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hanging bowl

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1967,1004.1

  • Description

    Large copper alloy hanging-bowl with flat rim and four circular hook-escutcheons, and one circular basal escutcheon. The hooks of the hook-escutcheons were cast with the frames. All the hooks are now missing. The frames are mostly missing but survive in the case of one hook-escutcheon and the basal escutcheon. It is plain, light and simple, the rest are broken away at the point of junction with the hook. Each circular hook-escutcheon is linked by a vertical applied band to an applied ring that surrounds the basal depression and each hook-escutcheon is flanked or extended by two axe-blade shaped projections filled with a tightly interlacing pattern. On the upper part of the bowl, between each of these double axe-blade developments, are pairs of affronted birds with joining beaks, set on vertical stems, rising from a horizontal strip. Below each of these two bird-carrying strips is another solitary bird, not supported, with folded wings and drooping head, and below this again a fan-tailed fish with straight, deeply rounded, almost tubular body balanced on top of a vertical strip and flanked by two stags. Apart from the affronted pair of balanced birds above their horizontal strip, all these animals, birds, and fish are shown as if moving together round the bowl to the right. The surface patterning is all executed in a kind of crude engraving. All the reserved metal areas into which the designs are cut are silvered, and the cut out and engraved background throughout is filled with red enamel:

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  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 7thC (End of; ?)
    • 8thC(early) (?)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Diameter: 248 millimetres
    • Height: 121 millimetres
    • Diameter: 40 millimetres (hook-escutcheon)
    • Diameter: 18 millimetres (basal escutcheon)
  • Curator's comments

    Bruce-Mitford 2005
    Discovery and history: (For further comments on the discovery see Appendix 3, on the Kentish bowls.) The bowl was discovered in April 1859 by workers digging for clay for brick-making between Lullingstone and Eynsford (Ireland 1859-61, 187). A small copper disc with zoomorphic ornament was found at the same time. The labourers stripped the bowl of its ornaments, believing these to be the only portions of any value, and took it to Dartford, before the owner of the land, who had been informed of the find, had a chance to look at it. After a considerable effort, it was, with its accompaniments, at last rescued' by the landowners (Ireland 1859-61). The ornaments had left marks on the bowl, so it was apparently easy to reconstitute. It was gathered from the workmen that several skulls had been recovered and possibly a shield boss, as well as some fragments of pottery and iron (Ireland 1859-61). C. Roach Smith (1860, 36), writing in ‘Archaeologia Cantiana’, reported that two bowls had been found, one at Lullingstone and one from Eynsford but it is clear from Ireland's account that this is one and the same bowl. (See also Appendix 3).

    The bowl and zoomorphic disc were deposited on loan at the British Museum by the Rt Hon Sir William Hart-Dyke, Bt, PC, in 1923.

    Description: Large band bowl of C rim type with four hook-escutcheons, circular, and one circular basal escutcheon (there is no evidence that there was ever an interior basal escutcheon). The hooks of the hook-escutcheons were cast with the frames. All the hooks are now missing, but in the earliest representation of the bowl, that made at the time of discovery by F. W. Fairholt, FSA, and published in Roach Smith 1860, pl. I, one hook is shown. To judge from this illustration the hooks were plain and simple, without zoomorphic heads. The frames are mostly missing but survive in the case of one hook-escutcheon and the basal escutcheon. They were plain, light and simple, and all are broken away at the point of junction with the hook. The bowl is of fully developed B/C form, square in outline and with a very high carinated shoulder, above which the typical deep re-entrant groove is unusually narrow.
    Each circular hook-escutcheon is linked by a vertical applied band to an applied ring that surrounds the basal depression and each hook-escutcheon is flanked or extended by two axeblade shaped projections filled with a confused tightly interlacing pattern. On the upper part of the bowl, between each of these double axehead developments, are pairs of affronted birds with joining beaks, set on vertical stems, rising from a horizontal strip. Below each of these two-bird-carrying strips is another solitary bird, not supported, with folded wings and drooping head, and below this again a fan-tailed fish with straight, deeply rounded, almost tubular body balanced on top of a vertical strip and flanked by two stags. Apart from the affronted pair of balanced birds above their horizontal strip, all these animals, birds, and fish are shown as if moving together round the bowl to the right. The surface patterning is all executed in a kind of crude engraving which is highly distinctive.

