Extra! An eighth-century drinking horn terminal from Lambeth

I have it on good authority that this find is not from Lambeth, but somewhere else on the Middlesex bank of the Thames. Even so, I don’t have the heart to delete this post, so try and enjoy it in terms of the artefact, not its supposed provenance…

Putting together my poster for the Thames Discovery Programme was inevitably a bit of a rushed job. In the run-up to presenting on the same material and more in Aberdeen, I thought I should try to get to the bottom of exactly what has been found at each of the three Thames-side hyth sites I’ve focused on. I knew that Putney has a whole bunch of finds from the fourth to seventh centuries, and that Rotherhithe is the provenance for a eighth/ninth-century pin (and, it turns out, a piece of contemporary pottery), but for some reason I thought Lambeth was a coin-only site. Just as well I checked the PAS database, for it had a very pleasant surprise waiting for me…

This entry for an eighth-century drinking horn terminal found on the foreshore at Lambeth really doesn’t need me to add anything more in terms of discussion of the artefact itself – I can’t remember having seen another one in which so many experts have gone to such great length in assessing its origins and character. I will say two fairly general things about it. First, it’s pretty clear that this is an object without known parallel in England (and really the British Isles) at the present time, meaning the question of whether it is Anglo-Saxon or Irish in style/manufacture is something which cannot be settled conclusively one way or the other. Second, when this is allied with its rough dating – which I don’t doubt for a second is correct – and its find-spot, there seems to me to be a more or less equal chance that it came to Lambeth as an internationally or inter-regionally imported item, or that it is yet another example of mislaid Viking-era loot brought from a raided monastery or high-status secular site.

What I do know is that it is a valuable non-numismatic artefactual indicator of the importance of Lambeth in the Middle Anglo-Saxon period, and is perfectly consistent with the picture I had built up of the place in my work prior to learning of the terminal’s existence. I’m very glad that I do know about it now, for it means I can go up to Scotland and speak about Lambeth and its fellow Thamesian hyths with even more confidence in their importance as the points of exchange for both prosaic and much more unusual goods before, during and after the eighth century.

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