University of Oxford
4 files

The Franks Casket

Version 2 2022-12-14, 12:47
Version 1 2022-12-09, 18:03
educational resource
posted on 2022-12-14, 12:47 authored by Woruldhord Project Team

AN00469340_001_l. Franks Casket. Lidded rectangular box made of whale-bone, carved on the sides and top in relief with scenes from Roman, Jewish, Christian and Germanic tradition. The base is constructed from four sides slotted and pegged into corner uprights, the bottom plates fitted into grooves at the base of the sides. It possibly stood on four low feet. Only one decorative panel now survives in the lid, the remaining elements being almost certainly replacements. There are scars left by lost metal fittings on the exterior - handle, lock, hasps and hinges - and crude internal repairs. The five surviving decorated panels are variously accompanied by carved texts in Old English and Latin, using both conventional and encoded runes as well as Insular script, in a variety of orientations. Each side is bordered by a long descriptive text and three contain additional labels; the lid panel has only the latter, though a longer text may originally have accompanied it. The front is divided in two: the left half shows a composite scene from the Weland the Smith legend, the right half, the Adoration of the Magi, with the label 'mægi' carved above the kings. The main inscription takes the form of a riddling alliterative verse about the casket's origin. The left-hand end depicts Romulus and Remus nurtured by the wolf with an inscription describing the scene. The back panel shows the capture of Jerusalem in AD 70 by the Roman general, later emperor, Titus: labels on the two lower corners read 'dom' = 'judgment', and 'gisl' = 'hostage' respectively. The main inscription is in a mixture of Old English, Latin, runes and insular script. The right-hand end poses special problems of interpretation. The apparently episodic scene is evidently from Germanic legend but has not been satisfactorily identified. Three labels read: 'risci' = 'rush', 'wudu' = 'wood' and 'bita' = 'biter'. The main runic text is in alliterative verse partly encoded by substituting cryptic forms for most of its vowels and perhaps certain other letters. The lid appears to depict an episode relating to the Germanic hero Egil and has the single label 'aegili' = 'Egil'.



8th century

Temporal Coverage



British Museum


The British Museum

Usage metrics



    Ref. manager