PAS Finds: week ended 8 July 2002

PAS Finds: week ended 8 July 2002

My selection of the detecting finds recorded at the PAS in the week ended 8 July 2002.

Featured Find

Anglo-Saxon girdle-hanger

Photo: Derby Museums Trust CC By SA2.0
Object type: Girdle Hanger
Period: Anglo-Saxon
Primary material: Copper alloy
Date found: 06/07/2022
Location: Rushcliffe, Nottinghamshire

Girdle-hangers date from the early Anglo-Saxon period (AD 450 – 600). They commonly occur in pairs, mainly worn by woman and usually buried with them.

Distribution of finds

Girdle-hangers are one of those finds that are reasonably familiar in some parts of the country and unknown in others. They are mainly found in East Anglia and up the east coast and into the East Midlands.

Key shaped

Their form is derived from iron keys with similar “T” or “W” ends, which had been around since the Iron Age. Although they imitated these functional keys these girdle-hangers were not intended for any practical use; as confirmed by the lack of usage wear and thin construction of found examples. There is no evidence which indicates that they were used to suspend other items.

Girdle-Hanger purpose

Symbols of authority

As gridle-hangers served no functional purpose they must have been used to convey some information about the wearer’s status or position in society. The most widely held view is that they symbolised the women’s authority over the household and its resources. This idea of women running the house was widespread in 11th century Europe and was recognised in the early 7th century laws of Aethelbert of Kent. Also, high status Anglo-Saxon women would sometimes be buried with functional keys which chimes with the idea that keys represented economic authority.

Keys to another world

However, Kathrin Felder in her 2015 paper Networks of Meaning and the Social Dynamics of Identity. An Example from Early Anglo-Saxon England suggests an alternative purpose. She notes that although a few girdle-hangers are found in wealthy female burials the majority were in much more simpler affairs. Keys are used as symbols to unlock spiritual doors and Kathrin suggests “It is possible that they were worn by women who had medical knowledge and spiritual authority in allowing human life to enter and leave this world safely, and who dealt with the disruptive events of birth and death within early Anglo-Saxon communities

This does seem a better explanation to me.

Reference

Networks of Meaning and the Social Dynamics of Identity. An Example from Early Anglo-Saxon England by Kathrin Felder, 2015

Selection of other finds

Photo: The Portable Antiquities Scheme CC By SA2.0

Roman “snake heads” ring

Due to the amount of distortion it is not entirely certain but the bezel appears to be formed from two opposing snake heads. Snake rings are reasonably common finds from the early Roman period. Now going through the Treasure process.
Photo: Kent County Council CC By SA2.0

Penny of Coenwulf, tribach coinage

The reverse has a Tribrach Moline of two lines with EÞ/EL/MOD in the angles, giving the money as Ethelmod. It was minted in Canterbury. It is a Find of Note of County Importance.
Photo: The Portable Antiquities Scheme CC By SA2.0

Roman ear scoop

A Roman period ear scoop or ear spoon, used for cleaning out the ears. This personal hygiene practice was also prevalent among the Vikings.

“Sword type” penny of William I

The PAS has only recorded 19 “Sword type” pennies of William and this is the first from Wiltshire and the the South West of England. It has therefore been designated a Find of Note of Regional Importance. The reverse reads IELFEH ON SANDP giving the moneyer as Aelfheah and the mint as Sandwich.
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