Kings and Christianity
Kings and Christianity
From the Late Seventh Century to the Early Ninth
New discoveries play a major part in archaeological research, but coincidence can also have a role. When four copper-alloy scabbard-studs with Style II ornament were excavated in the smith’s grave at Tattershall Thorpe in 1981 (Fig. 2.18), they were the first of their kind to have been found in England, despite being well known on the continent, where they are dated to between 640 and 670. Within a couple of years, however, another set turned up, on a scabbard in a cemetery in Buttermarket, Ipswich, Suffolk. Then, in 1999, yet another set was found, in a grave at the new football stadium in Southampton, Hampshire (Fig. 3.1). These studs adorned scabbards that were not for double-edged swords, but for the single-edged long seax, not a very practical weapon, but one that was probably used in hunting and was therefore redolent of aristocratic practice. At Tattershall Thorpe the studs were not attached to anything, and were presumably going to be shown to a prospective patron with a view to reuse. At Ipswich and Southampton both sets were in cemeteries at what were about to become major trading-places, Gippeswic and Hamwic. These wic sites had continental counterparts and suggest new ways of organizing and systematizing exchanges of goods; others in England were London, Lundenwic, and York, Eoforwic, both former Roman towns, with the wics outside the walls but episcopal churches inside. Neither Ipswich nor Southampton had a major church, so there was no reason for important burials at either unless they were of people involved in the places’ emergence as commercial centres. One explanation is that some of the graves were for kings’ ‘reeves’ and their families, royal agents placed to oversee merchants and to ensure that tolls were paid, who were buried slightly away from where the commerce was to take place. The Southampton cemetery had other signs of an elite presence, such as a woman’s grave that contained a gold pendant with garnets and Style II animals in filigree gold wire on it (Col. pl. C.2), which seems likely to be mid- to later seventh-century.
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