Festival of Archaeology 2014: Katie Marsden on medieval finds and a World War I medal

By Ben Miller | 22 July 2014

More than 12,000 records have been created since the Portable Antiquities Scheme began in Essex in 2003. Katie Marsden, the county’s Finds Liaison Officer, narrows it down to two

A photo of two dark green archaeological discoveries
© Portable Antiquities Scheme
A medieval harness pendant

“I get to record all fascinating finds from all over Essex, including some from outside the county. They are diverse and can range from the Palaeolithic to the post-Medieval period, spanning approximately 500,000 years.

My favourite recent find is a Medieval harness pendant found in the parish of Blackmore, Hook End and Wyatts Green parish, Brentwood.

Pendants such as this would have made a pretty sight as they swung from the harnesses of horses, used by knights and nobles, as well as their retainers, between 1300 and 1500 AD.

This pendant is decorated with enamel and gilding which has suffered after 500 years in the soil.

However, enough remains to identify the design; a gold crown bisected with two gold arrows on a blue background.

Harness pendants often bear the coats of arms of the family to which the rider belonged or worked for.

Some designs, though, are made to look like official coats of arms while actually not representing a specific family or institution.

This design is an example of ecclesiastical arms, representing St Edmund, and is used by the Abbey at Bury St Edmunds.

This object interests me as it is a beautifully crafted object and the gilded motif would have shone when new.

It is also a visible remainder to passers by of the owner; a Medieval equivalent of an identification badge or company logo.

It is also fascinating that thanks to the national coverage that the Portable Antiquities Scheme provides, we can compare this object to an identical example found in Elmswell Parish, Mid Suffolk.

The location of these two finds suggest a link with the abbey at Bury St Edmunds. I’d like to think the owner of this example was on their way to London on ecclesiastical business when it fell from the horse, to be found 500 years later."

A photo of a circular dark green ancient medal
© Portable Antiquities Scheme
A German First World War medal

"With the anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War approaching, another interesting piece for me would be a German copper alloy medal, probably dating to around the time of the conflict.

The medal, found in Stanford-Le-hope West, Thurrock, bears the bust and honorific titles of the issuing monarch, now heavily worn and unrecognisable.

Unfortunately, as the medal is so corroded, it is now impossible to distinguish which monarch is featured on this example.

The reverse bears a circular wreath with the inscription DER TAPFERKEIT, which translates as 'to the bravery’.

I usually only record finds that date before 1700 AD, but I will make exceptions for interesting or unusual objects.

It is easy to remember the British and Commonwealth cost of World War I, but finds like this should make us stop and think about the human cost on all sides. It is also interesting to imagine how this medal came to be found in Essex soil.”

  • Katie Marsden will be running a festival event, Money Money Money!, at Colchester Castle on July 23 from 1pm-3pm. If you find an item of potential Treasure or an archaeological object in the Essex region, email Katie at Katie.marsden@colchester.gov.uk. The Festival of Archaeology runs until July 27 2014, visit archaeologyfestival.org.uk.

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More from Culture24's coverage of the Festival of Archaeology:

The story of an early Bronze Age lunula found in Dorset

Roman gold, a medieval matrix and an amulet in Cornwall

Roman gold coins and daggers of war in the west
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