Tag Archives: Early Middle Ages

Introducing the International Framework project

Dieter Quast and Alexandra Hilgner from the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum (RGZM) in Mainz explain the initial questions of the project “Weltweites Zellwerk – International Framework” regarding the origin and development of garnet cloisonné jewellery in the early middle ages. Garnet gemstones from India arrived in a vast amount during the 6th century in the Merovingian kingdom in central Europe. In the 7th century, the cloisonné jewellery style was suddenly disappearing. Was it because of a change in fashion or did something happen to the former trade routes? The International Framework project, organised by the RGZM, the SAI Heidelberg and the LVR-LandesMuseum, Bonn with partners in Sweden, the UK and Hungary tries not only to find answers to these questions regarding the value and the meaning of the gemstone garnet, but also to understand the international trade and economic interactions in the “dark ages”.

Manufacturing and uses of backing foils – some technical experiments

Hello, I am Christiane Stempel, goldsmith, conservator and responsible for the technological examination of Early Medieval garnet objects that have been brought to the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum in Mainz for scientific analyses within the project “Weltweites Zellwerk”.

During my work, I made some observations that raised questions regarding the manufacturing and the use of the patterned foils behind the garnets.

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Fig. 1: Schematic figure of an Early Medieval garnet cloisonné (photo: RGZM/Ober)

Transparent stones were often underlaid with gold foils to reflect the light through the stone. This is particularly important when the stone is backed up with cement. In the Early Medieval period textured backing foils were used on a large scale. The three-dimensional pattern increased the reflective effect. I examined a great number of objects from different find-spots in Sweden, Anglo-Saxon England and the Rhineland and I found all the varieties of pattern commonly known from the literature such as standard waffle, boxed waffle (Varying in the number of enclosed squares [9 to 25]), ring-and-dot, lozenge, boxed lozenge and rectangle (stack bond). They only differ in fineness (number of lines/mm), depth of texture and contour sharpness.

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Fig. 2 a-f: Foil pattern (RGZM/Stempel)

 

Unfortunately, the project nears its end and I would like to use the remaining time to carry out some technical experiments:

Producing the pattern

There are indications (see figures 3-7) that at least a number of foils weren’t manufactured with dies. It looks as if lines were traced immediately on to the foils to form the grid pattern.

Fig. 3: Buckle, Ailenberg, Württembergisches Landesmuseum Stuttgart A.V. III333 (photo: RGZM/Stempel)
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Fig. 4: Disc brooch, Junkersdorf, Römisch-Germanisches Museum Köln 51,539 (photo: RGZM/Stempel)
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Fig. 5: Disc brooch, Monsheim, Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum Mainz O.15370 (photo: RGZM/Stempel)
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Fig. 6: Disc brooch, Iversheim, LVR Landesmuseum Bonn 1960.667 (photo: RGZM/Stempel)
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Fig. 7: Disc brooch, St.Severin, Römisch-Germanisches Museum Köln 50.286 (photo: RGZM/Stempel)

N. D. Meeks and R. Holmes described in their article “The Sutton Hoo Garnet Jewellery” an experiment with a scriber that they used to draw the lines directly onto the foils. But in their opinion, the result was not satisfying. (N. D. Meeks/R. Holmes, The Sutton Hoo garnet jewellery: an examination of some gold backing foils and a study of their possible manufacturing techniques. Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History 4, 1985, 143-157.) I would like to pick up the idea again, but instead of a scriber I will do the work with a profiled hand-operated tool, comparable to a creaser. It is used until today in bookmaking and leather processing to imprint decorative lines onto a leather surface. In contrast to a pointed scriber the elongated working face of a creaser can be of any cross-section.

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Fig. 8: Creaser (photo: RGZM/Steidl)

 

The theory that has to be verified in practice is as follows:  The grid pattern can be formed with a sliding forward motion of the tool, running it along a ruler with moderate pressure to form parallel lines, then rotating the workpiece by 90 degrees and repeating the action. For my experiments, I will use a small creaser-like tool that I have made by removing the cut of a square rifle file. As foil materials, I will use tin foil (0.03 mm) as well as sterling silver foils of different thicknesses (0,025 mm to 0,04 mm).

Using foil for stone securing

Not a small number of foils seem to have a further purpose: In many cases, the foils are trapped between the stone edges and the surrounding metal of the setting. Is it possible to hold a stone in place with the foil?

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Fig. 9: Disc brooch, Hürth-Kalscheuren, LVR Landesmuseum Bonn XV (photo: RGZM/Stempel)

If times permits, I would like to produce a foil in the way outlined above using a fire-gilded silver foil. In the next few weeks, I will report about my experiments and I am curious about the results and your comments.

