A medieval pendant, found by a metal detector in a field three years ago during a hailstorm, has been purchased by the Kent Archaeological Society (KAS).
The artifact, a gold and garnet cross pendant, was unearthed in February 2018 in a field in Elham, between Folkestone and Canterbury.
But it took three years to be verified, appraised and then offered to museums across the country – including Maidstone and the British Museum – before KAS struck a deal to secure the item.
The incomplete cross is said to have been carved out before entering the ground and is believed to date from the first half of the 7th century – shortly after Saint Augustine arrived in Kent in 597 AD.
Saint Augustine was sent to Britain by the Pope to convert the King of Kent, Ethelbert, to Christianity and away from Anglo-Saxon paganism. He will become the first Archbishop of Canterbury and his remains are buried in the city.
The pendant – which was digitally reinvented by Lloyd Bosworth, an expert in 3D modeling archaeological finds, to demonstrate what it would have looked like and how it could have been part of a necklace – has been given a four-digit value by experts .
It was inspected by experts from the British Museum in 2019 who form the Portable Antiquities Scheme which registers and values objects of historical significance.
However, they said they were “skeptical” that an initial estimate of £ 3,000 to £ 4,000 could be reached for such a small part of the cross – noting that “if the coin had been complete the coin would have been very commercially attractive ”.
While KAS and the article researcher did not disclose the final value he received or paid for, it is understood that it is lower than the article’s original estimate. He hopes to eventually exhibit it to the public.
It was originally unearthed by Paul Haigh of the Kent Searchers Metal Detecting Club who will share the money received with the landowner.
He said: “I was so thrilled to unearth this historic relic, during a hailstorm, I might add.
“I hope this can dispel the myth that we detectors are all ‘treasure hunters’ just for financial gain. I am so happy that KAS is now the keeper of this magical artifact.”
There has been great concern that many found objects are never officially reported and then sold on the open market.
KAS Honorary Curator Elizabeth Blanning added: “We are delighted to have been able to add this important item to our collection.
Considered a broken gem, it has only scrap value, but as an archaeological artifact it is an invaluable piece of history, helping to tell the story of the transition from paganism to Christianity in this corner of Great Britain.
“For archaeologists, treasure is not found in gold or jewelry, it is about what an object can teach us. What can he tell us about his owner? Who ordered it, who made it, what is it made of? What raw materials and what are the commercial connections that this implies?
“As archaeologists, we study people through the lens of the objects they leave behind.
“This beautiful object, but very damaged, contains a treasure of information.”
Kent’s Liaison Officer Jo Ahmet, to whom the discovery was first reported, added:
To me, however, upon studying many pieces from the early Middle Ages, it is evident that in addition to its apparent discarding, the central flat-topped circular garnet is likely to have come from a sixth-century coin, being a type of pruning little produced after the middle of the 6th century. It’s a fantastic snapshot, in one object, of the process of recycling and managing precious resources.
Elizabeth Blanning said it was a treat for KAS to get their hands on the article and allow further investigation.
She said: “My first reaction was ‘wow.’ My second was ‘what a pity she’s so damaged.’
“But if he was whole, we would never be able to afford it.”
The digital recreation of the object’s appearance has been informed by other artefacts found in the county, including a cross found at Thurnham, near Maidstone.
The KAS already has a large collection of objects from the High Middle Ages, mainly from the Anglo-Saxon cemeteries of Lyminge, Bifrons, near Canterbury and Saar. Much of it is on display at the Maidstone Museum.
When a treasure is discovered by metal detectors, they must report it to the local coroner within 14 days of its discovery – failure to do so can result in an unlimited fine or three months in jail.
Alternatively, if the object is not a treasure but is considered to be of historical or cultural significance, it should be reported to the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme.
A local “research liaison” will then contact the researcher and take receipt of the article. A report will then be filed as well as an estimate of the object delivered.
A value based on its condition and importance is then agreed upon by a panel of experts, and museums that have expressed an interest in the item may then agree to bear the cost and exhibit it.
And read here how a man found gold three times when he unearthed gold coins in a field a few miles north of his hometown.
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