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The Staffordshire Hoard


#1

Am I the only person who wants to get a hammer and torch and
straighten this stuff up?

This hoard is perhaps the most important collection of
Anglo-Saxon objects found in England. It compares and perhaps
exceeds those objects found at Sutton Hoo. Originally
discovered by metal detectorist Terry Herbert in July 2009 and
subsequently excavated by Birmingham University Archaeology
Unit and Staffordshire County Council.

Leslie Webster, former Keeper of Prehistory and Europe at the
British Museum describes this discovery as:

"…this is going to alter our perceptions of Anglo-Saxon
England in the seventh and early eighth century as radically,
if not moreso, as the 1939 Sutton Hoo discoveries did; it will
make historians and literary scholars review what their
sources tell us, and archaeologists and art-historians rethink
the chronology of metalwork and manuscripts; and it will make
us all think again about rising (and failing) kingdoms and the
expression of regional identities in this period, the
complicated transition from paganism to Christianity, the
conduct of battle and the nature of fine metalwork production

  • to name only a few of the many huge issues it raises.
    Absolutely the metalwork equivalent of finding a new
    Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells."

The images contained in this set invite comment. We accept
there may be some errors with labelling as this was done in a
very short space of time. If you do use these images please
attribute as used courtesy of the Staffordshire hoard website.

http://www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/

looks like they might need a decent jeweler on staff for the
restoration and cleaning…

Enjoy! Betsy


#2

Yeah, that’s a real significant find. What I like about it, besides
the metalwork, designs, and what it means, is that this regular Joe
found it with a metal detector. They officially declared it
’treasure’, so the museums are going to buy it from them. It looks
like the finder and his buddy that owns the farm are going to be
millionaires. Win-win all 'round.

Michael
www.radharcknives.com


#3
Am I the only person who wants to get a hammer and torch and
straighten this stuff up? 

I hope so. At least, with that statement taken at face value. there
is no doubt considerably archeological to be gleaned from
the existing condition, and the nature of this type of work is
different enough from current metal work that the folks who undertake
any sort of cleaning or restoration need to be experts in a lot more
than just jewelry making.

And you can rest assured, Betsy, that the jewelers who are allowed,
eventually, to undertake such work, will be among the best around.
And there are some extremely “decent” jewelers there…

Peter Rowe


#4

Oh wow, gorgeous ancient work! Thanks for the link, Betsy. Is that
just DIRT all over it? Come on, lets clean it up and, yes, hammer it
out straight!

M’lou


#5

don’t care how bad hand hurts, that was a mess. It got to me like
that one single strand of hair that wisps across your face that you
can’t seem to control. They are going to have an exhibit to rival
Tut, hmm?


#6
Is that just DIRT all over it? Come on, lets clean it up and, yes,
hammer it out straight! 

Old antique stuff of historical value you just don’t beat back into
shape and polish. That is a crime against your kids and further
generations understanding of history Something chewed on by the
clients dog or run over in their drive way is a very different job
and there are fewer moral rules on the repair.

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#7
Oh wow, gorgeous ancient work! Thanks for the link, Betsy. Is that
just DIRT all over it? Come on, lets clean it up and, yes, hammer
it out straight! 

Oh yeah. Maybe dirt, maybe just the old cement holding garnets. Who
cares. It’s a mess. Into the ultrasonic, steam it off, then any
garnets still in it can be pried out, and all of em glued back in
nicely with elmers glue. Or if you like, Epoxy or super glue. be sure
to whack it all straight again, removing all the pesky archeological
about how it came to be in it’s current condistion. Who
needs it any way. While yer at it, give it a real good buffing. I’m
sure the ancient craftspeople won’t mind. They didn’t have the
electric motors, so had to make due with burnishing and other such
messier methods. So fix it. Nice high polish. No more tool marks.

Then write a nice fanciful description (who needs that boring
"buried in someones back 40" stuff anyway. And off to ebay we go.
Might get a good deal more than scrap gold value then.

