‘Eureka’ as a metal-detecting archaeology student might have said in 2014 as he dug in a field at Winfarthing, near Diss, in response to a signal. What he found was a very rare gold pendant set with garnets made by a skilled Anglo-Saxon around AD 650-675. It had been placed in a grave and the quality rivals that of finds from Sutton Hoo and the Staffordshire hoard.
The Winfarthing pendant has become the 2018 winner of the national Art Fund’s ‘work of the year’ selected by the voting public as their favourite acquisition made by any museum or art gallery during the year. The pendant had been bought by the Norfolk Museums Service and can normally be seen in the Castle Museum.
But not at the moment, because it features in a major exhibition in the British Library showing some of the treasures of Britain’s Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms. With it are six gold bracteates (medallions) and other items found recently in Binham, comprising the largest hoard of gold from 6th century Britain. These are also rare objects but two more have been found in this area: at Blakeney and Brinton.
The images below may be clicked on to enlarge.
The Castle Museum has provided the exhibition with other items, including ‘Spong man’, a seated figure atop the lid of a cremation urn found in the huge 5th century cemetery at North Elmham. This figure is unique in the Anglo-Saxon pottery of this country.
The bulk of the British Library exhibition comprises the written word: books, documents and illustrated manuscripts, among them the oldest Latin bible and the only Anglo-Saxon text of the poem Beowulf.
No-one who has seen the exhibition, which is open until 19th February 2019, could ever again use ‘the dark ages’ to describe the Anglo-Saxon period!