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Chartham Down Grave A

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posted on 2021-11-10, 14:56 authored by Helena HamerowHelena Hamerow
The barrow A, in the plan (the middlemost of the three), was the first Mr. Fagg pitched upon to open. When they had got down to about half the depth of the trench, they found among the loose rubbish a beautiful Roman fibula.[1] It consists of a plate of silver, one and seven-tenths of an inch in diameter, and one-tenth of an inch thick on the foreside; round the margin, it hath a circle, alternately smooth and corded, half an inch together. Within this is another, but flat, circle, on which are some blind remains of an indented line; round the inside of this runs a small corded wire of gold, and all the space within this cord is a plate of gold of one inch and a quarter diameter. It is closely studded with small circles of that corded wire, which some may call roses, but in reality, exactly resemble the dust of the flower of the hollyhock when seen through a microscope. In the centre, is an hemisphere of ivory of half an inch diameter, with a socket in the middle, in which probably was set some small stone. Round this is a circle of thin plates of gold, with four rays, like a star, all set with garnets, having a triangular piece of lapis lazuli at the extremity of every point, and a semicircular piece of the same stone at the basis of every ray close to the ivory hemisphere. In the middle, between each ray on the golden plate, stands a circle of gold, holding a small hemisphere of a quarter of an inch diameter, in the middle of which is a socket, in one whereof is still remaining a round garnet, and in another, the foil which is used under all these garnets, which is a thin plate of gold, with lines across it, so that it somewhat resembles a smith's file. On the back side was a lump of rusty iron, which had been the setting on of the tongue of the fibula, which was usually of iron, because that metal is the most springy, which was a necessary condition in order to make it hold the firmer when hasped under the hook, which is also to be seen on this side. I have seen one of these tongues and fibula entire, where the tongue was not moveable on a hinge, as in our common buckles, but was riveted into the plate, and then made two or three spiral circumvolutions, in order to give it the stronger spring. This is delineated in several fibulae in tab. 28, tom. iii, of Montfaucon's Antiquities; and in tab. 29, is represented a round plated fibula, with a star upon it, somewhat resembling ours.At the bottom of the trench lay some remains of bones, but mostly mouldered away; none were so whole as to know what bones they were, and they all seemed to have been burnt.[2]At the head, the workmen struck against a glass urn, [3] which they broke before they were aware. But then turning over the rubbish carefully, they found, close by the first, another glass urn of a yellowish green colour; two inches and a quarter wide at top, three inches and a half in the belly, and two inches and a half at bottom. From the brim of it goes a spiral cord in the glass, which goes round it several times, descending almost imperceptibly to the belly, when it crosses the bottom four times, in form of a figure of 8, and terminates in the centre. The urn had at first a fragrant smell, as if some sweet gums had been put into it. There were no bones or resemblance of ashes in either of them, but a white impalpable powder clodded together, with several small micae or shining particles among it, not unlike talc. All the inside of the urn was coated over with a thin skin, reflecting all the colours of the iris. This is usually found adhering to ancient glass which hath laid several ages buried deep underground; and is likewise found upon some petrifactions of shells, which, according to the opinions of some, have been lodged in the earth ever since the universal deluge, and is called by some antiquaries electrum, by others, the armatura.Near to the broken urn, or perhaps contained in it, were a small round turquoise stone and two pendants, like those of our modern ear-rings; being garnets set in gold. One of them, nearly oval, only ending in a point at top, being five-eighths of an inch long and half an inch broad; the other oval, five-eighths of an inch long and half an inch broad; which stone being out of the socket, plainly discovers the foil it had under it (as before described), and a sort of grey paste which filled up the back of the socket.With these was also found a piece of gold, six-tenths of an inch in diameter, consisting of four gold corded wires, forming so many circles within each other, and closed in the middle with a cross of the same wire. On one side was fastened a shank of gold, a quarter of an inch long, with a hole through it; and a gold pin an inch long, with a small chain an inch long fastened to it. I imagine this must be one side of a clasp to fasten some garment, and that there was such another piece of gold with two shanks, which fitted into this; and so the pin going through all three of them, fastened to one edge of the garment to prevent the pin being lost. There was besides found a spherical crystal ball one and a half inch diameter, not well polished nor clear, having several flaws in it.And lastly, in this grave was found part of a very thin helmet or skull-cap; [4] as I believe, only for an ornament, or a defence against the weather; there was some lining in it, coarse, and of a dark brown colour. The metal seemed, by its pale colour, to be a mixture of copper and brass. On one part of the margin were the remains of a hinge. The cap was not thicker than a common card; its diameter was six inches and a half, and its depth one inch and three quarters.[1] Several of this sort are to be found in my Inventorium Sepulchrale, namely, Ash, Nos. 19, 27, 41, 42, 62, 67, 69, 70, 76, 81, 87; Kingston, Nos. 15,161, 205, 299; Sibertswold, No. 101; Barfriston, No. 6. These fibulae were, all of them, found in the graves of women and children only. - B. F.[2] This is certainly a mistake. I was myself present at the opening of all these tumuli; and being that then but about ten years of age, the strangeness of the thing made, as is natural, so strong an impression upon my memory that, at this day, I perfectly recollect every particular, and am very certain that none of the bones were then supposed to have had the least appearance of having passed the fire. But all the skeletons which lay in the bottoms of the trenches were found to lay regular and straight; and if so, how could the bodies have been burnt, that is, after the Roman manner of burning the dead? Besides, if, as the Doctor tells us, they were mostly mouldered away, must not that \mouldering away\" have taken away with it all marks of the fire? - B. F.[3] These glass urns are found indiscriminately in the graves of men, women and children; but chiefly in those of women and children. - B. F.[4] I am fully persuaded that what Dr. Mortimer here calls a helmet or skull-cap is in fact nothing more than a small brass basin or pan. I have found several such vessels of different sizes: they are usually found standing on a trivet of the same metal. These vessels are seldom found but in women's graves. See Ash Nos. 8 19; and Kingston Nos. 76 and 205. What the Doctor calls the remains of a hinge is in truth only the remains of a loop in which a ringle had hung by way of handle. - B. F."


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Faussett 1856

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    The Novum Inventorium Sepulchrale


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