Seriously folks. It REALLY is not so simple as just wash it off and
bang it straight again. The current condition contains valueable
some of which needs to be not only documented now, but
preserved. Some of these items would loose considerable value if
fully cleaned, fully straightened, and fully restored. Fortunately,
the people museums employ to do their conservation work usually are
well versed not only in how to restore ancient metals and other
items, but also in what NOT to restore, and why.

Peter Rowe


#8

Hi all:

Speaking as someone who spent a year doing reproductions and
’interpretations’ of the Sutton-Hoo pieces, wow… I’ve spent the
weekend drooling.

A friend of mine sent me a link to a Flickr account where the museum
appears to be putting up full-resolution copies of the intake
photos, so if you want to see the ‘Official’ photos, straight as they
came out of the ground, look here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/finds/3944386202/in/photostream/

Most of the intake photos are earlier in the stream.

It’s frustrating that the pictures available to date still have them
all covered with mud, but on the other hand, it’s reassuring that
nobody’s gotten gold fever and gotten over enthusiastic with the
cleaning. This is a once-in-a-lifetime (or five) find. There’s only
going to be once chance to do this right, so it’s good that they
seem to realize it.

It’s unlikely they’ll ever try to do anything more than very minor
repairs and straightening to the original pieces. They’re brittle as
all get out, and many of them have already cracked. (look at the
closeups of the folds on the arms of the big cross. They’re already
cracked half through.)

What’s really interesting about them is that they’ve been
deliberately shredded. The Sutton-Hoo pieces are beautiful, and are
clearly the product of a royal workshop. They were in the ground for
about 1300 years, and are still in nearly perfect condition. This is
great, unless you want to see how they were made, then it’s
frustrating as hell, because they’re still all-in-one-piece! The
Staffordshire hoard has been massively abused, which stinks for the
pieces themselves, but is priceless in terms of letting us see how
they were put together, which you can’t really with the Sutton-Hoo
pieces. (You mostly can, but there are some fiddly bits that are open
to question with pieces in as good condition as the SH pieces are.
Wrecks like the Staffordshire hoard will let you see exactly what’s
going on. )

Wow. I’m already re-evaluating many of the things I thought I knew
about Anglo-Saxon garnet inlay. Color me stunned.

Brian.

PS–> blog post with more details about why these things matter, and
how they’ll help explain technique coming sometime this week. Stay
tuned.


#9

If they have an exhibition, I want the catalog!

RC


#10

Oh, I was so mystified with these beautiful pieces, I spent 2 hours
looking at every photo. I would be terribly sad if anyone
straightened up or ‘made right’ any of these pieces. The most thought
provoking was the cross that is bent almost beyond repair. Was it the
Pagans furious with the Christians, or the aristocracy? Was it
revenge?

It would seem that more would be learned by careful
restoration on pieces that, to all accounts, are from a period of
time that is largely unrecorded.

Always loving a good mystery and spent many hours in N. Wales doing
just what this guy did.

Well done Terry!
Dinah


#11
It looks like the finder and his buddy that owns the farm are
going to be millionaires. Win-win all 'round. 

Thanks to Betsy for posting the reference to the hoard. I hope
there’s at least a win-win-win, if the excavation of this treasure
was done properly (which it may have been). Without its context,
such lovely work is nearly useless for reconstructing any history or
meaning.

I have no desire to clean or straighten out the hoard pieces until
professional art historians, archaeologists, metalworkers and other
specialists have wrung out every technical detail that could help in
the reconstruction of history and the possible cultural significance
of the hoard.

If you want an example of the importance of context (not to mention
some knowledge of metals,etc.), and if your library carries the
Journal of Near Eastern Studies, one of my articles, “The Larsa
Goldsmith’s Hoards: New Interpretations,” is in volume 52 (1993) pp.
1-24. These hoards included some very early and beautiful examples
of filigree (ca. 1850 BC). Even though the excavation, in this case,
was well-done, the attempt by the excavators to see a goldsmith’s
workshop here was not convincing (IMO). (I could go on and on, but I
won’t. If anyone ever reads some of the article and has any comments
on my analysis of what would constitute an ancient Mesopotamian
metalworker’s workshop, please be in touch offline.)