    Associated finds: A disc with zoomorphic ornament (Fig. 171). See above under Discovery and history. This does not belong to the bowl (see Doubtful Items and Non-Hanging-Bowls, Group l, no. 10, and Appendix 3).

    Discussion: This is the most elaborately decorated of all surviving bowls, including the large Sutton Hoo bowl, which is not a band bowl.

    Style and technique: The style and decorative technique of the Lullingstone bowl are hard to match but there are some parallels. Sixty years ago, at the beginning of hanging-bowl studies Kendrick (1932, 171-2), for example, said of the escutcheon border design:

    “It shows a simple key pattern exactly like that on the strip-work of the Mildenhall bowl: most of the enamelling is technically of the Dover-Mildenhall school, and we recognise this identical craftsmanship (so far as casting and finish are concerned), and some of the same patterns, in early continental work, particularly certain buckles.”

    All this, Kendrick thought, indicated an early date, 'not later than 500', except for the awkward appearance of the trumpet-pattern roundel, and he went to the trouble of trying to show that the pelta-based pattern could easily be created by rearranging Roman pelta-themes such as those seen on the Thames plaque (Kendrick 1932, fig. 9). All this we can now see to have been a very simplistic and superficial analysis.

    In style the work does not have an early pristine appearance but one almost of disintegration, as of an overfamiliarity with the motifs and ideas expressed.
    All the reserved metal areas into which the designs are cut are silvered, and the cut out and engraved background throughout is filled with red enamel: the overall effect of the newly made bowl must have been stunning.
    Under the base the countersinking or 'kick' is filled up by a central circular escutcheon (missing, but identical in size with the hook-escutcheons and perhaps the same design, trumpet-pattern). Abutting on the frame of this basal escutcheon, the marks of which can be seen, were four small axehead-shaped mounts. They were not symmetrically placed but give the rough effect of a cruciform design.
    An ornamental applied ring sits upon the basal bulge or bottom of the bowl externally, around the central countersinkage. The bowl, if set on a flat surface, would rest on this ring, which is made up of four identical curved strips of ornamental bronze, between which are four roundels. These are reminiscent of the two small escutcheons of the Faversham (4) bowl (.1231.a.’70 and .1231.’70) and without frames.
    Between the eight applied strips which descend from the hook-escutcheons and from the fish, and beneath each stag, is an axehead mount similar to those radiating from the central basal disc, but longer. The decoration of the two is identical and the shorter mounts, round the central disc, appear to be cut-down from the larger.

    Ornamental repertoire of the bowl: The ornamental range exhibited by the bowl may be listed as follows:
    1. Trumpet-pattern roundels in openline style, in the four-spiral convention.
    2. Key or guilloche pattern borders to these (the key pattern in degenerate version). This may be compared with the treatment of the length of detached rim from Whitby (7) (W.22).
    3. Folded-ribbon or 'jumping cracker' ornament broken up into sections that run alternately across and along the lines of the bands that carry it.
    4. Dense triple-strand interlace completely filling the field available.
    5. Rosette-derived (poorly executed) roundel themes, set in interlace in each of the eight lateral axeblade shaped extensions of the hook-escutcheons (cf. ‘Codex Lindisfarnensis’, the central element of the cross of the carpet page, fo.21 and elsewhere).
    6. Free-style 'cut-out' animal, fish, and bird appliqués mostly filled with standard zig-zag or spiral ornament.
    7. A filling-up theme seen in the small axe-shaped detached mounts of either two or three small detached pelta-like devices, with squared backs and tucked-under ends, of reducing sizes.
    8. A cryptic pattern, at first sight reminiscent of Style 1 animal ornament in each of the strips that support a pair of birds, in between the hook-escutcheons. Although it contains no obviously zoomorphic details, animal themes may lie behind this abstract design.

    This last pattern may be looked at more closely. The pattern is not continuous over the length of the strip but falls into three parts. The left hand end shows two C shapes back to back; next comes the main theme or design, which can be read as a bird with tail to the left and squared off head with curled down beak to the right, the body in between treated as a folded ribbon: to the right is a unit of pattern which could be read in sketch as a frog-like beast seen from above (cf. the hook-escutcheons of the St Ninian's hanging-bowl, National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh: NMS X.FC 275). The strip as a whole does not seem to be random doodling: the pattern is too deliberate: it is in three detached and varying units behind which there should be some rationale.
    The curved metal strips which form the base ring are similarly divided up into three different sections of uneven size, with a conspicuous short section at one end. These are however familiar ornamental themes (interlace, folded ribbon ornament), which is not the case with the design of the bird-carrying strips.

