Kent Archaeological Review extract

Anglo-Saxon Seal Found near Sittingbourne.
by Robert Baxter.

Recently an important late-Saxon seal was found among some household effects by Mr S C Bryant of Murston, Sittingbourne. According to staff at the British Museum, the seal (Figure 1) is of carved walrus tusk ivory. It depicts a bearded warrior wielding a sword in his right hand. The inscription reads: SIGILL VM W VLFRICI+, the cross being above and to the left of the head. The flange above the face of the seal depicts what appears to be either a pair of fighting mythical beasts, or an 'amphisabaena' -- a two-headed monster which consumes itself.

PHOTO: Figure 1. Anglo-Saxon Deal.  Photo by courtesy of Christies Ltd.

Figure 1. Anglo-Saxon Deal. Photo by courtesy of Christies Ltd.

There are no exact parallels, but the object can be compared with the seal of GodwineSee Footnote [1] and a bronze seal of AelfricSee Footnote [2]. The epigraphy of the lettering indicates a dating of 10th or 11th Century.

Although there was an Abbot Walfric II of St Augustine's in Canterbury, the warlike attitude of the figure indicates that the seal did not relate to a man of the Church. It could have belonged to a thegn associated with the abbot's family living in the Canterbury area, although Wulfric occurred frequently as a name at that period.

The considerable patination of the seal indicates that it may have been carried as a talisman for a considerable time after the demise of the original owner. The damage to one side of the seal may represent the deliberate removal of some of the ivory, which in medieval times was valued for its medicinal properties.

The seal measures 5.5 centimetres by 3.7 centimetres and is now in private hands. Thanks are extended to Mr Bryant for the chance to inspect the seal and for communicating the information about it.


Footnote 1.

Tonnochy, A B, A Catalogue of British Seal Dies in the British Museum. Number 2,British Museum (1952) Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 2.

Wilson, D M, Catalogue of Late Saxon Ornamental Metalwork. Number 104. British Museum (1964). Return to the paragraph.
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