Frankish, late 5th century
From Castle Eden, Co. Durham, England
An imported glass vessel decorated with coloured trails
Claw beakers are so called because of the applied 'claws' of glass which are attached to the thin glass body of the beaker.
Because of its fragility, glass must have been one of the most luxurious possessions in the early Anglo-Saxon period. This claw beaker was made in the late fifth century and imported from one of the Frankish glass-making factories. It is the only one of this type to have been found in England. It must have been a treasured possession as it was in pristine condition when it was buried - it was the only object found accompanying a skeleton when it was excavated in 1775.
The beaker is made of pale greenish-blue glass with applied trails in royal blue at the neck and base and on the upper row of 'claws'. The body and claws of the beaker are all blown. The claws would have been applied to the cooled body as a blob of glass which was then blown into shape through the wall, drawn out with pincers and reattached to the body. The multiple trails at the neck and base are made from single spiralling lengths of molten glass.
D.B. Harden and others, The British Museum: masterpiec (London, 1968)
V.I. Evison, 'Anglo-Saxon claw-beakers', Archaeologia-13, 107 (1982), pp. 43-76
H. Tait (ed.), Five thousand years of glass (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)
Diameter: 9.400 cm
Gift of The Hon. Mrs Sclater-Booth