 

Featured image: Buckle, Endre socken, Statens Historiska Museet Stockholm 484:12, detail: garnet cloisonné with foils behind the garnets. (photo: RGZM/Stempel)

Warrior Treasure: the Anglo-Saxon ‘Staffordshire Hoard’ after seven years of research

Chris Fern MA FSA, The Staffordshire Hoard Project

The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest ever find of Anglo-Saxon treasure, of gold, silver and garnet objects, at around 5kg. It was found in 2009 by a metal-detectorist and became an international sensation. Following seven years of conservation cleaning and reconstruction work, some seven-hundred objects have now been identified, from an original 4500 fragments. Most are fittings from richly-decorated swords, which were the possessions of warriors and maybe even princes and kings. Some were decorated with the sacred symbols of gods, both pagan and Christian. Other objects include a rare helmet and a small but significant collection of Christian items, including pectoral and processional crosses. Dating to the 7th century AD, the hoard shows us an early England that was wealthy and capable of great artistic achievement, but in an age of violence and warfare, and driven by the politics of the warband.

Dienstag, den 18. Oktober, 18.15 Uhr

Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum – Vortragssaal

Im Rahmen der Vortragsreihe “Weltweites Zellwerk”

See the full program here!

 

Foto: (c) http://www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk

Historic England in the early middle ages

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http://royalresidencenetwork.org/

The blog brings together the results of five different projects concerning early royal residencies in England between 300 and 800 AD.

In Lyminge the University of Kent is doing large-scale excavations in the area of the monastery. The site shows the patronage of Kentish royal dynasty in 7th century AD.

Rhynie is supposed to have been a early royal centre of the Picts during 5th and 6th century AD. The investigations are done by the Northern Picts project at University of Aberdeen.

“Yeavering: A Palace in its Landscape” is a project at Durham University. Through a geophysical survey the hill fort and the settlement from the 6th-7th century AD have been investigated to develop a further survey.

Sutton Courtenay/Long Wittenham is supposed to have been a centre of the early West-Saxon Kingdom which emerged by the 7th century AD. The project is coordinated by Helena Hamerow of University of Oxford, who kindly held a lecture at our “Gemstones in the First Millenium” conference.

Rendlesham, five miles from Sutton Hoo burial site is examined since 2008 by metal detecting to investigate the East Anglian royal settlement from 5th to 8th century with support from various institutes.

Garnet brooches – Jewellery for women in their prime of life?

Deutsche Version

Today I would like to present to you a blog concerning different archaelogical topics: “Archaeologiskop” by Dr. Doris Gutsmiedl-Schümann.

In particular one post is of special interest for the topic of our blog.  The post is titled: “Auf den Spuren unserer Vorfahren: Archäologie frühmittelalterlicher Gemeinschaften am Beispiel der merowingerzeitlichen Bevölkerung von Aschheim, Lkr. München” and was published 06/25/2015.

Blogpost by Doris Gutsmiedl-Schümann

It deals with an early medieval cemetery on the countryside near Munich with ca. 450 burials dating from ca AD 480  to ca AD 680 . By analysing the finds and including the anthropological data, like sex and age of the deceased, Doris Gutsmiedl-Schümann could show a distinction of grave goods varying with the age of the deceased. With respect to our project the observations regarding garnet brooches are of special interest. These were obviously limited to women who have reached the high point of their social development.

Read the full blogpost here: http://archiskop.hypotheses.org/61

Granat -Fibeln: Schmuck für die Frau in den besten Jahren?

 

Hier möchte ich auf einen Blog aufmerksam machen, der verschiedene archäologische Themen behandelt: Archaeologiskop von Dr. Doris Gutsmiedl-Schümann.

Besonders ein Beitrag ist im Kontext unseres Forschungsprojekts interessant. “Auf den Spuren unserer Vorfahren: Archäologie frühmittelalterlicher Gemeinschaften am Beispiel der merowingerzeitlichen Bevölkerung von Aschheim, Lkr. München” wurde am 25.06.2015 veröffentlicht und behandelt das frühmittelalterliche Gräberfeld Aschheim-Bajuwarenring im Kreis München.

Blogpost by Doris Gutsmiedl-Schümann

Dort wurden ca. 450 Gräber aus der Zeit zwischen ca. 480 und 680 nach Chr. gefunden. Unter Einbezug der anthropologischen Ergebnisse wie Geschlecht und Alter der Bestatteten konnte Doris Gutsmiedl-Schümann Unterschiede in den Grabbeigaben respektive des Alters der Verstorbenen. Von besonderem Interesse für den Kontext unseres Forschungsprojekts erscheint mir die Erkenntnis, dass Schmuck mit Granateinlagen erst bei Frauen in fortgeschrittenem Alter vorkam, die den Höhepunkt ihrer sozialen Stellung erreicht hatten.

