Etched In Stone

People around the country used photogrammetry to co-create a free, 3D database of Anglo-Saxon namestones

What's in a name?

YÞFRIĐ was an Anglo Saxon who probably lived in Lindisfarne sometime in the 7th or 8th century AD. We don’t know if YÞFRIĐ was a woman or a man, but they were important enough to be buried in this very special place.

We know about YÞFRIĐ as their name is recorded on a namestone fragment discovered during our excavations at Lindisfarne in 2016. A significant find in its own right, the namestone also provided irrefutable evidence that we were excavating within the area of the Anglo Saxon monastery. As we learnt more about the mysterious groups of finds which YÞFRIĐ’s stone was a member of, we wanted to give them the attention they deserve. And so, a new project was born…

Lindisfarne Namestone
YÞFRIĐ - the fifteenth namestone to be recovered from Lindisfarne
A 3D model of the YÞFRIĐ namestone, showing the detail of the carving

Etched in Stone is a HLF supported project presenting an exciting opportunity to learn about the rich and vibrant history of the early medieval period as it played out in the North East of England. The project provides an opportunity for everyone to get involved in investigating an amazing collection of 31 namestones originally found in and around Hartlepool and Lindisfarne.

We are inviting volunteers to join us in learning about these incredible objects and help us build an online exhibition. Our Etched In Stone Workshops will be hosted at several community and heritage centres across the North East region, with opportunities for you to discover more about the objects as we record them using photography and photogrammetry. We’ll discuss the archaeological significance of the finds, looking into where they were discovered and what they can tell us about the Anglo-Saxon period.

The project will include an exhibition at St Hilda’s Church, Hartlepool, putting some of the recent namestone discoveries on display and in context. And to top it all, we’ll be making our Anglo Saxon namestones go viral with 3D models of the objects on display in our virtual museum collection.

The moment of discovery - the second namestone to be recovered from the dig at Lindisfarne
As well as namestones, other forms of sculpture have also been found - including these two fragments which join together

Any questions?

Despite their national importance and powerful geographical focus, the objects have never been displayed as a group. The Etched in Stone project will finally bring these artefacts together, with local volunteers learning how to use traditional and digital heritage skills to help us build an open access Virtual Museum. The questions below cover some of the main topics which we will be exploring as part of the project.

What is a namestone?

Anglo Saxon namestones or cross-slabs have been found in association with early monastic sites in the northeat region of England and are generally thought to be grave markers associated with Christian burials. This interpretation is supported by the fact they have been recovered from archaeological contexts in association with graves – most recently during DigVentures excavations at Lindisfarne. Since we started our excavations in 2016, we have recovered three gorgeous examples as well as early Christian sculpture. This is an amazing discovery and means we will be able to add extra information about the date, form and function of these enigmatic objects.

We’ll be building a whole virtual museum of the stones, but if you can’t wait for those you can follow these links to see the finds records from the finds we recovered during the excavations;

Naming the unnameable

Interestingly, the names which we have been able to decipher from the Anglo-Saxon stones can tell us a lot about the Anglo-Saxon world.  One example from Lindisfarne which was recovered in the north transept of the priory church bears the name Osgyth. It has been dated to between the mid 7th and the mid 8th century as the decoration and script resemble the St Matthew carpet page of the Lindisfarne Gospels. Osgyth is a female name, written twice on the namestone, once in Anglo Saxon runes and once in Anglo Saxon capital letters.

In 2016 the excavations run by DigVentures discovered another name, this time with a new Old English personal name: YÞFRIĐ. Although we don’t know if the name belonged to a woman or a man, the fact we have a new name is incredible. It is possible that the name hasn’t been spoken for 1000 years! On the other side of the stone the text forms the abbreviations for alpha and omega, the reference being to the biblical text Revelations XXII, 13.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End”

We will be analysing the two latest namestones found from Lindisfarne over the coming months, looking for more clues about the people who lived and worked at the Monastery.

Why are the carvings so faint?

All the stones recovered have been buried for at least a few hundred years as the burial grounds changed and developed. howeverm age does not count for some of the script and design on the stones appearing to be very faint – some of them must have been difficult to read even when freshly carved.

Analysis undertaken in 2013 may help explain this. One of the Lindisfarne stones bears the male names Beanna and Pausil, written in Anglo-Saxon capital letters. Anglo-Saxon runes also spell part of another personal name, possibly Coena, on the upper half of the stone. Investigating the stone using X-ray fluorescence and magnification revealed that – amazingly – there was evidence of paint on its surface.

We now know that the stones would have been painted with a white base coat, and panels in reds, greens and black. In addition, the shallow depressions visible in the centre of some of the crosses carved on the stones may have been decorated with jewels – adding some serious bling.

How many stones are there?

Currently, there are 31 known stones – including the three which have been found from the recent Lindisfarne excavations. The largest number of the grave markers has come from Lindisfarne itself, and all from close to the current ruins of the Priory probably associated with the Anglo Saxon monastic centre. The second largest group has been recovered from Hartlepool, where eight stones have been found to date. Other finds have been made in Billingham (2), Birtley (1), Hart (1) and Monkwearmouth (2). Our project aims to bring together as many namestones as possible using high resolution photography and 3D modelling techniques to create an online exhibition. For the first time, everyone will be able to look at the objects side by side.

How can I get involved?

The Etched in Stone project is currently underway and we are busy getting all the materials together to make the collection accessible, enjoyable and hands-on. Thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund, you can join in for free – here are some of the events and activities we have planned for the coming months.

A) New skills + Namestones + Fun = Photogrammetry Workshops

Learn about photogrammetry and help us build an online museum by joining a workshop for some hands-on history. Our programme of workshops is currently being finalised with our venues and namestone hosts. They will be running from November 2018 through to February 2019, at locations in the northeast including Hartlepool, Newcastle and Lindisfarne

B) Visit the Virtual Museum

As you can probably guess our Virtual Museum is currently under construction… But don’t despair! You’ll be able to see the first pages appearing online by the end of October and if you can’t wait that long, you can get a feel for one of the museum’s future stars here.

C) Save the date!

During February 2019 our exhibition all about the Etched in Stone project will be on display at the Parish Church of St Hilda, Hartlepool. The exhibition will be an exciting opportunity to look closely at some of the namestones and meet the whole digital collection in a large scale projection of our 3D Virtual Museum. Dates to be confirmed… so watch this space!

D) Sign up to our newsletter

And make sure you don’t miss a thing! Get yourself on the DigVentures mailing list and make sure you get invited to all our relevant events and workshops.

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