Mike Austin, was channel 4’s archaeologist on Time Team has sadly died at age 66 and after 18 year on time team! He was know for his jaunty knitwear and his crazy, unruly white hair. He’s worked in archaeology for
over 40 years and has a particular passion for anything medieval and monastic.
During time team there were 230 episodes in 20 years! Now that’s a lot of discovery’s to be made right? But why am I talking about the time team what has that got to do with Gold and Silver? Well Mike Austin has a passion for Anglo Saxon gold jewellery and he spread that passion through the whole of the time team! Maybe its was his passion that helped them to discover what they did?
Firstly a bit of background on Anglo Saxons
The Anglo Saxons were a population in Britain who partly descended from a Germanic Tribe, who migrated from continental Europe. The Anglo Saxons ruled Britain for around 600 years. The first ever recorded Anglo Saxon to arrive and make a settlement was in AD449. A monk called Bede wrote about the arrival of the Saxons in AD731.
So there’s a bit of background about the Anglo Saxons! So why am I talking about them? Well… in November 2009 a 55 year old man, somewhere in Staffordshire unearthed some Anglo Saxon gold and got it valued! How much did he get it valued from?
The gold had an inscription in Latin saying: “Rise up O lord, and may thy enemies be dispersed and who hate thee be driven from thy face.”
Now that’s quite cool is it not? But you can imagine a strong minded archaeologist who loves Anglo Saxon thought well that’s and him and his partner Tony Robinson went out on the hunt for some Anglo Saxon gold! So 2 years later on the 13th February 2011 they went looking for some gold jewellery
Where do you ask? The archaeologists went to Leicestershire to investigate life and death in Anglo Saxon Britain. The Team are intrigued by metal detecting finds and pottery scattered across the fields, which suggest they’re on the site of a high-status Anglo Saxon burial ground. This brings hope as you can imagine? In history we learn that many people century’s ago people were buried will there riches.
By the end of the first day there’s no sign of a cemetery, in spite of the evidence. But all that changes the next morning with a flurry of activity revealing burials, cremations and a glimpse of gold. Which you can imagine was very exciting for the archaeologists! So the day was made up of frantic digging which revealed every type of Anglo Saxon burial – and perhaps the finest piece of jewellery ever discovered on Time Team.
So gold has always been a treasure so so long! In Anglo Saxon period gold was still a treasure but I wasn’t used as a currency/money and didn’t particularly signify wealth. Gold was used in a lot of jewellery. The time team found a fore-arm broach in an female Anglo Saxon burial which was made from gold and is very rare to find as it was only the fourth one found in Britain. They also discovered that the burial was a double grave of a man and woman. They found a gold top spear and a shield that lined with gold which would be worth a lot of money considering it was only lined !
The most recent and largest finding of Anglo Saxon gold was in the Staffordshire hoard. The folded cross is one of the few non-warfare related items found in the Staffordshire Hoard. This weighed 140.21g and was made purely from gold!
This blog was in remembrance of Mike Austin who sadly passed last week. R.I.P
- Gold under Glass: Exploring the History of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology through Artefacts (howardwilliamsblog.wordpress.com)
- Sutton Hoo: Travel back in time to 600AD for Anglo-Saxon festival (eadt.co.uk)
- Bede, Burials, and Bamburgh: Testing Anglo-Saxon Migration (agnosis1975.wordpress.com)