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Anglo-Saxon artefact uncovered in Bamburgh dig

Anglo-Saxon artefact found in Bamburgh goes on display. Credit: Bamburgh Research Project

Anglo-Saxon artefact found in Bamburgh goes on display.

An intricately decorated copper bird mount, found during a dig last year at Bamburgh Castle is to go on display at the castle.

The castle, that was once the palace site of the early medieval kings of Northumbria, has found a decorated copper alloy bird mount, that archaeologists describe as 'a marvellous new find of national significance'.

The fragment is small, 23mm by 12mm, but decorated with an intricate image of a bird, characteristic of early medieval North European art.

The discovery was part of the Bamburgh Research Project’s summer excavation last year.

It has since been undergoing careful conservation to reveal the intricately decorated artefact.

Initial comments by experts suggest the bird mount is unique, with no direct parallels. It is likely to be 8th century in date.

Experts say the new image appears to resemble bird of prey motifs of the 6th and 7th centuries AD and could represent a descendant of these earlier styles.

The fragment is small, 23mm by 12mm, but decorated with an intricate image of a bird Credit: Bamburgh Research Project

Bamburgh Research Project Director, Graeme Young, said:

Tthe find was recovered from a cobbled surface at the base of a narrow trench towards the end of the 2016 excavation season.

The layers above date to the 9th century, before the time of Alfred the Great and the before York became the Viking town of ‘Yorvik’, 100 years before there was a single kingdom of England.

At this time there were a number of smaller kingdoms and Northumbria was one of these.

The palace fortress of Bamburgh was one of the most important places in the kingdom and we have evidence of metal working, probably associated with the production of arms and armour for the warriors of the royal court in our excavation.

In summer 2017 we will continue our investigations of the find spot and we hope to discover if it represents an earlier period of metal working or some other activity.

At the moment our investigation of this horizon is at such an early stage we are unsure if the find came from within a building or from a yard surface or path where it may have been dropped.

We are very much looking forward to getting back on site and continuing our excavations. Who knows what other finds await us this summer!’

– Graeme Young

Francis Armstrong and his son Will, owners of Bamburgh Castle:

The Bird is a spectacular discovery.

It is a beautiful artefact and we are proud that it has been found here at Bamburgh.

Finds like this help us to connect with the Castle's history and it is wonderful when we get the opportunity to display these ancient wonders so our visitors can enjoy them close up. We are grateful for the work the BRP do here at the Castle and we have a great time working with them unearthing the stories that Bamburgh Castle has to tell’.

– Francis Armstrong

The bird will be on display at Bamburgh castle, open 10.00am to 5pm until 29 October

Bamburgh Castle Credit: PA