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Amuletic figure


Height: 3.800 cm

Gift of the London Residuary Body

M&ME 1988,4-12.1

    Amuletic figure

    Anglo-Saxon, 7th century AD
    From Grave 5, Bradstow School, Broadstairs, Kent

    This small, stylized female figurine is made from copper alloy. The face is disfigured by iron corrosion. The figure has a softly shaped torso with a roll at the neck and hips as though representing a tunic. The lower half of the body is naked, the legs are bowed with the knees defined and the feet turned inwards. The figurine was found in a grave at the waist of the dead person, near an iron girdle-hanger, iron tweezers and a key. It would have been worn suspended from a girdle or châtelaine. Also in the grave were an iron knife and iron fittings from a box.

    Human images are exceptionally rare in Anglo-Saxon archaeology, making interpretation of this figure difficult. It may have had amuletic properties, but these are difficult to define except in the broadest apotropaic terms (that is, acting to ward off evil). A terminal in the form of a helmeted head was found in Grave 161 in the Dover Buckland cemetery and a 'pin' decorated with a human head above a narrow torso was found at Breach Down, both in Kent. These Anglo-Saxon examples seem to have been associated with a sheath of some kind and may be dippers for phials. In Scandinavia pins with helmeted heads have been found at Birka, sometimes with a matching pair of tweezers, suggesting that they are some form of toilet implement.

    H. Geake, The use of grave-goods in conv, BAR British Series 261 (Oxford, 1997)

    A.L. Meaney, Anglo-Saxon amulets and curing, BAR British Series 96 (Oxford, 1981)


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