Kingston Down Grave 142
online resourceposted on 10.11.2021, 15:31 by Helena HamerowHelena Hamerow
Tumulus and grave much as the last. The bones were very much decayed; the coffin was very much burnt, and seemed to have been very thick and strong. Near the neck were found twelve amethyst drops of ear-rings (or perhaps they were only beads), as at No. 6, etc.: no less than eighty-six beads, great and small: a golden ornament for the neck [M 6273]; in it is set a fine garnet: another ornament for the neck [M 6272], in shape exactly like the last mentioned; it is of silver, and in it is set a purplish stone, or perhaps a piece of glass: two small silver crosses [M 6271]; when they were found, they consisted each of a front and back, which were set in a little thin frame of the same metal; the fronts were wrought and gilded, as I have endeavoured to express them; the back was plain; the space between the front and back was filled up with some cement which, on its growing dry, fell into powder; the frames of both were so rotten that they parted from the crosses as soon as taken out of the ground. Surely these crosses are a sufficient proof that the person here deposited was a Christian! With these were two slender silver rings, with sliding knots, like those before mentioned and described: a small gilded silver pin, with a flatted head and an hole in it; it is about three-quarters of an inch long: a small gilt silver ring, on which were strung, by an hole at one end, a silver ear-picker [M 6275] and another instrument of silver, a little broken. These little instruments are each of them one inch and three-quarters long, and are gilded. A largish green bead on a small silver ringle [M 6274]; this bead has a remarkably strong smell. At the feet, and on the outside of the coffin, were the remains of a wooden box; it appeared to have been, at least, about fourteen inches square; its depth could not be guessed at; it had two brass hinges [M 6291 & M 6291 A], in each of which were six brass rivets, each about three-quarters of an inch long, at the place where it was clenched, which shews the exact thickness of the box; it had twelve brass clasps, or corner pieces, like those described at No. 121: an iron handle for the lid, much like that described at No. 26, but somewhat larger; and an iron hasp; as at No. 26. This box contained the following and very odd and curious particulars, viz., a very fine and large ivory comb [M 6276]: a brass armilla, or bracelet [M 6280]; a flat and broad bead of baked earth [M 6281]; an ivory armilla, or bracelet [M 6277]: the bone of some animal (not unlike what we call the cramp bone of a sheep) strung upon a brass ringle [M 6279]; a slender silver ring with a sliding knot, as before; a fish's shell, called by the naturalists concha Veneris, or the porcelain shell [M 6289]. This one article would, I think, afford matter for a very learned and curious dissertation, if, as I have been informed, they are to be found only in the East Indies; for, we have great reason to suppose, that the Romans had but little acquaintance with that part of the globe. But I have not yet had an opportunity of fully satisfying myself whether they are only to be found there, or whether they may not also be met with in other parts of the world. I make no doubt, however, but that it was looked upon by the lady here deposited (for a female it certainly was, and a very curious one too, if we may judge from the many curiosities interred with her); I make no doubt, I say, but that this shell was looked upon by her as a very great curiosity. Here were also a small brass buckle, much like that I have described at No. 129: a piece of some blue stone [M 6286]: a piece of resinous substance; it is of a very dark green colour, not much unlike black resin; it has of itself no smell; but on breaking off a little bit of it, not bigger than the head of a middling pin, and laying it on an hot poker, it immediately melted, smoked very much, and sent forth a very strong and rather suffocating, but by no means an unpleasant, smell. In this box were also the blades of three knives: one other blade of a very slender knife [M 6278], in a very thin brass sheath, which appears to have been covered with wood; at the end next the strig was a broadish brass ferrule. This article was broken in getting out; however, the pieces put together made up the figure. The strig was broken off and lost. A pair of iron shears [M 6288]; they are six inches and a half long; a piece of silver like an hasp or catch [M 6282]; it is seven-eighths of an inch long; a piece of fossil substance, called by naturalists a screw [M 6284]; a piece of a brass instrument [M 6283], very like one described at No. 50; it was in the midst of a mass composed of small iron links of a chain, as often before; an hook, about eight inches long, with a loose ringle at one end; another iron instrument, of about the same length, and exactly like that described at No. 54; another iron instrument, five inches and three-quarters long [M 6287]; and an ivory bead [M 6285]. Here were also many other bits of iron and several long nails. Certainly a woman's grave.These cross-shaped ornaments can only be looked upon as personal decorations, which show the incluence of Christianity in the artistic application of its chief emplem, the cross; but we have no right to assume that they were worn as badges of the new faith. Similar cruciform ornaments have been found with Saxon sepulchral remains in other parts of England; but more frequently in Kent. In such cases, as well as in the instance before us, they have been accompanied and surrounded by such evidence of pagan practices, that we can regard them only as ornaments.- C.R.S.It will be noticed that many of the graves of females contained indications of coffers or boxes, in which some of the more precious or fragile objects had been inclosed. This is another instance of the accordance between the funeral ceremonies of the Saxons and Romans.- C.R.S.This is one of the large Indian cowries classed by Linn√¶us under the generic name of Cypræa. They were brought from the East by the Romans and, together with other kinds of Indian shells, are not unfrequcntly found with Roman remains. The more beautiful kinds of sea-shells have, doubtless from remote antiquity, been often used as personal ornaments and as amulets, and hoarded as objects of curiosity. In Africa, the small cowries are at the present day used as a medium of traffic. Douglas, who has engraved this very shell, classes it with the Ithyphallica of the ancients, and refers to the use of shells by the Romans, and by the lower class in the neighbourhood of Naples, at the present day, as amulets and charms. These customs are well known; but they do not seem to explain the presence of the Indian shell in the Saxon grave, which may, probably, be more simply and naturally accounted for by viewing it as ornament either personal or domestic.- C.R.S. A middle sized tumulus; grave about 3 feet deep. Skeleton much decayed, feet to east. Coffin much 'burnt' and thick and strong.Near neck: 12 amethyst beads, 80 beads great and small, kite-shaped gold garnet pendant, kite-shaped electrum and glass pendant, 2 electrum crosses, 2 slender silver rings with sliding knots, small gilded pin (silver) with hole in flattened head, small gilt silver ring threaded with 2 silver ear-pickers, large green bead on small silver ringle.At feet, outside coffin: Remains of wooden box (at least 34 inch square) - 2 bronze hinges each with bronze rivets, 12 bronze clasps or corner pieces, iron handle, iron hasp.Contents of box: large ivory comb, bronze bracelet, flat bead of clay, ivory ring, animal bone on bronze ring, silver ring with sliding knot, cowrie shell, small bronze buckle, piece of blue stone, piece of resinous substance, 3 knives, blade of slender knife in thin bronze sheath (with bronze ferrule), pair of iron shears, silver catch, fossil 'screw', bronze suspension device for chatelaine (with iron links of chain), key with loose ringle, another iron instrument, bolt of lock, ivory bead, bits of iron, several nails.
Date excavated26th July, 1771
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