    The Lullingstone bowl stands apart from all the rest in spite of technical and stylistic links.
    The trumpet-pattern roundels are based on the standard four-spiral design but the pelta and trumpet-shapes are open and enamel-filled, a trait found again in the Middleton Moor escutcheon and mount (City Museum, Sheffield: J.93.713), and in the Benty Grange escutcheons (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford: 1893.276 and City Museum, Sheffield: J93.1190).
    The naturalistic stags with spiral treatment of the hip joints are Durrowesque (cf. the calf of St Luke, with trumpet-spiral hips, ‘Book of Durrow’, MS 57), and the tightly packed spreads of three-strands interlace that fill up the whole available space are in the distinctive style and manner of the late bronze mounts from Faversham (.1248.’70; 1870,0402.801-2; .1231.a.’70; .1255.’70), and of the Caenby-casket mounts. The folded-ribbon pattern is encountered at its best in bone styli or handles from Whitby Abbey (Peers, C., and Radford, C.A.R., 1943, The Saxon monastery of Whitby, ‘Archaeologia’ 89, 27-88).
    Everything about the bowl is late but with no trace of foliate designs or ornamental changes found in eighth-century MSS and metalwork. It is the old repertoire.
    Its unique character has been explained by possible Pictish origin, and the fact that hanging-bowls were indeed made in Pictland (as shown by the mould from Craig Phadrig, National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh: NMS X.HH 885) strengthens this possibility, first propounded by Sir Alfred Clapham (Clapham, A.W., 1934, Notes on the origins of Hiberno-Saxon art, ‘Antiquity’ 8, 43-57).
    Two points of contact with the Sutton Hoo material maybe mentioned. The double axehead mounts show, round their outer curves, a bordering line of small squares or rectangles, strongly reminiscent of the treatment of the backs of the boars on the Sutton Hoo shoulder clasps.
    Secondly, the fish with tubular bodies balanced on a central support perhaps provide an analogy with the escutcheon with fish on a pedestal inside the large Sutton Hoo (1) bowl (1939,1010.110).
    Although there are these earlier analogies, there are late elements, such as the Durrowesque stags, the exhausted looking rosette in interlace in the axeblade projections from the hook-escutcheons, the folded-ribbon designs typical at Whitby, and seen in e.g. the Lindisfarne Gospels (end of the seventh century). The bowl could be a late seventh- or an early eighth-century production of a very conservative milieu.
    Finally there are the very notable links with the material from predominantly Middle Saxon or eighth-century habitation sites in East Anglia (Norfolk Museums Service: Bawsey 123640, 12364.31, 12364.9, 12364.55 and 12364.40). The fragmentary stag from Bawsey (3) (Norfolk Museums Service: Bawsey 12364.9) seems to have come from the same workshop as the Lullingstone bowl.

    Bibliography: Ireland, E.C., 1859-61, Exhibits, ‘Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London’, 2nd series 1,187; Roach Smith, C., 1860, On Anglo-Saxon remains discovered recently in various places in Kent, ‘Archaeologia Cantiana’ 3, 42, pl. I; Allen, J.R., 1898, Metal bowls of the late-Celtic and Anglo-Saxon periods, ‘Archaeologia’ 56.1, 41, fig. 2; Smith, R.A., 1907-9, Bronze hanging bowls and enamelled mounts, ‘Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London’ 2nd ser., XXII, 67; Brown, G.B., 1915, ‘Saxon Art and Industry in the Pagan Period: The Arts in Early England’, vol. iv, London, 476-9, pls. CXIX.5 and CXX; Kendrick, D.T., 1932, British hanging-bowls, ‘Antiquity’ 6, 171, fig. 7.3, pl. IV; Leeds, E.T., 1933, ‘Celtic Ornament in the British Isles down to AD 700’, Oxford, 150; Henry, F., 1940, ‘Irish Art in the Early Christian Period’, London, 69, pl. 27a; Haseloff, G., 1958, Fragments of a hanging-bowl from Bekesbourne, Kent, and some ornamental problems, ‘Medieval Archaeology’ 2, 74, pl. VIII.a; Henry, F., 1963, ‘L’Art Irlandais’, vol. I, Pierre-qui-Vire, 83; Fowler, E., 1968, Hanging-bowls, in J.M. Coles and D.D.A. Simpson (eds.), ‘Studies in Ancient Europe: Essays Presented to Stuart Piggott’, Leicester, 302; Vierck, H., 1970a, Cortina Tripodis: zu auffrängung und gebrauch subrömischer hängebecken aus Britannien und Irland, ‘Frühmittelalterliche Studien’ 4, 43, fig. 12.2; Laing, L.R., 1975,The mote of mark and the origins of Celtic interlace, ‘Antiquity’ 49, 105; Longley, D. 1975. ‘Hanging-bowls, Penannular Brooches and the Anglo-Saxon Connection’, BAR, BS 22, Oxford, 25, fig. 14j and fig. 15c; Kilbride-Jones, H.E., 1980b, Hanging-bowls in ‘Celtic Craftsmanship in Bronze’, London, fig. 88.8; Bruce-Mitford, R.L.S., 1987, Ireland and the hanging-bowls – a review, in M. Ryan (ed.), ‘Ireland and Insular Art AD 500-1200: Proceedings of a Conference at University College Cork, 31 October – 3 November 1985’, Dublin, 32; Brenan, J., 1991, ‘Hanging Bowls and their Contexts: An Archaeological Survey of their Socio-Economic Significance from the Fifth to Seventh centuries AD’, BAR British Series 220, Oxford,57, 244, cat. no. 40.Motif of a ram was used on an Irish postage stamp in 1967.

