Glass artefacts from Rendlesham – Excavations 2021

A glass fragment on top of a label and bag

Featured image: identifying a glass fragment using an eye-glass.

Dr Rose Broadley is the Rendlesham Revealed project specialist for glass artefacts and has completed the initial analysis of the glass excavated from Rendlesham last summer. Rose is our guest writer this week to tell us more.

My first step after receiving the glass finds from Rendlesham was to open the boxes, take out the finds bags and sort them approximately into categories: early medieval beads, early medieval vessel glass fragments and Roman glass fragments.

A selection of glass fragments in labelled bags
glass finds excavated from Rendlesham in 2021

I inspected each glass object one at a time using an eye glass, with the aim of identifying them if possible, or at least working out how much can be said about each at the assessment report stage, and made notes as I went along. I can often rely on experience, but in some cases I use reference books and articles to confirm my IDs and check details. I used spreadsheets and site maps to check on the find spots and context information for each, and then wrote the assessment reports for this project.

Photograph of glass bead
glass quatrefoil lobed bead excavated from Rendlesham in 2021

The star find amongst the glass is a quatrefoil lobed bead made from translucent blue-green glass and decorated with an opaque red trail spiralling around the circumference of the bead. This bead is more unusual and more closely identifiable than the other beads or the vessel glass fragments from Rendlesham. It dates to the late fifth to sixth century, with distribution of the type within England focussed on the coasts of southern and eastern England and the Thames valley. It may have been imported from north-western continental Europe where beads of this type have been found in fifth century graves. This one was found in the fill of a sunken-featured building (SFB) at Rendlesham and may have been lost by a wearer – although most early medieval glass beads are found in burials. 

If you are interested in volunteering for the next season of fieldwork, you can join our e-newsletter mailing list to receive updates.

This fieldwork is part of the community archaeology project Rendlesham Revealed: Anglo-Saxon Life in South-East Suffolk, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. We are very grateful to our many local and national partners who have made this project possible, and for the support of our volunteers and of the landowners and farmers who work and manage this historic landscape.

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