Last week the Bamburgh Research Project was lucky enough to have a visit from Early Medieval gold filigree expert, Dr Niamh Whitfield.
Dr Whitfield visited the castle to look at the gold first hand and share her thoughts on the five pieces unearthed to date with Project Directors, Graeme Young and Gerry Twomey, plus myself, Jo Kirton.
Dr Whitfield was able to demonstrate through comparable archaeological material that the pieces that we have found at Bamburgh are typical of the 7th-8th century. For example, the famous Bamburgh Beast, unearthed by Brian Hope-Taylor in the 1970’s, has strong comparisons with objects from the Staffordshire hoard and images from the Book of Durrow.
The most recent piece of gold to be discovered at the castle (see above) has decorative techniques that appear on many examples of decorative gold work from this period, particularly the border patterns. However, it was noted that the swirling pattern is less regular than other known pieces including another example of gold filigree decoration unearthed in Trench 3 (see the picture below). However, the shape of the object – a half moon – was harder to place and requires further research to suggest a provenance for the mounting.
The piece below appears to be missing its centre mount, which Dr Whitfield believes would have been coloured glass. Again the form was hard to place but it does look comparable to the centre of some brooches.
Dr Whitfield intends to return to the project over the summer, so she can examine the gold under a microscope, which may provide further insight into the manufacturing techniques and the decorative design. It will also give us the opportunity to show her the trench in which these objects were discovered and who knows, we may have more to show her!