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Sarre Grave 4

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posted on 2021-11-10, 15:41 authored by Helena HamerowHelena Hamerow
IV. This grave was carefully made, and exhibited more attention paid to form than any interment found during the whole of these excavations. In shape it much resembled a coffin, widened at the shoulders, and narrowed towards the feet. It was of the unusual length of ten feet; in depth, four feet six; in width, at the bottom, four feet.The first indication of its valuable contents was a small piece of gold braid, or flat wire [KAS 366b], folded as if it had been woven into the dress, or worked into some ornament on the arm[1], for it lay just above the right hand of the skeleton. Near it was a small silver ring [KAS 362]; six circular pendants of thin gold plate, with gold loops for suspension [KAS 514 (1-6)], lay between the shoulders. A large number of beads were found about the centre of the grave [KAS 289], and amongst them lay two small circular bronze fibulae [KAS 401 & KAS 402], of the shape and pattern so common in Kent, which had probably been suspended from the same wire, – a bead being found attached to a small portion of wire which had passed through the loop of one of the fibulae.[2]At the head was a glass vessel [KAS 261] of delicate material. By the left side lay a large knife [KAS 941], resembling one found in the grave by the Windmill, 1860, which for some time was considered a sword; and near it a smaller knife, of the size and shape commonly found in these graves, but surrounded by the remains of a sheath, and having the blade ornamented with a small crosswise diapered pattern. Two iron keys [KAS 782 & KAS 783] were near, the suspending ring to one of which is of bronze, that to the other of iron; and a pair of shears [KAS 806], across the blades of which, above the points, adheres a piece of wood, or of some harder material, which had probably acted as a keeper to prevent the opening of the blades when not required for use.[3] A beautiful silver spoon, or strainer [KAS 317], lay about the centre of the body. Lower down, between the thighbones, was a large crystal ball [KAS 318], mounted in silver-gilt, and near it two long fibulae [KAS 407 & KAS 408]; all these I will describe more fully below. The larger fibula, which is of bronze, had rolled over as the body had decayed, and lay with its face downward on the os sacrum of the skeleton, on which it had impressed its shape and pattern with a green ærugo.There were also two fragments of a bronze ferule, or ferule-shaped casing, in which wood remains; fragments of a silver binding or edging (much resembling in size and shape the brass edging so common on the covers of prayer-books), in which also wood remains, and two of which form right-angled corners; portions of silver wire [KAS 363]; a bronze buckle; two small rivets [KAS 477], or tags, one of bronze, the other of silver; the fragments of a comb [KAS 472], made apparently of ivory or bone; a bronze pin [KAS 333][4], of which the head is lost; a fossil echinus [KAS 482a], the Spatangus cor-anguinum, polished, and evidently deposited in the grave as a relic, ornament, or charm, and two Roman coins [AS 80 & AS 81]. The larger of these coins (as Mr. Faussett, the Honorary Secretary of our Society, to whom I have been indebted for many valuable suggestions, has informed me,) is a large brass of Aurelius; the smaller is too much obliterated to be easily deciphered.[5]The evidence, as far as I may yet decide, favours the supposition that the occupant of this grave was a female, – a lady probably of rank and position. To name the race to which she belonged, or to decide upon her date or religion, would be premature until I have laid before the reader the facts which I have gathered from the opening of the 183 graves which follow.[1] In a grave subsequently opened we found similar fabric, resting on and around the skull. This, too, was a woman's grave, and contained beads of amber and porcelain, and a small gold pendant. (Much gold web, exactly like this fragment, was found on the Saxon St. Cuthbert, when his body was discovered in 1827, and is thus described by Mr. Raine, an eye-witness:'The Stole. – The groundwork of the whole is woven exclusively with thread of gold. I do not mean by thread of gold the silver-gilt wire frequently used in such matters, but real gold thread, if I may so term it, not round but flat. This is the character of the whole web, with the exception of the figures, .... for which, however surprising it may appear, vacant spaces have been left by the loom, and they themselves afterwards inserted with the needle....'