Judy (Judith K.) Bjorkman


#12

Okay I will chime in, but will keep short, I do contract work when
needed by musuems for their exhibits, making their mounts and
installing exhibits for objects and books and documents. part of the
objects are the usualsuspects of old coins, jewelry, medals, the
last job was about Black American History, so there were a few slave
collars and body shakles, (which was very very eerie to work with)
there are also weapons, knives, swords and guns… None of which you
are allowed to touch by hand. ever. it is all handeled with neoprene
gloves, the mounts being made are continusly paded with non acidic
tape when you’re fitting and measuring, the objects are never placed
down on any surfaces then specific designed carts with padding, (non
acidic)one is not even suppose to take any of the dirt or oxide or
any other (contaminants) let alone bang things out ; other then what
the conservators have cleaned, which is usually minimal. the less
removed the better, unless it is a saving the object from self
distruction of acidic materials of sorts. usually when the objects
are privatly owned on loan then you see owners doing things like
taking polishing cloths to metal or ironing cloth material/clothing,
you know civil war solder uniforms, university/school gowns. all a
big No No from the conservators point.

Hratch Babikian
Hratch Babikian Atelier contemporary Jewelery and sculpture


#13

I don’t know if the original comments about the dirt remaining on
the pieces were tongue in cheek or not, but here’s one perspective on
that dirt that might interest some.

That dirt might actually be a crucial part of resolving some
significant questions about how the pieces were made. Here’s how:

The excellent condition of the work excavated at Sutton Hoo and the
particular site conditions combined such that archeologists can’t
tell for sure how all the garnet inlay is mounted.

There are a variety of mounting methods known, some of which
employed cements/mastics. Unfortunately, the soil conditions at
Sutton Hoo were so aggressive that they weren’t able to say which
methods had been used. In fact, believe it or not, the soil
conditions were so aggressive that they still aren’t able to say with
absolute certainty that there was even a body buried there! Think
about that… if the king was buried there around 625 with all his
amazing equipment and beautiful loot, between then and 1939, all
traces of him were completely dissolved and washed away by the
acidic soil.

This new find might provide the archeologists with an opportunity to
analyze the chemical composition of the the gunk immediately adjacent
to the inlaid cells with 21st century methods. Maybe they can find
chemical traces of lime or wax or stone dust or who knows what else
enlightening. Perhaps this makes me an “archeology of jewelry” nerd,
but I think it’s a pretty exciting possibility.

I’m also hoping that direct access to more more of the tooled gold
foil will shed light on how that was made. The tooled patterns are so
clean, so precise and so TINY that it almost defies explanation as
to how the dies used to produce them could have been made with the
technology available in the 7th century. Back in the 80s a theory was
developed where a pantograph mechanism might have been used. If
these new artifacts could confirm or refute that, that would be very
cool.

So, I say wish the lucky folks involved the slowest, most complete,
most well funded investigation possible and keep those amazing
pictures coming.

Tom …who is contemplating an upcoming departure for NYC and all
the cool things to be ogled in the Met…


#14
The excellent condition of the work excavated at Sutton Hoo and
the particular site conditions combined such that archeologists
can't tell for sure how all the garnet inlay is mounted. There are a
variety of mounting methods known, some of which employed
cements/mastics. Unfortunately, the soil conditions at Sutton Hoo
were so aggressive that they weren't able to say which methods had
been used. 

