Early Medieval Silver Sceatta, Bury St Edmunds

coin front and back

Early Medieval silver sceatta from the Bury St Edmunds area, dating c. 700-760 AD.

This example depicts on its obverse face a plumed bird with a triple tail, its head bent down and a cross underneath its feet. The reverse face is more stylised, with a broadly rectangular ‘standard’ motif rendered alongside patterns of crosses, pellets and annulets.

Sceattas (sing. sceat) were small silver coins minted from the late 7th to mid 8th century in England, Frisia (Netherlands) and Jutland (North Germany/Denmark). Specific trading centres that are known to have issued them include Hamwic (Southampton), Ribe (Denmark) and Dorestad (Netherlands), the latter being an extremely important locale that formed a major axis of trade with Britain, Scandinavia and continent via the river Rhine.

Almost 1600 sceattas have been recorded nationally on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database, with over 30% (c. 500) of these finds originating from the counties of Lincolnshire, Suffolk and the Isle of Wight. The majority of those discovered in Britain are single or loosely grouped finds within distinct areas; this implies casual loss within the broader range of commercial transaction, though purses of them are known from graves.

Hoards of sceattas are known both in Britain and on the continent, such as the Woodham Walter hoard of 108 coins from Maldon in Essex, and the De Meern hoard of 120 coins from the Netherlands. They represent a hugely diverse series of coinage, not only in terms of where they were manufactured but also in the designs that appear upon them. Fantastical animals, crosses, standards, busts, standing figures and inscriptions both in runic and Latin script all feature, variously showing Roman, Greek, ‘Celtic’, Byzantine and Germano-Scythian sources of inspirations.

View the full record on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database

Thank you to the finder for allowing this object to be featured.

This find was recorded by the Suffolk Finds Recording Team, supported by the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

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