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07.06.2021

Purse lid from the Sutton Hoo ship burial

Wealth and its public display were probably used to establish status in early Anglo-Saxon society in much the same way as today. The wallet cover from Sutton Hoo is the richest ever found.
The lid was made to cover a leather pouch containing gold coins. It hung on three belt loops and fastened with a gold buckle. The lid is completely ruined, but was probably made of whalebone, a precious material in early Anglo-Saxon England. Seven gold, cloisonné garnet and glass millefiori plaques are embedded in it. They are made of a combination of very large and small garnets specifically used to highlight the details of the image. This combination may have linked the purse cap and thin shoulder clasps, which were also found in the ship's burial, to the workshop of one craftsman. He may have made the entire collection of gold and garnet jewelry found in Kurgan 1 as a single piece.

On the tablets there are double images of a bird of prey attacking a duck-like bird (above) and a man standing heroically between the two animals. These images must have had great significance for the Anglo-Saxons, but we cannot interpret them. The fierce creatures are probably a powerful symbol of strength and courage, qualities that a successful leader of men must possess. Strikingly similar depictions of man between animals are known in Scandinavia.

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