Der komplette Beitrag hier: http://archiskop.hypotheses.org/61

 

 

 

Garnet jewellery in Norway: The Norwegian disc-on-bow brooches and Viking memories

Ann Zanette Tsigaridas Glørstad & Ingunn Marit Røstad,  Museum of Cultural History, Oslo

The continental tradition with the use of garnets in jewellery from the early Middle Ages spread north up to Norway during the 6th and 7th centuries, albeit used in a much lesser degree. Garnets are, however, frequently used in the so-called disc-on-bow brooches. These are one of the most spectacular jewellery types we know of from this period in Scandinavia. They are usually made of gilded copper alloy and the surface is covered with garnets set in cloisonné technique. The manufacturing of the brooches take place in the period between c. 550–800 AD, i.e. the period leading up to the Viking Age. However, many of the brooches have been found in Viking graves, and are thus quite old when buried. How is this phenomenon to be understood?

This is the abstract of the presentation held during the lecture series in summer/autumn 2016.

See the full program here!

Jewellery and elite networks in Early Medieval Europe: some initial findings

Toby Martin, University of Oxford

During the fifth to seventh centuries AD, an ostentatious style of feminine dress flourished in Europe featuring large and decorative brooches. Thanks to the simultaneous (and perhaps not coincidental) rise of the furnished burial rite, thousands of these objects survive in museum collections. The geographical scale of this style was unprecedented, covering most of modern day Europe, from Norway to lowland Britain and Iberia, across to the Ukraine and up into the Baltic. As such, its analysis has much to tell us about contacts between populations in Europe, and how they used styles of jewellery as a means of creating and negotiating a material and social network. Traditionally, this material has been analysed using typology with the aim of grouping the material to reveal information about migration or ethnicity and more recently other forms of identity. Therefore, both the subject of enquiry and the method used in its investigation have a stated aim to reduce complex relationships into delineated groupings populated by objects or by people. In this presentation a new Europe-wide database of this material will be introduced and used to illustrate the possibilities of an alternative means of investigation. Instead of typology, a formal network analysis will be used to switch the focus of attention to the complex relationships between objects, and the web of linkages that these relationships create when examined en masse.

This is the abstract of the presentation held during the lecture series in summer/autumn 2016.

See the full program here!

Gems and precious stones from the Bible to the Liber Pontificalis.

Their combination, colours and contexts.

Lecture held by Michelle Beghelli, Mainz

This paper aims to explore some lesser-known uses of gems, with a special focus on the Early Middle Ages (7th-9th centuries) and on liturgical contexts. In order to do so, the data conveyed by the written sources and the material evidence have been gathered and compared. The altar with its surroundings – the sanctuary – has been chosen as the underlying theme to approach the subject.  This was the most sacred area in a church, where only the clergymen were allowed to be, and where every object was highly charged with symbolic value. The gems used in this context have also their own allegoric meanings: in the Bible itself they are constantly mentioned, although they are associated with both the holiest and the most evil figures and things. Their “positive” symbolic connotations were, however, one of the main reasons why they were employed in decorating Early Medieval liturgical items – together of course with their ornamental value and their meaning as an indicator of the economic and political power of the Church –. The objects preserved in the museums and the written sources offer a rich documentation about the types and the combinations of precious stones which were used to this purpose. The scientific literature on chalices, patens, crosses, reliquaries, hanging crowns with gem inlays is abundant, and at times it has been possible to detect some ancient restorations. A little known written document, however, offers additional, precious information on how these restorations could be performed in the 9th century. The same source includes a small enigma about diamonds, for which a possible solution will be proposed. Other contexts of use of gems have also been little inquired, namely their employment in the stone liturgical furnishings (altars, chancel screens, etc.) and in the icons with depictions of saints. Despite the evidence is scattered, a collection of various pieces of information allows to shed light on these last aspects.

Lecture held during the conference “Gemstones in the first Millennium AD. Mines, Trade, Workshops and Symbolism.” October 21st, 2015 at the Roemisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, Mainz (Germany).

An outstanding jewel collar from the cemetery of Keszthely-Fenékpuszta-Horreum (South-West Hungary)

Authors: Eszter HorváthZsófia Rácz

Deutsche Version

In Pannonia, in the south-western region of the Lake Balaton, in the 6th-7th century a population with broad international, Mediterranean and Western connections lived under the Avar rule. An important centre of power of this population was situated in the former Late Antique fortification of Keszthely-Fenékpuszta. Next to the horreum (granary) building of the fortress 36 graves of a 6th –7th-century cemetery have been unearthed. Grave 5 belonged to a girl richly furnished with golden and silver jewels: earrings, dress pin, disc brooch, ring and a unique composite jewel collar.

