Understanding Wealth and Status in Post-Roman Europe
with Dr Angela Evans (former Curator of Anglo-Saxon Antiquities, British Museum)
& Dr Noël Adams (Deputy Curator, Furusiyya Art Foundation)
at Sutton Hoo, Saturday, 7th March, 2015.


Provisional Programme

09.50 – 10.15:       Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:         Dr Noël Adams: An overview of the princely graves of the Late Roman Iron Age in the Barbaricum or Germania Libera (modern central and northern Europe and Scandinavia) – The majority of these date to Phase C2 (c. 220/230 – 300/310). We will look at archeological finds from burials such as Sakrau graves I and III (Poland), Stráže grave 2 (Slovakia) Leuna (Thuringia, Germania), Gommern (Saxony-Anhalt, Germany) and Himlingøje 1949-1 (Denmark). These rich (largely male) depositions, containing gold torcs, armrings and finger rings, display belts, weapons and vessels for the afterlife, were the predecessors of the furnished burials of the Early Medieval period. Of particular interest amongst the vessel suites buried in these graves are Roman hanging basins with suspension rings with figural escutcheons (Eggers Type E79 and E83); these were the prototypes for the hanging bowls found in Anglo-Saxon England.

11.15 – 11.40:         Coffee break

11.40 – 12.40:         Dr Angela Evans: Interpreting the Sutton Hoo Cemetery –  Since the publication of the 1980’s excavations, the burials excavated beneath the mounds have been largely neglected, lying, as they do, in the shadow of the mound 1 ship burial – the same was true of those burials excavated in 1938.   This session will revisit all the excavated burials within the cemetery to examine the rituals surrounding death and what they might tell us about attitudes or beliefs surrounding the treatment of the dead. The session will also review the contents of each grave to consider the status of the dead and to what extent we are justified in assuming that status in life is reflected in death and how this impacts on our understanding of elites in early Anglo Saxon England.

12.40 – 13.45:         Lunch break

13.45 – 14.35:          Dr Angela Evans: The Sutton Hoo cemetery in the context of other high status cemeteries and burials in Anglo Saxon England –  The intact ship burial beneath mound 1 has, perhaps quite rightly, diverted attention from other high status burials, although the excavation of the princely burial at Prittlewell, Essex, has redressed the balance to a certain extent. But questions still remain.   Is the Sutton Hoo cemetery different from other contemporary cemeteries containing high status burials and, if so, why?   Is its ‘Royal’ tag justified? How do we assess status and small differences in status from both archaeological finds and the perspective of the 21st century?   These are some of the questions that the session will address.

14.35 – 14.55:        Tea break

14.55 – 15.45:         Dr Noël Adams: Status burials in continental Europe – Based on current research by the lecturer, we consider high-status burials from three time periods – ca 400-450, ca 480-500 and ca 595-650 – and the items that characterize the assemblages. We consider personal insignia, objects of authority, arms and armour, as well as horse equipment, but focus upon precious metal vessels and spoons. Silver vessels of specific shapes and functions constitute a clear link with the past, going back to the Late Roman Iron Age. The Roman and Byzantine Empires were the primary source of such vessels but whether they were acquired by gifting, or trade, particularly in the more remote areas in which they are preserved (England, Russia, southern Egypt), is still debated.

c.15.45:                   Thanks and Close

About Dr Angela Evans

Dr Angela Care Evans, retired curator of early Anglo-Saxon Antiquities at the British Museum, excavated at Sutton Hoo in the nineteen-sixties and was a contributing author and editor of the British Museum reports. She is working on the publication of the finds from the most recent excavations on the National Trust site at Sutton Hoo and completing her catalogue of Anglo-Saxon sword fittings.

About Dr Noël Adams

Dr Noël Adams is currently Administrator and Deputy Curator at the Furusiyya Art Foundation. After completing her PhD at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, she worked as a Special Assistant in the Department of Prehistory and Europe at the British Museum. Her speciality is Late Antique and Migration Period garnet cloisonné jewellery but she publishes widely on material culture of the first millennium AD. She has recently co-edited and contributed papers to volumes in the British Museum Research Publication series: ‘Intelligible Beauty’: Recent Research on Byzantine Jewellery (2010) and ‘Gems of Heaven’: Recent Research on Engraved Gemstones in Late Antiquity, AD 200-600 (2011). She curated the installation of the Thaw collection of Early Medieval objects at the Morgan Museum and Library in New York and her catalogue of the collection, Bright Lights in the Dark Ages

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

Adams, N. 2013: “Hanging basins and the wine-coloured sea: the wider context of early Medieval hanging bowls”, in A. Reynolds & L. Webster (eds), Early Medieval Art and Archaeology in the Northern World, Studies in Honour of James Graham-Campbell, Leiden, pp. 3-50.

Adams, N., ‘Remarks on the Sutton Hoo Silver’, forthcoming.

Brenan, J., 1991. Hanging Bowls and their Contexts, British Archaeological Reports, British Series 220, Oxford.

Bruce-Mitford, R. 1975, The Sutton Hoo Ship-Burial, vol.1, London, chs 2 & 3.

Bruce-Mitford, R. 1978: The Sutton Hoo Ship-Burial, vol.2, London.

Bruce-Mitford, R., & Raven, S., 2005. A Corpus of Late Celtic Hanging Bowls with an Account of the Bowls found in Scandinavia, Oxford.

Carver, M.O.H. et al. 2005, Sutton Hoo – A Seventh-Century Princely Burial Ground and Its Context, Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London No.69, London.

Cruikshank Dodd, E., 1961, Byzantine Silver Stamps, Washington D.C.

Emery, W B 1938, The Royal Tombs of Ballana and Qustul, 2 vols, Service des antiquités de l’Égypte, mission archéologique de Nubie 1929-1934, Cairo.

Evans, A.C 1994., The Sutton Hoo Ship-Burial, London.

Filmer-Sankey, W., & T.Pestell 2001, Snape Anglo-Saxon Cemetery: Excavations and Surveys 1824-1992, East Anglian Archaeology Report 95, Ipswich.

Geake, H., 1999 ‘When Were Hanging Bowls Deposited in Anglo-Saxon Graves?’, Medieval Archaeology 43 (1999), 1-18.

Gommern, exhibition catalogue, Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte Halle (Saale).

Jørgensen, L., Storgaard, B. & Thomsen, L.G., 2003. The Spoils of Victory, The North in the shadow of the Roman Empire, exhibition catalogue, Nationalmuseet Copenhagen, Chapter II, Romans and Germani, pp. 105-126

Lucy, S. 2000, The Anglo-Saxon Way of Death, Sutton.

Lund Hansen, U. 1987. Römischer Import im Norden, Warenaustausch zwischen dem Römischen Reich und dem freien Germanien. Nordiske Fortidsminder serie B, Bind 10, København.

Madgearu, A. 2011, ‘The plate of Paternus from the Malaja Pereščepina treasure: booty or gift?’, Études Byzantines et Post-Byzantines, VI, Bucarest, 65-71.

Mango, M. 1995, `Silver among the Romans and among the Barbarians’, in F. Vallet & M. Kazanski (eds), La noblesse romaine et les chefs barbares du IIIe au VIIe siècle, Paris, 77-83

Mango, M. 1997, `Continuity of 4th/5th-century silver plate in the 6th/7th centuries

in the Eastern Empire’, Antiquité Tardive 5 (1997), 83-92.

Webster, L., & J.Backhouse 1991, The Making of England: Anglo-Saxon Art and Culture AD 600-900, London.

Webster, L., & M.Brown (eds), 1997, Transformation of the Roman World AD 400-900, London.