Anglo Saxon brooch has oldest writing in English

From: jpisc98357@...
Message: 22917
Date: 2003-06-09

Anglo Saxon brooch has oldest writing in English
By Paul Stokes
(Filed: 07/06/2003)

What is believed to be the oldest form of writing in English ever found has been uncovered in an Anglo-Saxon burial ground. It is in the form of four runes representing the letters N, E, I and M scratched on the back of a bronze brooch from around AD650. The six inch cruciform brooch is among one million artefacts recovered from a site at West Heslerton, near Malton, North Yorks, since work began there in 1978. Dominic Powlesland, the archaeologist leading the excavation team, said: "This could well be the earliest example of written English we know of.

"Only one or two other runic inscriptions from around this period have been found, but this is either the earliest or one of them. We have no idea what the letters mean, except that it would have been something in early English.

"Whether it is a charm of some form, a person's initials or the first letters of a phrase is something only future research will be able to determine. It was obviously something treasured by its owner as it had been carefully repaired."

The site alongside the cemetery is the first Anglo-Saxon settlement in Britain to be forensically excavated using modern techniques.

Mr Powlesland, the director of the Landscape Research Centre, an archaeological charity funded by English Heritage, said the discovery had forced a re-think of what were known as the "Dark Ages" after the fall of the Roman Empire.

He said: "It shows that a well-ordered, sophisticated society existed in the fourth century as the Roman world was collapsing. Previous thinking suggested that the Anglo-Saxons lived in squalor and near chaos."

English Heritage has provided £55,000 to display the finds at Malton Museum.

26 November 2002: Race to dig Iron Age site before ploughs move in
19 August 2001: Anglo-Saxon burial treasure returned to Sutton Hoo home

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