Friday, December 04, 2015 12:22:00 PM
December's find of the month is a modest choice, modest in the sense that it is a humble fragment of something much larger.
A significant part of the skill of the identifier of these fragmentary objects is being able to recognise them as pieces of the parent object which they used to be part of. It is rather like being handed a single piece of a large jigsaw and needing to recognise it as part of the bigger scene from a recollection of the box lid.
Challenge met then, the small fragment pictured above, turns out to be the animal-headed curving foot of a post-medieval chafing dish support. It’s location in-situ can be seen in the picture below of an example in the Curtius Museum in Belgium.
Chafing dishes were used to hold burning charcoal or other combustible material, whose purpose was to cook food or keep it hot at the table. Examples of this type of dish date to circa 1575-1650 AD.
The object was found on farmland close to Wymondham in Norfolk. The full record can be seen at www.finds.org.uk using the reference NMS-AB93AB.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015 10:04:00 AM
November's Find of the Month is this fantastic Middle – Late Bronze Age anvil.
Bronze Age anvils are very unusual finds, probably because the metalworkers who used them were easily able to melt down broken ones to create new objects.
Almost every surface of this example would have been used to work bronze or gold, with either of the two ‘beaks’ being used to secure the anvil to a wooden block so the other could be used to shape the metal. Each working surface has a different form allowing a wide variety of shapes to be created using just this one anvil.
At the time this anvil was in use, the number and type of personal ornaments made and worn by Bronze Age people increased, and this anvil would have been used to make some of them. The metalworker who used it would have been highly skilled and was probably seen as powerful, important or even as having a religious role in society. We suspect this because the way Bronze Age tools were treated shows they had a meaning or significance beyond their use as tools, suggesting the people who made them had a role which extended beyond their skills as craftspeople.
Find a full description of the anvil here.
Friday, October 02, 2015 11:32:00 AM
Inspired by the Celtic art exhibition featuring at the British Museum until 31st January, this month we have our very own Norfolk example of the wonderful art from the period to show you.
The object is a heavily stylised Iron Age bovine mount, which despite several thousand years in the ground remains very crisp with well-defined features. The sinuous style is benign and soft, with horns and large rounded eyes and nostrils. Bulls’ heads are often featured during the Iron Age period on objects such as vessel mounts, but the exact purpose of this particular piece is presently unclear. It is no doubt a terminal mount of some kind, held to the shaft of the parent object by pins or rivets at the socketed base. It is possibly a terminal from a drinking horn or perhaps a staff, but either way its significance or status as an object would be justified by the very high level of skill and craftsmanship required to create it.
The mount was discovered in a ploughed field by a Norfolk metal detectorist, who most importantly also supplied a full grid reference for the find-spot to enable it to be accurately added to the Historic Environment Record. The full record can be seen at www.finds.org.uk using the search reference NMS-178AE0.
Saturday, August 01, 2015 1:31:00 PM
At various times throughout our history there have been severe shortages of coinage. Based on face value the cost of manufacturing coins is disproportionately greater for lower denominations, and consequently shortages would often involve small change.
The production of coinage was the prerogative of the King or Queen with unlicensed contraventions punishable by death. After the English civil war in the middle of the 17th century England was no longer a monarchy and became a Commonwealth under a Lord Protector. The upheaval of the civil war had caused a shortage of coinage and traders found it increasingly difficult to transact their business. Accordingly, since there was no longer a monarch to enforce the ultimate penalty, traders, merchants, innkeepers and later local Corporations of the period, took it upon themselves to issue their own.
These tokens provide a fascinating insight into the history of the period. Most have some kind of pictorial device on them representing the name of an Inn; others have the arms of their trading guilds such as Grocers, Drapers, Bakers, Tallowchandlers, Mercers and so forth. Occasionally they feature a pictorial play on words. So for example a token of Thomas Curtis shows two people curtseying. A very frequent device is to have the initial letter of the issuers surname as the apex of a triangle with the Christian name initials of the issuer and their spouse forming the base.
