Archaeology South-East


Finds Officer Favourites: Elke’s top finds from ASE's NEW book on Excavations at Lewes

24 November 2023

ASEs 'NEW book ‘Between The Twittens: From Iron Age Origins To Burh and Borough. Excavations in Lewes, East Sussex’ is out now! Join Finds Officer Elke for a peek into the monograph as she highlights her favourite artefacts from the excavations and why she is so fond of them…

Front cover of a book called “Between The Twittens: From Iron Age origins to burh and borough. Excavations in Lewes, East Sussex”, by Dan Swift. Inset is a pink and green historic map of Lewes.

"The finds assemblage from Lewes was particularly interesting to work on because it is still the only sizeable medieval group found in East Sussex, and it gives a great – and rare - insight into the medieval people of Lewes."

"One of the most interesting finds is a small copper-alloy disc brooch with red and white champlevé (enamel) decoration showing the stylised bust of a saint. This type of brooch is called ‘heiligenfibeln’, literally Saint-brooch, and is common especially in Germany. It is very rare in England with only a handful of examples known, including one in Billingsgate, and it is definitely an imported item, possibly dating to the 9th century. A brooch like this raises questions - was it was brought in by a foreign visitor or immigrant, or brought back by an influential, wealthy local? While these may never be answered, a small object such as this does evoke a world which was much better connected than we often realise, where people did travel far and wide."

A composite image showing photographs and illustrations of a round brooch. The brooch is around 2cm in diameter and features red and white enamel decoration on the front. The back of the brooch features two raised pieces for the fastening.

"At the other end of this scale are objects in animal bone, some made by specialist craftspeople, but many made by individuals almost on an ad hoc basis, perhaps in the evening by the fireside. Examples of objects from Lewes include a flute, spindlewhorls and a ‘buzz-bone’. One of my favourite objects however are bone pin-beaters, used by their owner(s) to separate threads whilst weaving. They are often highly polished through extensive and perhaps daily usage, and it is this tangible link to their past use that makes them such lovely objects. An especially nice and complete example shows simple ring-and-dot decoration. It dates to the 10th to 13th century."

A bone pin-beater, approximately 7cm long, 1cm wide and flat in cross section. It tapers to a curved point at one end and is flatter at the other. A black outline illustration highlights the decoration includes three small rings of concentric circles.
"A horse metapodial used as a skate is another favourite. The contact surface is worn, showing that it has seen some action. It is incomplete, so it is unclear whether originally it had perforations. The latter were optional though, as bindings are not essential on bone skates.. It would have been very simple to make, and could have been made by the same person who used it. With the winter season nearly here and ice rinks soon to be set upon, this skate is one of those timeless objects, making it easy to relate to Lewes inhabitants long ago. The skate from Lewes dates to the later 11th or early 12th century."
An archaeological bone skate, approximately 20cm long and 3cm in diameter, fashioned from a single bone. A second photo of the side profile shows the bone has been shaped to be slightly upturned and pointed at one end.
If Elke’s top finds have piqued your interest in our Lewes excavations you can buy the monograph here: https://onlinestore.ucl.ac.uk/product-catalogue/faculty-of-social-historical-sciences-c03/archaeology-south-east-f31/f31-between-the-twittens-from-iron-age-origins-to-burh-borough-excavations-in-lewes-east-sussex