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Keszthely-Fenékpuszta-Horreum (Hungary), grave 5, jewel collar, front-side
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Keszthely-Fenékpuszta-Horreum (Hungary), grave 5, jewel collar, back-side.

Archaeometric analysis of this jewel collar was carried out within our project. The investigated artefact is constructed of triangle golden bezel settings (14 items remained) – decorated on both sides, on one side with granulation and on the other side with red garnet and glass inlays – as well as triangle lapis lazuli plates (6 items remained).

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Keszthely-Fenékpuszta-Horreum (Hungary), grave 5, jewel collar, back-side (detail)

 

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Keszthely-Fenékpuszta-Horreum (Hungary), grave 5, jewel collar, front-side (detail)

Originally, the triangles were interlaced by a double twine. At the lower edge of the golden triangles further circular bezel settings were soldered, filled with green and colorless glass inlays and in one case a garnet cabochon.

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Keszthely-Fenékpuszta-Horreum (Hungary), grave 5, jewel collar, front-side (detail): The lower part of the composite elements of the jewel collar.

As an addition, at the end of these pendants small pearls might have been attached which presumably got fully weathered because of the soil acidity.

Identification of lapis lazuli as the raw material of an early medieval necklace (by means of Raman spektroscopy) is a real sensation.

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Backing foil with punched ring-dot pattern in one of the triangle bezel settings of the jewel collar.
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Details of the lapis lazuli plates of the jewel collar

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the discussed period this precious stone could have been imported from the region of Afghanistan, the Ural and the Baikal Sea and occurs very rarely in Early Medieval assemblages.

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Details of the lapis lazuli plates of the jewel collar.
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Details of the lapis lazuli plates of the jewel collar.

 

 

 

 

 

Analogues of this jewel collar are known from the territory of Byzantium, from Asia Minor (Lebanon: cemetery of Tyros), and from the Balkan (Bulgaria: Varna and Sadovec). The necklace from the Late Antique fortress of Sadovec is similarly composed of antithetical golden and lapis lazuli triangles, completed with amethyst beads. These intricate, composite necklaces imitated the garment of the Byzantine ruling family: wearing large jewel collars with pendants of precious stones and pearls was the privilege of the female members of the emperor’s family in the 6th century AD.

Ein besonderer Halsschmuck aus dem Gräberfeld von Keszthely-Fenékpuszta-Horreum (West-Ungarn)

In Pannonien, am südwestlichen Ende des Balaton lebte im 6.-7. Jahrhundert eine Bevölkerung mit weiten internationalen, mediterranen und westlichen Kontakten unter awarischer Herrschaft. Ein wichtiges Machtzentrum dieses Gebietes befand sich in der früheren spätrömischen Befestigung von Keszthely-Fenékpuszta. Neben dem Horreum-Gebäude der Befestigung wurde eine Nekropole mit 36 Bestattungen aus dem 6.–7. Jahrhundert entdeckt. Grab 5 dieses Gräberfeldes enthielt die Bestattung eines Mädchens mit besonders reichen Beigaben: goldene Ohrringe, goldene und silberne Gewandnadeln, eine Scheibenfibel, einen Fingerring und einen einzigartigen, aus mehreren Teilen zusammengesetzten Halsschmuck.

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Keszthely-Fenékpuszta-Horreum (Ungarn), Grab 5, Juwelenkragen, Vorderseite.
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Keszthely-Fenékpuszta-Horreum (Ungarn), Grab 5, Juwelenkragen, Rückseite.

Im Rahmen des Zellwerk-Projektes wurden die archäometrischen Untersuchungen des Halsschmuckes (sog. Juwelenkragen) durchgeführt. Er wurde aus 14 dreieckigen goldenen Bandfassungen – auf der einen Seite mit Granulation, auf der anderen mit Granat- und Glaseinlagen verziert – und aus 6 dreieckigen Lapislazuli Plättchen zusammengesetzt.

Keszthely-Fenékpuszta-Horreum (Ungarn), Grab 5, Juwelenkragen, Vorderseite (Detail).
Keszthely-Fenékpuszta-Horreum (Ungarn), Grab 5, Juwelenkragen, Vorderseite (Detail).
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Keszthely-Fenékpuszta-Horreum (Ungarn), Grab 5, Juwelenkragen, Rückseite (Detail).

