Master craftsmanship

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By John Davisprimary school teacher and educational writer

The Anglo-Saxons were more than just fearsome warriers, they were highly skilled craftsmen whose wares ranged from the purely functional to the supremely decorative

Historical accounts often depict the Anglo-Saxons as brutal and blood thirsty raiders who stormed in from the North Sea. Yet, from the range of archaeological evidence that has been found, they were also cultured people who used their artistry and expertise to build houses and mills, make clothing, work with clay, produce exquisite jewellery and decorate hand-made books.

Jewellery

The Anglo-Saxons made jewellery for both practical and decorative purposes. Necklaces, rings, hairpins and bracelets were for adorning the body, while buckles, shoulder clasps and circular brooches fastened clothing such as cloaks (see the ‘Treasures of Sutton Hoo’ poster). Wealthy Anglo-Saxons owned custom-made items made from gold and silver and decorated with semi-precious stones. Poorer people wore bronze articles that were usually produced in large numbers from the same pattern. Many decorations were based on animals – particularly on elongated versions of their bodies, limbs, jaws and beaks. These are known as animals interlace.

Pottery and tools

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