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Wuffing Education

The Franks’ Casket: Exploring an Anglo-Saxon Enigma

The Franks’ Casket (British Museum)

with Leslie Webster FSA

at the Old Court, Sutton Hoo (map)
on Saturday 19th June, 2010.

Since its rediscovery in the nineteenth century, this whale bone box, now one of the British Museum's great treasures, has intrigued and puzzled scholars. Carved and constructed in northern England in the eighth century AD, its lid and sides carry lively scenes drawn from Germanic and Roman legends and Jewish and Christian history, and are accompanied by texts in both Old English and Latin and written in both runic and Roman alphabet.
With the earliest recognised versions of famous Germanic legends, the longest runic texts and the earliest examples of narrative art from Anglo-Saxon England, it provides a unique window onto the early medieval world.
The four sessions will unpick the fascinating meaning, function and history of this extraordinary icon of Anglo-Saxon culture.

Provisional Programme
  10.00 Coffee on arrival  
  10.15 Discovery and Description The discovery of the casket in the nineteenth century – a tangled tale of lost and found; a description of the casket, its construction and its chequered life.  
  11.15 Coffee  
  11.45 Unlocking the box How to read it, and what it means; Germanic mythology and Christian exegesis working together.  
  12.45 Lunch break  
  14:00 Where, When and Why A Northumbrian origin? For whom was it made, and why?  
  15:00 Tea break  
  15:15 Aftermath; and more riddles When and why did it come to be in France? Where was it in the centuries before its discovery, and what purpose did it have then?  
  16:15 Close  

About Leslie Webster FSA

Honorary Professor, Institute of Archaeology, University College, London, Honorary President, Society for Medieval Archaeology, and Former Keeper, Department of Prehistory and Europe, British Museum, London.

Leslie Webster was Keeper of the Department of Prehistory and Europe at the British Museum from 2002-2007. She has written and lectured widely on Anglo-Saxon and related early medieval subjects, including co-authoring the catalogues of four major exhibitions on the Early Medieval period which she co-organised (The Golden Age of Anglo-Saxon Art 966-1066, The Work of Angels, The Making of England AD 600-900, and Heirs of Rome). Her popular book on The Franks Casket is due to be published by the British Museum in August 2010 (price a very modest £5.00!), and, when she is not speaking on the Staffordshire Hoard, she is currently working on a book on Anglo-Saxon art.

Some suggestions for further reading
(useful but not essential)

Abels, R., ‘The Franks Casket and the Acculturation of Christianity in Early Anglo-Saxon England’, Speculum 84 (3) 2009, 549-581.
Ball, C.J.E., The Franks Casket: Right Side’, English Studies 47 (1966) 1-8 [ground-breaking discussion of the encrypted text].
Elliott, R.W.V. Runes (second edition), (Manchester 1989) 123-39.
Caygill, M., ’ “Some recollection of me when I am gone”: Franks and the Early Medieval Archaeology of Britain and Ireland’, in M.Caygill & J. Cherry (eds.), Augustus Wollaston Franks, Nineteenth-Century Collecting and the British Museum (London 1997) 160-83 [sources for the acquisition by BM].
Marquardt, H., Bibliographie der Runeninschriften nach Fundorten, 1, Die Runeninschriften der Britischen Inseln (Göttingen 1961) [comprehensive bibliography for the casket to 1961].
Napier A.S., ‘The Franks Casket’ in An English Miscellany presented to Dr. Furnivall (Oxford 1901) 362-81 [balanced interpretation of the inscriptions].
Neumann de Vegvar, Carol, ‘Reading the Franks Casket: Context and Audiences’ in V. Blanton and H. Scheck (eds.), Intertexts: Studies in Anglo-Saxon Culture Presented to Paul E. Szarmach, (Tempe 2008) 141-59 [valuable discussion of wisdom literature in relation to the casket].
Neumann de Vegvar, Carol, ‘The Travelling Twins: Romulus and Remus in Anglo-Saxon England’ in J. Hawkes & S. Mills (eds.), Northumbria’s Golden Age (Stroud 1999) 256-67.
Lang, J., ‘The Imagery of the Franks Casket’: another Approach’ in J. Hawkes & S. Mills (eds.), Northumbria’s Golden Age (Stroud 1999) 247-55.
Page, R.I., An Introduction to English Runes (second edition) (Woodbridge 1999) 172-9 [essential reading for the runic background].
Parsons, D. N., Recasting the Runes: the Reform of the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc (Runrön 14) Institut för Nordiska språk, Uppsala Universitet (Uppsala1999) 98-100 [important (amongst other things) for placing the casket in the context of a critical shift in runic usage].
Webster L.E., ‘Stylistic Aspects of the Franks Casket’ in R.T. Farrell (ed.), The Vikings (Chichester 1982), 20-31.
Webster L.E., ‘The Iconographic Programme of the Franks Casket’ in J. Hawkes & S. Mills (eds.), Northumbria’s Golden Age (Stroud 1999) 227-46.
Webster L.E., ‘Le coffret d’Auzon: son histoire et sa signification’ in A. Dubreucq, C. Lauranson-Rosaz, & B.Sanial (eds.), St Julien et les origines de Brioude (Actes du Colloque International de Brioude, 22 - 25 septembre 2004) (Almanach de Brioude, CERCOR, 2007) 314-30 [includes an account of the evidence for the casket’s association with Brioude].
Webster, L.E, & Backhouse, J. (eds.), The Making of England, Anglo-Saxon Art and Culture, AD 700-900 (London 1991) 101-3.
Wood, I., ‘Ripon, Francia and the Franks Casket in the Early Middle Ages’ Northern History 26, 1-19.


Please phone or email to check the availability of places.  This Study Days are £38 per person, which includes a full day of lectures, access to the NT site, parking, coffee and tea throughout the day, and access to the NT exhibition.  Once you have reserved your place please send a cheque to confirm the booking. For your first booking please complete the application form to ensure that we have recorded your contact details correctly.

Wuffing Education,
4 Hilly Fields,
Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 4DX
(tel : 01394 386498)

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