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Mysterious Anglo-Saxon object discovered in Langham baffles experts

  • By Katy Prickett
  • BBC News, Norfolk

Image source, Andrew Williams/Norfolk County Council


The object uses a design popular in Anglo-Saxon times and depicts a “retrospective animal” – possibly a horse.

An Anglo-Saxon silver-gilt object “made by someone with a real sense of beauty” has experts perplexed.

The beautifully crafted and slightly creased 19.4mm (0.7in) diameter artefact was found by a metal detector near Langham, Norfolk.

Historian Helen Geake said although similar items had been found before, no one knew what they were used for.

“It’s so small and yet it was created with as much care as a Bible or a piece of jewelry,” she said.

Image source, Andrew Williams/Norfolk County Council


One of the object’s 8.5 mm (0.3 inch) sides is bent inward, resulting in a crack, but it has survived more than 1,000 years in the ground.

The object has a flat, circular top and short, straight sides forming a shallow, hollow cylinder.

Dating from the late 8th or early 9th century, it was also “completely different” from other similar mystery objects discovered by detectors, said Dr Geake, Norfolk’s discoveries liaison officer.

“There’s a retrospective animal – maybe a horse – that fills the space nicely and I love the color of it. Most of the time we don’t see the colors of the past because the clothes don’t survive and the glazes disappear. parameters.”


Dr Helen Geake said this revealed how “truly versatile” Anglo-Saxon craftsmen were.

Its creator would have mixed mercury, imported from Spain, with gold powder to highlight the animal within the drawing.

The craftsman would have been “really versatile and would have done a lot of different things”.

“We have evidence that goldsmiths were also doing illuminations on manuscripts at this time, for example,” Dr Geake said.

Whatever its use – and it’s possible that it was intended as the end of a long-rotted staff – its creation required a lot of highly skilled labor.

Dr Geake said: “It’s a mysterious object and you can’t tell at all what kind of thing it is.

“But it was made by someone with a real sense of beauty.”

The find has been declared a treasure by a coroner and Norwich Castle Museum hopes to acquire it.

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