The Winfarthing treasure

Nationally significant Anglo-Saxon gold treasures have been saved for the nation after a successful fundraising appeal by Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery. The 7th-century AD gold and garnet jewellery, found by a local student while metal-detecting, will now go on display at the museum. The artefacts, from an Anglo-Saxon grave assemblage unearthed in Winfarthing near Diss, are valued at £145,050. The jewellery was discovered in 2014 by Tom Lucking, then a student at the University of East Anglia.

Realising that he had discovered an undisturbed grave, Lucking left the burial intact until it could be excavated by local archaeologists. He will share the treasure reward equally with the landowner. The excavation showed the grave to have been that of an aristocratic Anglo-Saxon woman who died circa AD 650–75. Her jewellery (right) included a large gold pendant inlaid with hundreds of tiny cloisonné-set garnets, forming interlacing beasts and geometrical shapes. A second necklace string comprised two gold beads, a gold cross pendant inlaid with delicate filigree wire and two pendants made of identical Merovingian coins from the reign of the French king Sigebert (circa AD 630–56). The cross shows she was probably among the earliest Anglo-Saxon converts to Christianity. A bronze bowl had been buried at her feet, along with an imported Continental pottery jar, a knife and a belt-hanger of bronze rings.

Senior Curator of Archaeology at Norwich Castle, Dr Tim Pestell, said: 'This find is an exceptional example of the type of jewellery restricted to a few women of high status in 7th-century England and is the female counterpart to the sort of male war-gear found in the Staffordshire Hoard and at Sutton Hoo. This burial can be linked with two other rich female graves from the early Kingdom of East Anglia, excavated at Harford Farm, Caistor-by-Norwich and Boss Hall near Ipswich. This raises the intriguing possibility that these ladies all knew one another in life and were quite possibly related.'

Lindsay Fulcher