That determination isn’t helped any by the absolute skill with which
the garnet inlay was done on the Sutton Hoo work. Back in the 70s,
while a student at Cranbrook, the class went to London for a couple
weeks. One stop of that memorable trip was to the British Museum,
guided by some major official of Goldsmiths hall (Possibly Peter
Gainsbury, but I don’t recall). He and Richard Thomas, the head of
the Cranbrook program at the time, had arranged a private personal
viewing for us of a number of the items from Sutton Hoo, including
passing out white cotton gloves and allowing us to actually hold a
few of the pieces for close examination without a showcase in
between. I recall being just stunned and puzzled by those inlays.
Even with a good loupe, I recall seeing no trace of a filled gap
between stone and metal, nor any evidence of cement. If there was
cement there, it was well hidden. I recall thinking rather humbly
that even with access to current lapidary and metals tools, I didn’t
think I had the skills to duplicate that work with equal quality.
Even now, 30+ years and a career later, I’d guess I still couldn’t do
it as well. At least not without a whole lot of trial and error and
learning curve, if even then. No doubt there may be some on this list
who could do it, but I’m no hack, and I’m still not at all confident
that I could… The perfection of that work is simply stunning,
craftmanship in many ways equal to or exceeding any of the finest
modern work. and the closer you examine it, the more impressive it
gets.

If the workmanship of the Staffordshire hoard is even close to that
of Sutton Hoo, I’m guessing there will be a whole new generation of
suddenly humbled, goldsmiths out there…

Peter Rowe


#15
Old antique stuff of historical value you just don't beat back into
shape and polish. That is a crime against your kids and further
generations understanding of history Something chewed on by the
clients dog or run over in their drive way is a very different job
and there are fewer moral rules on the repair. 

Yeah, Jeff, I was kidding.

My emotional response is to want to see what shape it was meant to
be, but I do realize that the way to treat treasures of museum
quality is to do very, very little to them. So the reshaping must be
in our mind’s eye only.

Does a little :wink: make this clearer?

M’lou Brubaker
Minnesota, USA
http://www.craftswomen.com/M’louBrubaker/


#16
passing out white cotton gloves and allowing us to actually hold a
few of the pieces for close examination without a showcase in
between 

Wow, Peter, wow. What an opportunity that was!

Comments by members involved in museum work have got me even more
interested and impressed with this find.

Now, I just need to find out how to get the repair contract, since
the work is such a mess! (Just KIDDING, folks!). :wink: !!!

But seriously, I hope to hear and see a lot more about this find in
the years to come. It’s so great.

M’lou


#17

M’lou,

Kidding was kind of understood. Some new folks had just be better be
warned about the moral/ethical conflicts.

The dog and drive way restorations are really best avoided.

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#18

If i put myself in the place of the person that made the stuff in the
first place i would not want to see it displayed all flattened out
and smashed up, i am going to take a stand here and say somebody,
should, straighten it out! i cant remember his name right now but he
writes on orchid from england and is a master at jewelry (richard or
steven or wright?) they should let him do it most people who are not
crafts people do not have a strong sense of spacial relationship and
cannot imagine what the items would look like.

and i think the person that owned it in the first place would be
embarrassed to see the stuff in its present condition.

warm regards goo


#19
The dog and drive way restorations are really best avoided. 

I have done both dog (pendant chewed and sent all the way through)
and driveway (backed over earring with truck) restorations, but only
on my own work.

M’lou


#20

Hi Goo:

Don’t worry, somebody (me, for example) will soon have "restored"
pieces available, so that they can be seen in all their original
glory.

As for the original owners being embarrassed to have them seen in
their current state, I rather suspect that to be the point. You’ll
note that the hoard consists largely of sword furniture that’s been
quickly torn clear of the sword blades themselves. That speaks to the
hoard being the spoils of the defeat of the original owners. Defacing
their weapons was probably a symbolic gesture to drive that point
home.

As far as any “restoration” of the originals beyond a very gentle
cleaning, that’s extremely unlikely. Believe it or not, those pieces
are worth far more to historians and metalworkers in their current
mangled condition than they would have been if they were all in
perfect shape. Mangled and bent, it’s far easier to see how they were
made than it would have been if they were all still in one piece. The
Sutton Hoo pieces are all in near-perfect shape, even after 1300
years in the ground. The finer details of their construction have
been frustrating historians for the best part of 70 years now. (Peter
you lucky bast**d! I’d give my eye-teeth for a few minutes alone with
those pieces and a microscope! Too bad I wasn’t at Cranbrook at the
right time.)

Regards,
Brian.