Staffordshire Hoard Conservation Programme Completed

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

Our Object the the Week: A Merovingian Frankish Silver and Glass Buckle, Late 5th – 6th Century AD

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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.

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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:

https://www.etsy.com/listing/452873332/merovingian-frankish-silver-and-glass?ref=shop_home_active_4

and our eBay shop: http://m.ebay.com/itm/Merovingian-Frankish-Silver-and-Glass-Buckle-Late-5th-6th-Century-AD-/131878940987?nav=SELLING_ACTIVE

 

UK Portable Antiquities Scheme Releases 2013 Annual Report

The UK’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport, along with The British Museum, have issued the Portable Antiquities Scheme’s 2013 Annual Report. The Report shows how, more than ever,  this model of public participation in the finding and recording of archaeological data can have huge benefits to finders, museums and the broader base of archaeological and historical knowledge. It is a model that should be emulated by many other countries in and beyond Europe.

Some amazing key facts from the Report –

* One million finds have now been recorded by the Portable
Antiquities Scheme (PAS) since 1997.
• 80,861 PAS finds were recorded on the PAS database in 2013 (finds.org.uk/database).
• 90% of finds were found by metal-detectorists.
• 91% of PAS finds were found on cultivated land, where they are susceptible to plough damage and artificial and natural corrosion processes.
* The great majority of PAS finds are returned to the finder.
• 993 Treasure cases were reported. It is hoped that many of these will be acquired by museums for public benefit.
• Important new Treasure finds included eight Bronze Age gold bracelets from Woollaston, Gloucestershire (2013 T805), a Civil War coin hoard from Staveley, North Yorkshire (2013 T635) and a post-medieval silver ewer from Kingston Russell, Devon (2013 T476).
It is worth noting here that if about 90% of PAS finds are returned to the finders, in just 2013 this would amount to over 70,000 individual objects being available to enter the marketplace for antiquities and related items. Those who claim, with no actual proof, that the antiquities market is flooded with looted objects should consider this number. In the space of a decade this would approach nearly a million objects, many tens of thousands of them being marketable Celtic, Roman, Saxon and other antiquities. All perfectly legal under British and international law.
The PAS 2013 Report is available to download or view in PDF format here – http://finds.org.uk/documents/annualreports/2013.pdf