The images you'll see as you scroll down to the current text are all part of the story telling in my novel, Realms of Gold:Ritual to Romance.

Bianca Caldwell, pen name, Bianca Fiore, is a writer for an art magazine. In each of her monthly stories she describes an object used in ancient ritual.

Cross and bed found in Anglo-Saxon grave shed new light on 'dark ages'

The gold cross found in the grave of the young Anglo-Saxon woman. Photograph: Cambridge University

The dead are often described as sleeping, but archaeologists in Cambridgeshire have uncovered a bed on which the body of a young Anglo-Saxon woman has lain for more than 1,300 years, a regal gold and garnet cross on her breast.

Three more graves, of two younger women and an older person whose sex has not yet been identified, were found nearby.

Forensic work on the first woman's bones suggests she was about 16, with no obvious explanation for her early death. Although she was almost certainly a Christian, buried with the beautiful cross stitched into place on her gown, she was buried according to ancient pagan tradition with some treasured possessions including an iron knife and a chatelaine, a chain hanging from her belt, and some glass beads which were probably originally in a purse that has rotted away.
Pectoral crosses from the dawn of Christianity in England, and bed burials - where the body was laid on a real bed, now traced only by its iron supports, centuries after the timber rotted – are both extremely rare.
A gold and garnet pectoral cross of such quality, the most beautiful and sophisticated examples of Anglo-Saxon metalwork like the contemporary jewels found in the Staffordshire Hoard or the Sutton Hoo burial, could only have been owned by a member of an aristocratic or even royal family. Only five have been found, one in the coffin of St Cuthbert. In some contemporary pieces the gems came from as far as India, and the gold from melted down coins from Constantinople.

Treasures from Sutton Hoo: Sword Equipment

These few fragments are all that remain of a sword found at Sutton Hoo. A glass encasing has been used to reconstruct the sword hilt with the accessory fragments that remain. 

A large stone fragment can be seen here as the main portion of the hilt, with gold and garnet embellishments, most notably the pommel that sits at the top of the hilt. The sword was the most important weapon in Anglo-Saxon times, often traditionally passed down from father to son. Warriors who died in battle were even buried with their swords.

Gold and garnet-inlaid mounts from a sword harness. (Sutton Hoo)

Sword Handle
Garnet Buckle from a sword belt Sutton Hoo Ship Burial
Sutton Hoo Slider
The sword belt buckle shaped slider belt fastener from Sutton Hoo, made from gold with cloisonne and cabochon garnets and millefiori glass inlay.

Scabbard Bosses Found At Sutton Hoo

A pair of scabbard bosses found in the burial chamber at Sutton Hoo. A scabbard was a sheath for holding a sword, typically worn around the waist - bosses such as these were used to attach the scabbard to the sword belt at the top. The scabbard of a man of wealth would have been adorned with rich decoration. Like many other artifacts found at Sutton Hoo, these scabbard bosses display rich craftsmanship that reflected the high status and wealth of their owner. The bosses exhibit the same intricate inlay of garnet and gold.

Sutton Hoo Sword pyramids.

A set of small (18x12mm) pyramid fittings associated with the Sutton Hoo sword. Garnet cloisonne in gold, about 600AD. The Sutton Hoo pyramids are a miracle of cryptic stone setting, and they’re still holding fast to their secrets after 1400 years in the dirt.”

The Sutton Hoo sword fittings. Photographs courtesy Lindsay Kerr.

Strap distributor of gold, set with cloisonne garnets. It was designed to link two straps--the sword belt and a narrower strap that drops to the scabbard. The distributor is hinged beneath the horizontal mount and has a further mount that pendulates upon the hinged mount.


Hanging bowl from the Sutton Hoo ship burial

Early medieval Celtic, late 6th–early 7th century AD
From Mound 1, Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, England

This magnificent copper alloy hanging bowl is the largest of three found in the Sutton Hoo ship burial. It is an import from British peoples living beyond the Anglo-Saxon heartlands and was perhaps acquired as tribute or through a marriage alliance. Its discovery among other exotic imports confirms that it was highly valued. The bowl was in Anglo-Saxon hands for some time before it was buried, because it was repaired using silver patches decorated in with Anglo-Saxon style animals.
Hanging bowls were designed to be hung by hooked mounts from three or four rings fixed to the rim. This bowl, made of thin copper alloy sheet, has elaborately ornamented and inlaid hook-mounts, with extra ornamental square mounts in between. There is a further disc-shaped mount under the base and inside, uniquely, a free-standing copper alloy fish that could rotate. The mounts are decorated with red, blue and pale green enamel and brightly patterned millefiori glass. The curving lines and abstract patterns are typical of early medieval Celtic art from Britain and Ireland and it has been argued that this bowl was made in Ireland.

The silvery (tinned) fish ‘swimming’ inside is a clue to the bowl’s original use. It may have held water for hand-washing after a feast, or perhaps something stronger for drinking.
This is the decoration on another bowl from Sutton Hoo

Purse lid from the Sutton Hoo

Wealth, and its public display, was probably used to establish status in early Anglo-Saxon society much as it is today. The purse lid from Sutton Hoo is the richest of its kind yet found.

Anglo-Saxon, early 7th century AD
From Mound 1, Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, England
British Museum

The lid was made to cover a leather pouch containing gold coins. It hung by three hinged straps from the waist belt, and was fastened by a gold buckle. The lid had totally decayed but was probably made of whalebone – a precious material in early Anglo-Saxon England. Seven gold, garnet cloisonné and millefiori glass plaques were set into it. These are made with a combination of very large garnets and small ones, deliberately used to pick out details of the imagery. This combination could link the purse-lid and the fine shoulder clasps, which were also found in the ship burial, to the workshop of a single master-craftsman. It is possible that he made the entire suite of gold and garnet fittings discovered in Mound 1 as a single commission.

Replica reconstruction of the purse-lid in the Sutton Hoo Museum, Sutton Hoo

The plaques include twinned images of a bird-of-prey swooping on a duck-like bird, and a man standing heroically between two beasts. These images must have had deep significance for the Anglo-Saxons, but it is impossible for us to interpret them. The fierce creatures are perhaps a powerful evocation of strength and courage, qualities that a successful leader of men must possess. Strikingly similar images of a man between beasts are known from Scandinavia.

Treasures of Sutton Hoo: The Great Gold Buckle

The "great" gold buckle is made in three parts. The plate is a long ovoid of a meandering but symmetrical outline with densely interwoven and interpenetrating ribbon animals rendered in chip-carving on the front. The gold surfaces are punched to receive niello detail. The plate is hollow and has a hinged back, forming a secret chamber, possibly for a relic. Both the tongue-plate and hoop are solid, ornamented, and expertly engineered.