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Winchester Hanging Bowl

Anglo-Saxon, late 7th or 8th century AD.

Found in an Anglo-Saxon grave during an excavation led by local archaeologist W. J. Andrew at Oliver's Battery, near Winchester, in 1930.

Made of beaten bronze, with two spirally decorated enameled and tinned circles on the inside and underside of the base, the bowl has three more circles ending in water bird-shaped hooks on the rim. The best parallels for the spiral patterns can be found in the Durrow Book, a late 7th century manuscript from Trinity College Dublin, suggesting that the bowl was acquired by trade, gift or commission from a British or Irish metalworker.

The hanging bowl appears to have been designed so that it could be filled with clear liquid so that the inner basal circle would be visible during use. The presence of hooks for hanging suggests that it was stored suspended from the rafters, so that the circle on the underside was visible. In the Christian context, we can assume that the clear liquid is holy water, and such a bowl is part of the "church utensils". One can also imagine an ostentatious display of the treasures and their use at secular feasts in the Anglo-Saxon hall.