Saturday, October 10, 2009

Prittlewell Saxon Burial/Staffordshire Hoard

Pictures of all the Staffordshire Hoard have been put on Flickr under the Creative Commons, attributed to Staffordshire Hoard website.

....Hildeguth heartening him,
Never shall work of Wayland fail
a master of Mimming, a man who knows
the handling of that blade, bleeding from its wounds,
lords and aethlings are laid on the field...

This Anglo-Saxon text taken from the fragmented prose of Waldere, is copied from Michael Alexander' s The Earliest English Poems and its' concluding lines reminds us of what battles were fought for in a history founded on myth, glory and heroics. Wayland is the blacksmith of legend forging the great swords like Mimming..........
If he has enemies against whom
He must guard his life's hoard. It has not let me down
when untrue kinsmen have betrayed me
and turned swords on me, as yourselves have done

Prittlewell Saxon Burial
The quality and preservation of the Prittlewell Chamber Tomb has led to inevitable comparisons with the Sutton Hoo Ship Burial and associated graves. The artefacts found were of a quality that it is likely that Prittlewell was a tomb of one of the Kings of Essex and the discovery of golden foil crosses indicates that the inhabitant was an early Christian. Other objects, such as the Coptic bowl and flagon, appear to point the same way. This suggests that it was either Saebert (died 616 AD) or Sigeberht II the Good (murdered 653 AD), who are the two East Saxon Kings known to have converted to Christianity during this period. It is, however, also possible that the occupant is of some other wealthy and powerful individual whose identity has gone unrecorded.......

So says the blurb on Wikipedia, but with the event of the marvellous Staffordshire gold Hoard that has recently been discovered and it being hailed as a greater find than Sutton Hoo, it is also well to remember the Prittlewell Saxon burial of a rich individual, who may also have been one of the Saxon kings.
The unusual factor about our 'christianised' king was that he had a pagan burial, probably arranged by his sons. A reconstruction appeared in the British Archaeology magazine at the time, and as I was in to miniature making I reconstructed the wooden burial chamber over a few days out of curiosity.
I used balsa wood for the planking, it is easy to 'distress' with a fine file, and the rest came from bits and pieces. The little bags hanging up are from fine leather from inside a purse, similar to the seating of the little 'folding 'roman' chair. Pegging material is from a specialist wood person, and the stave barrel is made from cardboard strips bound with some material. The bowls are silver chased Persian salt cellars given to me by my mother-in-law. The gold crosses I made from tin were I think found on his breast, but there was sword, etc, food pots and jars for liquid to feed him in the 'otherworld'.
But what struck me this morning was the similarity between the stave church at Greensted and the planked interior of the tomb.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Staffordshire Hoard
What we have of course in the Staffordshire Hoard found in Mercian country, is another exciting episode which may give us a different history from those found in in our text books, the appeal to the christian god, 'Rise up O lord, and may thy enemies be scattered, and those who hate thee be driven from thy face' on the gold strip bent and worn; the fact that most of the gold pieces seem to belong to bits of the sword, with the tantalising fact that it is sword fittings that were handed over as if in defeat, very similar to a line in Beowulf....... when 'the gold hilt was handed over to the old lord, a relic from long ago'. Could this Mercian hoard of the 7th or 8th century change our perception of history, rethinking chronology of metalwork and manuscripts.

Greensted Staved Church




  1. What a clever model you made - I don't think I would have the patience these days (let alone the skill). I can vaguely remember seeing the Time Team "King of Bling" programme, but it's not one they have repeated recently on Sky.

    I bought Current Archaeology yesterday which gives a good account of the wonderful Staffordshire hoard - I wish we lived a bit nearer to Birmingham so we could go and see it before it is moved to the British Museum. I'm looking forward to hearing more detail about it and what Pandora's box of knowledge it has unlocked.

  2. I made several history things a few years back, the larger ones got destroyed but I still have the photos, still have my miniature lathe and drill as well - fingers itch sometimes to make another one.. ;)
    Forgotten that it was called "King of Bling" the Prittlewell discovery, its good when history still has the magic to unfold...

  3. You'll NEVER guess what the Time Team prog was on More4 last night?! hell's teeth - did you KNOW that was going to be shown? I got quite a shock and have recorded it to watch tonight . . .

  4. "did you KNOW that was going to be shown? I got quite a shock and have recorded it to watch tonight" . . .

    No, think its called synchronicity or something, when the same idea floats across the universe ;) My tv viewing is limited as a) we don't have Sky, and b) am absolutely hopeless with a remote controller....