Saxon Escutcheon, Elmswell

front of escutcheon

During a metal detecting survey over Langwell Bush and Church Field in Elmswell this beautifully decorated escutcheon (hanging bowl mount) was discovered. This particular example dates to the Early Saxon period and would have been deposited within a burial.

The escutcheon is made from copper alloy and measures 31mm in diameter and only 2-3mm thick. The mount is part of a much larger hanging bowl and likely would have been affixed at the rim, forming part of the hanging attachment of the bowl; although, some bowls occasionally have a similar decorative attachment on their base.

illustration of the escutcheon.
Illustration of the escutcheon

Although the mount is Anglo-Saxon in date, the mount has been decorated with a “celtic” style design, made up of circular and spiral patterns together forming a triskele motif. The decoration would have been enriched with inlays of red and blue enamel. This is a common stylistic theme for hanging bowls during this period and raises questions to whether the bowls, or some of their components, might be Late Iron Age in date and have been curated over time prior to their deposition in an Anglo-Saxon grave.

Hanging bowls are a high-status object, gifted to the deceased as part of a larger burial assemblage. Several similar bowls were discovered in Mound 1 at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk – demonstrating the wealth that could be associated with objects such as this. Graves with items such as this are usually part of a cemetery rather than being a single burial. This find therefore suggests that their once could have been, and may still be, an Anglo-Saxon cemetery nearby.

The ‘From the Vaults’ series is written by the County Council’s Archaeological Archives Officer

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