Dorset Museum acquires rare gold and rock crystal pendant dating to the 6th or 7th century

March 16, 2023

Milton Abbas Pendant (c) Mark North 2023

Dorset Museum is delighted to announce that it has acquired a rare gold and rock crystal pendant dating to the 6th or 7th century AD.

The pendant was found in 2019 by metal detectorists Charles Bullock and Stuart Robinson near Milton Abbas in Dorset. After the finders reported the find to the Dorset Council Finds Liaison Officer, the pendant was declared Treasure and valued at £10,000. Dorset Museum was then offered the opportunity to purchase the pendant.

The pendant is of a type unknown in Dorset, and rare elsewhere. No exact parallel could be found by specialists at the British Museum. The composite construction is unusual, with echoes of manufacturing methods spanning the late Roman and early medieval periods. Objects of this period are very rare in Dorset, which lay to the west of a probable line of contact between the western British kingdoms and people to the east who introduced or adopted more Germanic styles, modes of dress, and objects.

A finely made and beautiful object, the pendant is sub-triangular in form and consists of a gold frame that encloses a slightly bi-convex piece of rock crystal. The frame is constructed from a gold sheet, with rectangular strips along each upper edge and sub-triangular sheets on the front and back with an aperture cut to house the rock crystal. The gold frame is decorated with strands of gold beaded wire.

This unusual and special object was probably worn by someone of high status who had connections far beyond the place where it was found. These types of objects often come from graves and it is possible that it originally was part of a burial but displaced over the centuries by agriculture.

Dorset Museum received significant grants from the ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, and the Headley Museums Archaeological Acquisition Fund in order to purchase the object. Around £2,000 of donations were also received from local people after the Museum appealed to the Milton Abbas community for support. As well as contributions from around 16 individual donors, the Museum also received grants from the Milton Abbas Street Fair Trust and Milton Abbas Trust for Community Heritage.

The Museum is planning to display the item in their People’s Dorset gallery, along with other finds from the Early Medieval period, in the next few months.

Elizabeth Selby, Interim Director of Dorset Museum said:

“We are thrilled to have been able to acquire this rare and special item for the Museum’s collections. It would not have been possible without the contributions from trusts and foundations, and the generosity of the Milton Abbas community who enthusiastically got behind the campaign to raise the remaining amount needed. We cannot thank them enough.”

Ciorstadh Hayward Trevarthen, Finds Liaison Officer for Dorset Council said:

“This exceptional object was reported by the finders as potential treasure through the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme, and it is important that the Dorset Museum was able to acquire it as a result of the process.”

Bryan Phillips, a member of Milton Abbas Local History Group said:

“The Milton Abbas Local History Group was proud to help in a small way the fundraising efforts of the Dorset Museum to save this fabulous object for posterity and keep it in Dorset. Two local charities gave grants and many history group members gave private donations. The pendant adds enormously to our knowledge of the history of this amazing place, but also raises many more questions which we would love to have answers to. We can’t wait to see the pendant on display in Dorset Museum.”

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