Posts From January, 2016

January - In a fever 

Friday, January 01, 2016 10:18:00 AM Categories: Lead Metal Saxon

January's Find of the Month is one that if found by most people would be rejected and probably consigned to the recycling bin. It is only after a very close inspection that the nature of the object changes quite dramatically. On the face of it, it is nothing but a corroded and bent sheet of lead, but in a raking light a row of straight-line intersecting characters are just discernible incised into the surface. To a trained eye this is recognisable as a runic inscription, a form of early alphabet used before the adoption of the Latin alphabet.  The word Rune means 'mystery' or 'secret' in Old Germanic languages and runes played an important role in ritual and magic, with ancient inscriptions being found across Europe and Scandinavia.

Photograph of lead plaque bearing runic inscription

The inscription on this pierced lead sheet can only be partially made out and there are a number of possible interpretations of the meaning.  Dr Gaby Waxenberger of the Runes Research centre in Munich has evaluated the object and believes it was probably intended as a charm to ward off fever or some other disease and dates to circa 700-800 AD in the Middle Saxon culture.


Detail of runic inscription

The inscribing of lead is not restricted to the Saxons, the practice was also commonplace during the Roman period with a good deal of inscribed lead being found at the sacred springs in Roman Bath.  

So if you happen to find a piece of folded lead look at it closely before disposal, it may just be a message from centuries past.

The artefact was found in a cultivated field not far from Fakenham. Full details can be seen at www.finds.org.uk using find reference NMS-63179C.

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