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Circular gold repoussé pendant with a beaded wire rim and ribbed suspension loop, below which is a beaded wire strip and three collared granules in triangular formation. Two plain and two beaded concentric ridges surround an equal-armed cross, on each arm is a human face-mask with beard and moustache, facing the centre, which contains a spotted quatrefoil knot. The spaces between the arms each have a two-strand interlace triquetra.
- Excavated/Findspot: Ash
- (Europe,United Kingdom,England,Kent,Ash (Kent))
- Diameter: 3.4 centimetres (including the loop)
Webster & Backhouse 1991
Repoussé disc-shaped pendants of this type with Style II decoration are found in a number of female graves, mostly in Kent, and represent an Insular development of the Scandinavian bracteates imported into England during the sixth century. Face-masks appear on various sixth-century brooch types in purely pagan contexts, but here the cruciform arrangement may well have a Christian significance, and recalls similar bearded heads on Lombardic gold foil crosses (Speake 1980, fig. 12k).
An amuletic rather than a purely decorative function for this piece is likely and the ambiguous iconography with its mixture of Christian and pagan motifs reflects the duality of belief current in the period immediately following the Conversion.
Select bibliography: Smith, R.A. 1923, ‘A Guide to the Anglo-Saxon and Foreign Teutonic Antiquities in the Department of British and Mediaeval Antiquities, British Museum’, London, 57, pl. III no. 1; Jessup, R., 1950, ‘Anglo-Saxon Jewellery’, London, 122, pl. XXIX no. 9; Speake, G. 1980, ‘Anglo-Saxon Animal Art and its Germanic Background’, Oxford, 70, pl. 130, fig. 12j.
2016 11 Mar- 25 Sep, Edinburgh, National Museum of Scotland, Celts. PROMISED
2013 26 Jul-16 Oct, Germany, Paderborn, Diozesanmuseum, Christianisation of Medieval Europe
Britain, Europe and Prehistory
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Object reference number: MCS8273
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