This latter device, along with a sugar loaf, is used on our Find of the Month for July, which is a 17th century copper alloy farthing traders token of John Tucke of Burnham Market. On the obverse face is the legend IOHN TVCKE and the date I666, with a central sugar loaf motif which is usually symbolic of the Grocers’ trade. The reverse side has the legend IN BVRNHAM MARKET, with the triangular letter convention I(J)MT mentioned above, in the centre. The full record for this token can be seen on the Portable Antiquities Scheme website (https://finds.org.uk/database/search) – search using reference number NMS-E0B82D.
This particular token has been very kindly donated to the Norwich Castle Museum by the finder. The Norfolk 17th century token collection of the Castle Museum will be the subject of an exhibition in February 2016 where you will be able to see the full extent of these fascinating snapshots of history.
Tuesday, June 03, 2014 10:18:00 AM
Roman brooches must be one of the most commonly recorded metal artefacts, and although there is a wide variety of types known including plate, penannular, disc and bow, within this variety huge numbers of very similar brooches are recorded. Roman brooches were both decorative and functional acting as a dress fastener to hold clothes in position.
This example is a well-known variety of zoomorphic (animal shaped) brooch in the form of a duck with brightly coloured enamelled decoration. The surface is now corroded to a dull green but the enamel would have stood out against a shining yellow-bronze surface when it was new. Other types of zoomorphic brooch depict animals including other birds, fish, horses, hares, lions and even flies.
Wednesday, April 30, 2014 9:00:00 AM
This beautiful 2nd century copper alloy mount in the form of a youthful male bust has features which suggest a dual identity – a wreath of vine leaves indicating Bacchus, god of wine, and a winged cap indicating Mercury, messenger of the gods.
Although the mount clearly decorated a high status object it was discovered at a site with no other Roman finds and in an area with very little evidence for Roman activity, strongly suggesting it was accidentally lost in transit. An object produced with such fine artistic skill may have been imported from somewhere else in the Empire.
Illustration by J. Gibbons
Whoever owned this object valued Roman taste and fashion and could afford to buy good quality work, but we can’t know if they got to appreciate it, or if it was lost before it was even delivered.
Saturday, March 01, 2014 2:09:00 PM
In the late 13th and early 14th century it was a popular fashion to convert coins into brooches. Most medieval coins featured a cross as part of the design on the reverse (tails), and it was this face that was displayed as a symbol of Christianity and not the king’s head. Wealthier people used silver coins, sometimes gilded, with silver fittings on the back.
This brooch represents a cheaper version, with a copper alloy jetton (a kind of counter which also circulated as small change) with iron fittings riveted to it, and shows how the fashions of the rich were copied by people with more limited resources.
Find out more here
Saturday, February 01, 2014 11:08:00 AM
Cosmetic sets were used in the Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Medieval periods and were made up of several personal grooming tools hung from a ring so they could be carried around conveniently.
This Roman example, which is probably 3rd or 4th century, has a nail cleaner with two prongs to scrape under the finger nails, tweezers for removing unwanted hair and a third, broken tool which was probably a tiny spoon called an ear-scoop for removing wax from the ears. Some cosmetic sets also included a straight tool with a pointed end for use as a toothpick.
We might not carry around ear-scoops with us today, but modern manicure sets are not so different from these 1600 year old tools and almost every bathroom contains cotton buds, dental tape and tweezers.
The full find record can be found on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database here: NMS-4FE992
Wednesday, January 01, 2014 11:10:00 AM
Our first find of the month is a medieval gauntlet. It was worn by a very rich knight in the 14th-15th centuries, to protect his hands while charging into battle.
He was fashion conscious enough that even his finger coverings had to be highly decorated, which would have been an expensive commission. This gauntlet was found in the parish of Wymondham, perhaps he lost it while returning from a feast at one of the medieval manors?
Although the gauntlet is damaged, this appears to have happened after deposition, rather than when it was in use, so it is unlikely that this set of gloves was battered by an enemy sword.
The full record can be seen at the Portable Antiquities Scheme website, www.finds.org.uk by searching for the reference: NMS-A1E6E7
Check back in February for more finds from Norfolk!