Friday, September 25, 2009

Have You Hoard?

I am probably the last one in the blogosphere to report on the Staffordshire Hoard, a truly exciting and important find. This is a real event, friends. (UPDATE: To find out why it's such an event, click to this Times article, "A New Angle on the Saxons.")

I'll save commentary for another time. For now, I simply want to collect some of the interesting images and videos that explain the story. First, some images (and more here):

Several sword fittings discovered in the hoard exhibit artwork known as Salin's Style II. This style of animal-related artwork showed beasts intertwined in complex, symmetrical patterns. Examples of this style were also found at Sutton Hoo.

This gold strip carries the Latin inscription: "Rise up O Lord, and may thy enemies be dispersed and those who hate thee be driven from thy face." It has two sources, the Book of Numbers or Psalm 67, taken from the Vulgate, the Bible used by the Saxons.

Several good videos are out there now.

On the academic discussion lists, one scholar commented (I'll not disclose the name, out of respect for the possibility that the person may not want to be quoted on some random blog):
These treasures will have to be seen to be fully appreciated, but I'm struck by the close similarity between many of these objects and objects in the Sutton Hoo find. It's almost as if the same workshop or the same artists did some of those pieces. But the variety of Sutton Hoo and the restricted nature of this find is quite striking. The one site gives a picture of a whole though very elite world, the other one of a culture's high and costly end. Sutton Hoo gives us a helmet, Staffordshire the most valuable parts of one or more helmets.
I'll close out with three related insights on the item with the inscription. These also came up on the email discussion lists. The first mentions a news report, and the latter two are responses to it:
Michelle Brown has commented on the script, Bruce, attributing it to the "early 7th to early 8th century", although Elizabeth Okasha dates the inscription to the 8th or 9th century. An initial summary report (along with Prof. Okasha's complete report on the inscription) and handlist of finds is available for download:

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Although, as Elizabeth [Okasha] is careful to say, it's sometimes difficult to extrapolate from chirography to epigraphy, I'd say the inscription is half-uncial (as Michelle says), and not insular minuscule. The high-e, the oc a, the straight-backed d, majuscule R, N, and M are all reminiscent (perhaps conveniently?!) of the eighth-century Lichfield Gospels, available at

There's a 'turn-the-page' facility here too.

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This half-uncial with some variable elements (the two forms of n,
variations in the i and u) is its very open triangular
serifs. These open triangular serifs would seem to be imitations of book
hands. Seventh- and eighth-century insular scripts, from uncial through
half-uncial and set minuscule, are well known for their triangular
serifs on minims and ascenders. These have to be reproduced with open
triangles in epigraphic writing--something seen in other 8c
inscriptions. In this inscription, there is some clear effort made to
reproduce these serifs (though not consistently). Maybe this is useful
in imagining the maker and making of this text, if not for the dating
and localisation....

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