A new post on the Staffordshire Hoard website has announced completion of the cleaning and conservation project. With many tiny fragments emerging from the soil during this process, the total number of pieces is now about 4,000. Several pieces have been reconstructed from these fragments, with surprising results. The research phase is continuing and a catalog, research reports and much more will be available online in 2018. The Hoard website already has an excellent photo gallery of some of the key objects. Read the latest here (opens in a new tab or window). – http://www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/news/staffordshire-hoard-conservation-programme-completed
This week we have selected a superb silver and glass buckle from Late Antiquity. This object was made at the moment in history when the Western European provinces of the Roman Empire were slipping further from centralised authority and becoming the de facto semi-barbarian kingdoms of the Franks, Visigoths, Saxons and others. Our object dates to the late 5th or 6th Century AD.
Intended either as a shoe buckle or a baldric buckle, this object features a nearly heart shaped silver “case” in which translucent, nearly transparent, red glass has been set. Holding this in place at the top or front facing side of the buckle is a silver frame that extends forward forming a double loop that also holds the buckle loop and tongue in place. It then folds back to form an attachment plate on the reverse with two pins that would have passed through fabric or leather. A supporting silver bar with two globular headed rivets adorns the center front of the buckle.
The decorative technique used on this buckle was intended to imitate more expensive cloisonné decoration in either enamel or inset garnets. Cloisonné was a very popular decorative technique during the transitional period from Late Antiquity to the early Middle Ages. The name is derived from the French word “cloison” meaning “cell”. This refers to the technique of creating individual spaces by using thin metal wires or panels and filling these cells with garnets or other semi-precious stones or with colored enamel (glass paste). The most expensive cloisonné decoration involved garnets, typically imported from Sri Lanka. Enamel cloisonné was also common and used on buckles and strap ends, weapon handles and scabbards, brooches, jewelry and many other small objects.
Although colored enamel decoration on metalwork had a long history in pre-Roman Europe, continuing through the Roman period in the western provinces, the particular type of cloisonné we are concerned with here seems to have reached Europe by contact with the migratory cultures of Goths, Vandals, Franks and others during the 4th Century AD. This contact involved controlled settlement of some populations in exchange for military service, direct conflict with other groups (sometimes defeated militarily, sometimes paid off and kept at bay beyond the Roman frontiers) and forcible occupation of Roman territory, changing the cultural, political and artistic landscape of Europe over the next few centuries. The use of colored glass held in place by a metal casing, as with our object, was a less expensive but still striking technique that could imitate both enamel cloisonné and inset garnet decoration.
For those interested in acquiring this item it may be found in our Etsy store:
In dealing with antiquities, one tends to focus on objects truly “ancient” in that they belong to cultures such as Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome. Defining precisely what is ancient or an antiquity is itself something of a puzzle, with scholars, dealers, curators and collectors all having varying opinions. Clio Ancient Art has defined any object made prior to the year 1500 AD as an antiquity. This allows art and artifacts from the later Byzantine Empire, Medieval Europe (or at least Europe prior to the full flowering of the Renaissance) and Medieval Islam to be included.
Great Britain is fortunate to be among those societies that live every day with the physical evidence of a continuum of culture all around them. Most English museums, even in small communities, have excellent collections of the art and artifacts of every day life, ranging from the stone age to the industrial era, including the loosely defined “Middle Ages” – In England, the period beginning with the Roman departure from Britain and ending with the rise of the Tudor Dynasty. Those living in London are especially fortunate in having two spectacular collections of Medieval antiquities to visit: The British Museum and the Museum of London. This photo essay examines a few personal favorites from among countless marvelous objects dating to this broad period of time. All photos should be credited to Clio Ancient Art and Antiquities.
To see Clio’s selection of medieval antiquities, especially Saxon, Visigoth, Frankish, Norman, Byzantine and Islamic objects, visit these pages: http://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/c26_p1.htmland http://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/c26_p2.html
http://www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/video/installing-hoard-gallery – A new video on the Staffordshire Hoard, featuring the mounting and installing of Hoard objects into the new Staffordshire Hoard gallery at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. The new gallery opened on 17th October.
A remarkable excavation in the town of Exning, Suffolk, England may have uncovered members of the royal family of the ancient Saxon Kingdom of East Anglia. Twenty-one graves with rich grave goods, some imported from the Continent, dated to about 650 AD, point to this possible connection.
Here is a link to an article about this find in the British press (link opens in a new tab or window): http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2838214/Have-ROYAL-skeletons-Suffolk-Bodies-buried-vast-amounts-jewellery-linked-King-Anna-East-Anglia.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490
One of the key imported grave goods from this find is a glass bowl probably made in the Rhineland. The news article above includes an image of this, which would have been a very high status item in early Anglo-Saxon England. Here is an image of a similar bowl, on display in the Dover Museum.
We will report further as more news of this discovery becomes available.
Here is the latest in a series of excellent short films exploring the Staffordshire Hoard. This one explores “The Mystery Object” – http://historywm.com/films/6-the-mystery-object/
Also, a new permanent gallery dedicated to the Staffordshire Hoard will open at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in October.