\A girdle and two bracelets of gold tissue were found. ... Of the girdle the portion which we were able to preserve measures twenty-five inches its breadth seven-eighths of an inch. It has evidently proceeded from the loom and its two component parts are a flattish thread of pure gold and a thread of scarlet silk which are not combined in any particular pattern. ... The bracelets are made of precisely the same materials and workmanship. ... They measure nine inches in circumference and are of the same breadth as the girdle.\"The stole and an accompanying maniple both bore the inscription- PIO EPISCOPO FRIDESTANO ÆLFFLÆD FIERI PRECEPIT fixing the date of their manufacture between Frithestan's consecration to the See of Winchester905 and the death of Elfleda second Queen of Edward the Elder which occurred before 916 (the date of Edward's third marriage). All the five ornaments-stole maniple girdle and bracelets-appear by strong evidence to have been placed on the Saint's body in 934 two years after Frithestan's death by Athelestan Edward's son and successor. (See Raine's St. Cuthbert pp. 202-209.)Mr. Raine also quotes from the manuscript account by Reginald the Monk of the removal of the Saint's body to Durham Cathedral in 1104 a description of some similar gold embroidery which formed the border and cuffs to a dalmatic then discovered and removed. (P. 89 and App.p.4.)The gold thread found in the grave at Sarr answers most exactly to this description of St. Cuthbert's stole etc. It is flat and woven; the thread of silk or other substance which was interwoven with it has perished but in the less frayed parts the spaces where such threads have passed through are most evident. The art of wire-drawing is believed to have been unknown till the fourteenth century and this flat thread delicate as it is must have been formed on the anvil. Its evident process of manufacture and its use for weaving or embroidery are most curiously illustrated by a passage in the Mosaic description of the ephod made for Aaron:-\" And they did beat the gold into thin plates and cut it into wires to work it in the blue and in the purple and in the scarlet and in the fine linen with cunning work.\" (Exod. xxxix. 3.)The breadth of our woven fragment appears to have been rather less than a quarter of an inch – it is too frayed for ascertaining its length; but from the position in which it was found we may conclude that it formed either the border of the sleeve as in the earlier discovery of St. Cuthbert or (more probably there being no corresponding fragment) a bracelet as in the later. It is a slight help towards fixing the date of this grave to know that exactly similar ornaments were made for and worn by Anglo-Saxons of high rank at the beginning of the tenth century.) – T. G. F.[2] It may well have been a habit to include within the acus of a fibula the wire which strung a necklace of beads for greater security both to necklace and fibula. – J.B.[3] I think Mr. Brent must be mistaken in his opinion of this fragment adhering to the shears. It is certainly of bone or ivory and is I cannot but think a piece of the comb afterwards described as found in a broken state which has become fixed to the iron as it rusted. A line remaining upon it corresponds to the ornament of the comb and in it is still one of the bronze nails or rivets many of which the comb has for fastenings. – T. G. F.[4] This appears to be a large needle broken at the eye. – J.B.[5] Conjectured by Mr. Vaux of the British Museum to be one of Tetricus. – J.B."


Grave title


Date excavated

September 1863


Brent 1863

Page number


Sonia Hawkes description

Length: 10ft.Depth: 4ft. 6insWidth at bottom: 4ft.Whole grave is coffin-shaped (i.e. narrowing towards feet) and more carefully dug than any other. Roughtly E.W.a. small fragment of gold wire, b. small silver ring, c. 6 circular pendants of thin gold plate, d.e. 2 small circular bronze fibulae with beads, and probably attatched to them with wire, f. glass vessel, g. large knife, h. smaller knife with remains of sheath, i. 2 iron keys (one with suspension ring of bronze), j. pair of shears, k. ?bone or ivory comb, l. silver spoon or strainer, m. crystal ball mounted in silver gilt, n. 2 long fibulae, o. bronze buckle, p. fossil echinus, q. 2 Roman coins.Also fragments of bronze ferrule, with wood remains; fragments of silver binding (as prayer book) with wood remains; bronze rivet, silver rivet; fragments of comb; silver needle without head.

Modern description

which are not combined in any particular pattern. ... The bracelets are made of precisely the same materials and workmanship. ... They measure nine inches in circumference and are of the same breadth as the girdle.\"The stole and an accompanying maniple both bore the inscription

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