Book Reviews [Treasure Hunting, August 2010, Page 80]
Wayland's Work: Art, Myth & Material Culture From The 4th To 7th Century
If you presently take what you hope might be 4th-7th century finds along to a local club meeting where you show them to a Finds Liaison Officer; and if you go home satisfied with whatever descriptions and dates he/she assigns to your discoveries ... well, you will not need to spend your hard-earned cash on a copy of this book. If, on the other hand, you are the sort of detectorist who takes pride in showing your discoveries to a Finds Liaison Officer and informing him/her that they are indeed Anglo-Saxon; and backing your statement with a clear and accurate description and dating slot that leaves the FLO wide-eyed with admiration, then you MUST add a copy of Wayland's Work to your bookshelf.
It will set you back a hefty £70 (+p&p) - reflecting the authors' eight years of academic study and archaeological interpretation, of text creating and refining, of picture researching and unremitting slog to bring the finished work to publication - to provide you, the reader, with an astounding storehouse of knowledge. The book will rapidly improve your ability to identify, describe, date (and, if you wish, to place values on) your pre-Christian AS finds. That knowledge will probably add several times the cover price to a number of pieces in your finds bag within a single detecting season.
You might expect a book of these proportions - 542 large pages of text, colour plates and line drawings - to encompass the entire gamut of Anglo-Saxon culture. Yet surprisingly the authors have largely concentrated on styles of decorative art as they appeared on some smaller personal items such as dress fittings, weapons, tools and tableware ... the ideal subject matter for detectorists because most of our AS finds fall into those very categories.
An introductory chapter discusses the sources on which the authors have drawn, leading to a section which explains the concept of styles in art ... about how styles change and develop over time ... and what the changes can tell us about the societies that used them. In the next section the various Germanic art styles of the late Iron Age to the Christian conversion are considered, followed by a most enlightening section on the people who designed and produced the artefacts: who they were; how they worked; what tools and techniques were at their disposal; who paid for their products; and how they were distributed.
Section IV - headed Wondrous Works - and described by the authors as "almost a summary catalogue of artefact types with notes on dating and dispersal" is one to which I know that detectorist readers will return again and again to compare their own finds with what is described and illustrated in this section. Let me give you a mouth-watering taste by doing no more than listing the sub-headings under Metal Artefacts: animal brooches, bird brooches, annular brooches, quoit brooches, penannular brooches, bow brooches, cruciform bow brooches, equal-arm brooches, disc-on-bow brooches, radiate-headed bow brooches, small-long brooches, square-headed bow brooches, great square-headed bow brooches, cross brooches, cast disc brooches, button brooches, keystone brooches, composite disc brooches, openwork disc brooches, saucer brooches, s-brooches, supporting arm brooches, tutulus brooches, buckles and belt fittings, belt buckle typology, studs, strap-ends, baldrics, Sutton Hoo great buckles, Taplow great buckles, the Mucking belt set, high-status clasps, purse lids, wrist clasps, spears and angons, sword fittings and scabbards, sword rings and beads, sword pyramids, scabbard fittings, seaxes and knives, shield fittings, repoussť plates, hanging bowls, Coptic bowls, drinking vessels, drinking horns, pendants, bracteates, gold foils, animal pendants, weapon pendants, disc pendants, coin pendants, figurine pendants, bucket pendants, beads, belt rings, bracelets and arm-rings, chatelaines, latch-lifters, girdle-hangers, coins, combs, ear-rings, finger rings, harness and bridle mounts, neck-rings, padlocks, pins, purse mounts, fire-steels, pyxides, spoons, spurs, tags, thread, toilet sets, tools, weaving equipment. I'll add here that non-metallic artefacts receive equally exhaustive treatment in the same section. And that news of the stunning discoveries unearthed by the detectorist who brought to light the Staffordshire Hoard reached the authors in time for discussion of that material, along with photographs of some of the pieces, to be included in the book.
By now you will have begun to appreciate the enormous wealth of knowledge and information acquired when you hand over the cover price. And there's so much more to study and admire, even for readers who simply leaf through and enjoy the book's superb illustrations. But if the text thus far fires your desire to learn more you could find yourself enjoying Section V even more. Here the authors offer explanations of the underlying symbolism and what the various motifs exhibited on the artefacts were meant to display when worn, used and seen. You will look in future with greater enlightenment at every AS find that comes your way having studied those pages.
The authors comment as their foreword closes: "The reader who studies the material presented cannot fail to be impressed by the skill and craftsmanship of the early Anglo-Saxons, their flair for design and their technical brilliance." As a reviewer of Wayland's Work,those are the very words I would use to comment on this work of Brett Hammond, Lindsey Kerr and Stephen Pollington.
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