Anglo-Saxon CSI: Sittingbourne

October 27, 2010, 8:48 pm
Filed under: Conservation, Grave Objects

Knife before treatment

This iron knife from grave 168 has been cleaned by volunteer Shirley.  The grave was that of a male and other finds included a shield boss with fittings and a second knife.

Although quite a small find, the object has presented several areas of interest for the volunteers, conservators and archaeologists.

As mentioned in other posts on this blog, there was very little bone found due to the high acidity of the soil.  In some cases volunteers have managed to find evidence of bone attached to some objects and this find is one such case where this has occurred.

The thumbprint in the knife discovered during conservation

Extensive areas of bug pupae cases were also found during the investigative conservation process of this object.  If identified, this evidence may help determine what time of the year the person died and the grave was made.

Yellow-coloured patches uncovered in the soil suggests the presence of leather, perhaps a sheath or handle for the knife or maybe even an item of clothing that was in close contact with the object.

However, perhaps the most exciting evidence found on this object is the possible fingerprints of the man preserved in the corrosion products.  The presence of such evidence suggests that the knife was being held by the person within the burial.

For anyone not familiar with conservation and the importance of carrying out such work on objects like this only need to take a look at an object such as this.  What might seem a fairly standard and pretty uninteresting object on the face of things has proved to be an extremely valuable and interesting object that has given us a great deal of interesting information.

This type of object is also a small find that might otherwise not have been worked on.  As the volunteers and conservators involved in CSI: Sittingbourne are working on nearly all the finds from the graves there is a greater ability to understand and work on these finds to find out even more information than would be possible in other circumstances.  This is an excellent aspect of this project

Mystery Object update…
May 22, 2010, 11:34 am
Filed under: Conservation, Grave Objects

This isn’t really new news as the image was posted up a couple of months ago, but I completely missed it!

Following a topic about the CSI: “mystery object” on Ða Engliscan Gesiðas (The English Companions) discussion group forum, “the society for people interested in all aspects of Anglo-Saxon language and culture”, this image was posted by Æscwine (aka John Wills).

Suggestion to the likelihood of the "mystery object"

Here is John’s theory and what he had to say;

“Looking at all the possibilities I think we can discount a brooch as a leather and wood backing on a brooch does seem right at all. Why would a piece of horse tack have wood on it? If it was a scabbard or sheath fitting then where is the weapon? If it is a “plain” shield decoration or repair where is the shield boss and the associated rivets?

It looks to me to be part of a belt pouch, I suggest that it was pouch similar to the Sutton Hoo purse, i.e. one with a “hard lid” with a soft bag behind. If this is the case then the lid was made of a thin sheet of wood covered in leather and this disk fitted to the front of the lid. The three holes had thongs woven through them which then came out through the centre hole to act as a fastener.

It’s a bit of a stab in the dark but if it was anything else then where is the rest of it? If leather and wood have survived then I find it improbable that a seax, sword, shield boss would corrode away leaving just this or that the guys putting this chap in the ground would put an empty sheath or half a shield in with their kin. This leaves it as an attachment to a reinforce leather object and down by the hand at the side of the body it just screams purse/pouch, the chap was hardly wearing a wooden belt or trousers!”

In my limited knowledge I think this is a very credible suggestion from John.  Do you agree with his suggestion or do you reckon he’s talking rubbish?  Why not leave your own suggestion or any other information that you think may help.

Also, if you would like to find out more about Ða Engliscan Gesiðas why not visit the website?  There are regional groups and a quarterly periodical is published for members.  Click here to discover more. 

March 6, 2010, 3:47 pm
Filed under: Conservation, Grave Objects | Tags: , ,

There were around 29 spearheads uncovered during the excavation at The Meads: these are always found in male graves.  Conservation has presented us with the usual mineral preserved organics on these objects.  Wood is usually found preserved in the socketed ferrule where the spearhead attaches to the wooden shaft, and grass has been discovered on the surface of some suggesting the grave was lined or covered with grass before the person and objects were buried under soil (…although I doubt this was for their comfort).

Gold makers mark on the iron spearhead

This spearhead was discovered in grave 192 and is perhaps a bit more interesting than similar examples.  What differs from the others from this site is the presence of a makers mark inlaid in the iron.  This appeared to be a square with an arrow on the top, and could be clearly seen on the x-ray image so the volunteer working on this object knew that extra care needed to be taken.  The spearhead was cleaned using a scalpel and air abrasion in order to reveal the mark.  The mark looked to be gold: this was later confirmed when CSI: Sittingbourne were able to use a portable XRF (x-ray fluoresence) machine to positively identify the type of metal used.

Drawing of the makers mark present on this spearhead

Hopefully we can find similar examples of this on some of the other objects that are being worked on.  If you want to see what’s going on the CSI: lab is still open for visitors to come and see what is being worked on.  The exhibition opposite is open at the same time so you will be able to see some of the other objects and discuss the site with whoever is in charge.