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Actual find spot of the British museum Saxon jewel said to have come from Epsom

1994/2 p3


Actual find spot of the British Museum Saxon jewel said to have come from Epsom


There is a very fine Anglo-Saxon pendant in the British Museum which is item no.734 in the British Archaeological Report on Classical Cameos. The entry there reads as follows:–


Cameo Male head wearing Phrygian cap, face bearded. Garnet. 32 x 16 x 9mm. Set in a gold pendant of seventh century date (Anglo-Saxon). (For similar pendants cf (231) Canterbury, St. Martins and (634) Sibertswold). Epsom, Surrey. III London News. CCLVIII No. 6860 Archaeological Section no. 2352 (Jan. 23rd 1971), 31, pl. British Museum, Dept. of Medieval Antiquities. ? Sixth or seventh century AD. Probably a Byzantine import, compare with seventh century Byzantine coins (e.g. of Phocas). W. Wroth, Imperial Byzantine Coins in the British Museum (London 1908), 162 and pl. XX. A Cameo in Paris, Babelon Camées no.361, depicts Chosroes 11 and shows very similar treatment of the eyes.


It will be seen that its find spot is said to be Epsom. However, correspondence with Mrs. Webster, Deputy Keeper of Medieval and later Antiquities in that museum, has established that it was in fact found in Stoneleigh, not far from the line of Stane Street in 1931. It is thus only connected with Epsom in so far as Stoneleigh is in the modern Borough of Epsom and Ewell.


There is some doubt as to whether it was in undisturbed soil or in soil brought in to level up the garden where it was found. There are, therefore, two possibilities about its provenance. Either it was lost accidentally, or as a result of robbery, on Stane Street while that highway was still in use in early Saxon times, or it came from imported soil probably from the site of the Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Ewell, much of which was built over in the late 20s and early 30s, and could have been a source of top soil for garden improvements in the Ewell area. The British Museum incline to the view that it came from the Ewell cemetery, as it shows sign of having been worn. It is not likely to have been lost on Stane Street from a trader’s pack.


The establishment of provenance removes any possibility that this fine object can tell us anything about the early history of Epsom, but it probably adds to the importance of sub-Roman Ewell as a Saxon settlement.


Norman Nail

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