Gold buckle

Gold buckle

Date first half of 7th century

Movement Early Medieval

Medium Gold

Length 5.25″

Provenance Sutton Hoo ship burial

Housed at The British Museum


As in cultures before them, the Anglo-Saxons buried important persons with their personal effects. Found at the Sutton Hoo ship burial amongst a horde of military gear and treasures, it is thought to have belonged to King Raedwald; it is unclear if a human body was buried with the gear or if the site was more of a monument. Metalworkers employed, intricately, the Germanic animal style here (that originated, in fact, in Iran), with serpents and eagles interweaving amongst themselves across the buckle’s face; while Graeco- Roman artists freely used negative space to add depth and perspective to a work, here we see the opposite, possibly for “fear of empty space” (horror vacui).