See some bling from Saxon times at county museum

Herald Series: Sarah Morton with the brooch Buy this photo » Sarah Morton with the brooch

A RARE example of Saxon jewellery has gone on display today, thanks to the work of some metal detectors.

The 1,500-year-old brooch was among items found in the grave of a high society Anglo-Saxon woman at a field in West Hanney in 2009.

It has now gone on display at Woodstock’s Oxfordshire Museum along with two pots and two small knives also found in the grave.

The Oxfordshire County Council museum said the find is “extremely rare” and offers a fascinating glimpse into life at that time.

They were discovered during a metal detecting hunt attended by Anni Byard, the council’s finds liaison officer.

They were bought from the landowner for £2,750 by the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Headley Trust, and the Friends of the Oxfordshire Museum.

Miss Byard said tests by the county’s archaeological service on the skeleton estimate the woman was 25 when she died.

Miss Byard said: “The brooch is a rare type dating from the seventh century and is decorated with garnet and gold inlays.

“Its style and fine craftsmanship indicates that the individual buried at West Hanney was a person of high social status.

“This is the 20th find of its type recorded in England and the western-most example, as most other find-spots are distributed in Kent, East Anglia, Essex and Bedfordshire.

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“Although we do not know whether its owner was Gewisse – the tribal name of the local Saxons – further investigation of the finds will increase our understanding of the burial.”

Ccouncil cabinet member Judith Heathcoat said: “It is marvellous that something of such rarity and historical importance is going on display in Oxfordshire.”

The items will be on display at the free Park Street museum until the New Year.

Museum archaeological objects conservator Sarah Morton said: “We are expecting lots of visitors – it is exciting to see the actual brooch.

“It is a very important find for the area. I think there is only about 20 of its type.”

Asked if it was the kind of design she would wear herself, Miss Morton said: “It is a bit bling for me! It is quite ostentatious.”

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