A Mysterious Anglo-Saxon Artifact Found in the U.K. Stumps Archaeologists

One historian called it "completely unlike" anything found previously.

A small artifact made of gilded silver found by a treasure hunter in the village of Langham, U.K. Photo courtesy of Andrew Williams/Norfolk County Council.

A small artifact made of gilded silver was recently found by a treasure hunter in the village of Langham in Rutland, England, using a metal detector—and nobody is quite sure what it is. But because of its composition of precious metal, it is considered a potential treasure under the U.K.’s Treasure Act of 1996.

The 8th-century artifact is a hollowed cylinder of about 0.7 inches in diameter and 0.3 inches in height, found bent inwards with a small crack, with partial gilding and niello inlay, according to the U.K’s Portable Antiquities Scheme. The top of the artifact is decorated with the profile of an animal, the legs and tail of which dissolve into “chip-carved interlace with plant elements,” as described by the organization. Such animal drawings were described as characteristic of Mercian style.

The unidentified Anglo-Saxon object discovered in the U.K. Photo: Norfolk County Council.

The unidentified early-medieval object. Photo: Norfolk County Council.

“There are few parallels to the shape of this object, and so it is difficult to work out its function,” the listing in the Portable Antiquities Scheme’s database reads.

The organization noted that another flat-topped but much taller item, made from copper alloy, had previously been discovered. Two other conical and domed silver objects from the same time period in the, but larger, have also been recorded with animal decorations, partial gilding and niello inlay.

“It’s so tiny and yet it was created just as carefully as something like a Bible or piece of jewelry,” Helen Geake, a historian, told the BBC. She called it “completely unlike” the other similar mystery items.

Analytical drawing of the early-medieval unidentified object. Photo: Norfolk County Council.

Geake said that the spiral pattern on the mysterious Anglo-Saxon artifact is recognizable from the Book of Kells or Lindisfarne Gospel, two Celtic illuminated manuscripts, and described the animal on it as possibly a horse.

“We do have evidence that gold and silversmiths were also doing illuminations in manuscripts at this time, for example,” she told the BBC.

Geake suggested that the artifact might have once topped a wooden staff and said it was made by someone “with a real eye for loveliness.”

 

More Trending Stories:  

Artists to Watch This Month: 10 Solo Gallery Exhibitions to See In New York Before the End of the Year 

Art Dealers Christina and Emmanuel Di Donna on Their Special Holiday Rituals 

Stefanie Heinze Paints Richly Ambiguous Worlds. Collectors Are Obsessed 

Inspector Schachter Uncovers Allegations Regarding the Latest Art World Scandal—And It’s a Doozy 

Archaeologists Call Foul on the Purported Discovery of a 27,000-Year-Old Pyramid 

The Sprawling Legal Dispute Between Yves Bouvier and Dmitry Rybolovlev Is Finally Over 


Follow Artnet News on Facebook:


Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Article topics
Subscribe or log in to read the rest of this content.

You are currently logged into this Artnet News Pro account on another device. Please log off from any other devices, and then reload this page continue. To find out if you are eligible for an Artnet News Pro group subscription, please contact [email protected]. Standard subscriptions can be purchased on the subscription page.

Log In