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Staff Pick: Crystal Balls

Learn about the fascinating Anglo Saxon crystal balls in the Maidstone Museum collection
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Staff Pick: Anglo Saxon Crystal Balls

Maidstone Museum
30th Dec 2016
By Maidstone Museum

Anglo Saxon Crystal Balls

These Anglo Saxon crystal balls are an intriguing inclusion in the Maidstone Museum collection. Almost exclusively found in Kent, there continues to be confusion regarding how or why they were used. Some think they had a practical use, such as magnifying delicate and tiny metalwork which the Saxons were known for creating. Others, however, believe the most likely explanation is that they were for divination – or some sort of magic – which makes them even more fascinating.

Anglo Saxon Crystal Balls

These crystal balls were found in ladies’ graves in Kent and lay between the thighs, indicating that they were most likely suspended at the front of the clothing. Crystal balls have been found on the continent too, but those in Kent they seem to be mainly found in unusually rich graves accompanied by silver spoons, perforated in the bowl. The crystal itself is made from quartz.

This particular piece was found at Bifrons Cemetery, Patrixbourne, Kent, in grave number 42. Bifrons Cemetery dates to around AD 475-575 and was excavated by TB Godfrey-Fausset in 1867. Around 100 graves were discovered and further graves appear to have been opened but not recorded.