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Grave group from Artres

 

Length: 2.500 cm (brooches, pair)
Diameter: 3.600 cm (earrings, pair)
Height: 3.600 cm (pendant, overall)
Length: 2.500 cm (brooches, pair)
Length: 2.500 cm (brooches, pair)
Diameter: 3.600 cm (earrings, pair)
Diameter: 3.600 cm (earrings, pair)

Bequeathed by Sir A.W. Franks
Britain, Europe and Prehistory

AF.514a-b; AF.515; AF.518; AF.524-525; AF.3328; 1905,0520.994

    Grave group from Artres

    Merovingian, early to mid-6th century AD
    From a grave at Artres, near Famars, Nord, France

    A Frankish noblewoman's jewellery?

    An assemblage of jewellery was found by a farmer under a small mound in Artres, France in 1855. Most of the items found in the grave are shown here, the other finds were sold separately or are now lost. Their quality suggests that they belonged to a Frankish noblewoman, possibly the wife of a local leader. A Roman fort at Famars, nearby, became the centre of a Merovingian rural district (pagus).

    Although nominally Christian, the Franks continued to bury their dead in pagan fashion: females wore their clothes and jewellery and males, depending on age and social status, were clothed and armed. Without the evidence of textile remains and the position in which the objects were found, it is unclear how these brooches were worn. The two large, gilded silver, radiate-headed brooches may have been worn on a tunic or dress at the waist or thigh. The pair of small, gold and garnet bird brooches were used to close eyelets in the neck opening of the garment. But it is also possible that the two pairs of brooches fastened a heavier overdress or cloak and an underdress respectively. The gold earrings with polyhedral beads are of a typical sixth-century form and would originally have been inlaid with garnets (now mostly missing). The silver bracelet was a further sign of status and the rock crystal pendant in a sling of gold strips was probably believed to have amuletic properties.

    Recent research has located a gold disc pendant, from the same grave, in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The location of the other finds, including a garnet-inlaid gold ring, are uncertain. There was also a large crystal ball, which has been substituted here by a similar one, probably from the cemetery at Herpes, Charente, France.

    B. Ager, 'Mobilier d'une riche tombe féminine' in Trésors archéologiques du Nord (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Valenciennes, 1997), pp. 125-27

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