was discovered.

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