Die Dreiecke waren ursprünglich auf einer doppelten Schnur aufgereiht. Zu den goldenen Dreiecken waren weitere runde Fassungen mit grünen und farblosen Glaseinlagen, bzw. mit einem Granatstein ergänzt. Auf dem unteren Teil der Einlagen befanden sich vermutlich einst echten Perlen die sich allerdings im sauren Bodenmilieu nicht erhalten haben.5.kép

Die Entdeckung der Lapislazuli Platten mit Hilfe von Raman-spektroskopischen Untersuchungen gilt als wahre Sensation.

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Folienunterlage mit gepresstem Punkt-Kreis Motiv in einer der dreieckigen Bandfassungen des Halsschmuckes.
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Lapislazuli Plättchen des Halsschmuckes in Detailaufnahmen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dieser Schmuckstein, dessen wichtigste Fundstellen sich in Afghanistan, in der Ural- und Baikalgegend befinden, kommt im frühmittelalterlichen Fundzusammenhängen nur sehr selten vor.

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Lapislazuli Plättchen des Halsschmuckes in Detailaufnahmen.
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Lapislazuli Plättchen des Halsschmuckes in Detailaufnahmen.

Typologische Gegenstücke des Juwelenkragens von Keszthely kennt man aus dem Byzantinischen Reich, aus Kleinasien (Libanon, Gräberfeld von Tyros), und aus dem Balkan (Bulgarien, Varna und Sadovec). Der Halsschmuck von Sadovec besteht ebenso aus entgegengesetzten goldenen und Lapislazuli Dreiecken, mit Amethystperlen ergänzt. Diese komplizierte Schmuckstücke folgen der kaiserliche Mode: das Tragen der größeren Juwelenkragen mit sog. Pendilien (eine Art von Hängeschmuck) wurde ab dem 6. Jahrhundert nach Christus das Privileg der weiblichen Mitglieder der kaiserlichen Familie.

 

Before the emporia: Garnets and elite exchange networks in the North Sea Zone, AD 400-700

Lecture held by Helena Hamerow, Oxford

This lecture will consider the exchange networks by which garnets – both as a component of ornamental metalwork and as a ‘raw’ material – circulated around the North Sea Zone during the fifth to seventh centuries, with a particular emphasis on Anglo-Saxon England. Possible entry points for this material and the mechanisms behind its distribution will be considered, as will the appearance and significance of raw, unmounted garnets deposited in bags or pouches in early medieval burials. Aspects of workshop production will also be touched upon, particularly in relation to composite disc brooches. Finally, evidence for the decline in the availability of garnets around the North Sea Zone will be considered, above all in the form of ‘cannibalized’ and recycled garnets.

Lecture held during the conference “Gemstones in the first Millennium AD. Mines, Trade, Workshops and Symbolism.” October 21st, 2015 at the Roemisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, Mainz (Germany).

Foto: West Hanney Brooch (detail), Institute of Archaeology Oxford University: Ian R.Cartwright (2013).

An early medieval garnet workshop in Gamla Uppsala, Sweden

Lecture held by John Ljungkvist, Uppsala

 

The project “Gamla Uppsala – the emergence of a mythical centre”, has since 2009 conducted systematic studies in Gamla Uppsala to increase the knowledge of the long term structural history of the site. In the period c. 550-700, the place is transforming remarkably into a monumental site. This transformation of an already densely settled site involves the famous mounds, houses on artificial plateaus and recently discovered post row monuments. Three areas were in 2011 investigated in the centre of the Early Medieval manor area. Beyond a major reinterpretations of the great 7th c. hall/-sal, the excavation also contributed in shedding new light on settlement continuity, crafts, large scale household economy and regulations of the site between c. 400-1600 AD. Of particular interest for this presentation is the Northern Plateau, placed in a 90 degree angle in relation the great hall. This partially artificial plateau, house, in between earlier and later phases, two 6th c., two large burnt down houses from the 7th to 8th c. The older building, of which only small remains have been examined, proved to be a multi-functional crafts building where the garnet production is the most prominent activity. The building most likely houses tens of thousands of garnet fragments from the jewellery production, which makes it the so far largest production site found so far in Scandinavia.

 

Lecture held during the conference “Gemstones in the first Millennium AD. Mines, Trade, Workshops and Symbolism.” October 21st, 2015 at the Roemisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, Mainz (Germany).

Further reading on the web:

Blog by John Ljungkvist

Garnet jewellery in early medieval sweden (presentation)

Resources according to the archaeological research at Gamla Uppsala in Swedish:

Homepage

Arkeologerna blog posts

Societas Archaeologica Upsaliensis

Upplandsmuseet Uppsala

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