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Bowl Back to Its Roots

Over 75 years after its original discovery, the 'Winchester hanging bowl' is coming back to the city for a special display at Winchester Guildhall.

In August 1930, local archaeologist W J Andrew was excavating at Oliver's Battery, a few miles south-west of Winchester, to try to discover the origins of the earthworks. However, he encountered a totally unexpected find - the grave of a young Anglo-Saxon man who had been buried with a javelin, a short hunting sword or 'seax' and a beautiful bronze bowl. The bowl, decorated with spiral red enamel designs, and with suspension hooks and fittings in the form of aquatic birds, proclaims the Anglo-Saxon man's high social status, perhaps even that of royalty.

Hampshire County Council, the landowner, gave the finds on loan to the British Museum for safekeeping, where they have been on display for the last 75 years. A replica bowl was commissioned and is on display in the City Museum.

Experts, noting similarities in decorative style between the bowl and Irish illuminated manuscripts, believe the bowl may have been made in Ireland in the late 7th century AD or perhaps commissioned from an Irish craftsman.

The return of the bowl to Winchester marks the culmination of the Oliver's Battery Community Heritage project, a partnership between local residents and Winchester City Council's museums service, designed to research the archaeology and history of Oliver's Battery parish. Winchester Museums secured the loan of the bowl and the seax for a three month period, from now until January 2007. The javelin is now too fragile to display.

Helen Rees, Curator of Archaeology at Winchester Museums, is thrilled to have been able to negotiate the loan. She said, "It is fitting that these beautiful Anglo-Saxon artefacts are, for the first time, on display close to their place of discovery. They underline the importance of the Winchester area in the Anglo-Saxon period. I would like to extend our warmest thanks to colleagues at Hampshire County Council and the British Museum for making it all possible."

Cllr Patricia Stallard, Winchester City Council's Portfolio Holder for Culture, Heritage and Sport, stated, "I am really pleased that these special Winchester finds are on show at the Guildhall and readily accessible to local people. It's a wonderful opportunity for them to come along and see the real thing."

The bowl and seax will be on display at the entrance to Winchester Guildhall Gallery from Monday 4 September 2006 to Monday 8 January 2007.

All matters Anglo-Saxon will be the theme of Winchester Museums Christmas Lecture which will be given by Professor Barbara Yorke of the University of Winchester at the Guildhall on Wednesday 13 December. For further information on this lecture please ring Winchester Museums on 01962 848 269 or visit , email:  

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