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  • Bibliography

    • Bruce-Mitford 2005 No. 43 bibliographic details
  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:

    2005 14 Mar-30 Oct, Woodbridge, The National Trust-Sutton Hoo Exhibition Centre, Hanging Bowls
    1970 12 Oct-22 Nov, London, Hayward Gallery, Celtic Art
    1970 22 Aug-12 Sep, Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Museum, Celtic Art

  • Conservation

    See treatments 

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1967

  • Acquisition notes

    Deposited on loan 1923.

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number

    1967,1004.1

Large bronze hanging-bowl with flat rim and four hook-escutcheons, circular, and one circular basal escutcheon. The hooks of the hook-escutcheons were cast with the frames. All the hooks are now missing. The frames are mostly missing but survive in the case of one hook-escutcheon and the basal escutcheon. It is plain, light and simple, the rest are broken away at the point of junction with the hook. Each circular hook-escutcheon is linked by a vertical applied band to an applied ring that surrounds the basal depression and each hook-escutcheon is flanked or extended by two axeblade shaped projections filled with a tightly interlacing pattern. On the upper part of the bowl, between each of these double axehead developments, are pairs of affronted birds with joining beaks, set on vertical stems, rising from a horizontal strip. Below each of these two-bird-carrying strips is another solitary bird, not supported, with folded wings and drooping head, and below this again a fan-tailed fish with straight, deeply rounded, almost tubular body balanced on top of a vertical strip and flanked by two stags. Apart from the affronted pair of balanced birds above their horizontal strip, all these animals, birds, and fish are shown as if moving together round the bowl to the right. The surface patterning is all executed in a kind of crude engraving. All the reserved metal areas into which the designs are cut are silvered, and the cut out and engraved background throughout is filled with red enamel:

Large bronze hanging-bowl with flat rim and four hook-escutcheons, circular, and one circular basal escutcheon. The hooks of the hook-escutcheons were cast with the frames. All the hooks are now missing. The frames are mostly missing but survive in the case of one hook-escutcheon and the basal escutcheon. It is plain, light and simple, the rest are broken away at the point of junction with the hook. Each circular hook-escutcheon is linked by a vertical applied band to an applied ring that surrounds the basal depression and each hook-escutcheon is flanked or extended by two axeblade shaped projections filled with a tightly interlacing pattern. On the upper part of the bowl, between each of these double axehead developments, are pairs of affronted birds with joining beaks, set on vertical stems, rising from a horizontal strip. Below each of these two-bird-carrying strips is another solitary bird, not supported, with folded wings and drooping head, and below this again a fan-tailed fish with straight, deeply rounded, almost tubular body balanced on top of a vertical strip and flanked by two stags. Apart from the affronted pair of balanced birds above their horizontal strip, all these animals, birds, and fish are shown as if moving together round the bowl to the right. The surface patterning is all executed in a kind of crude engraving. All the reserved metal areas into which the designs are cut are silvered, and the cut out and engraved background throughout is filled with red enamel:

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