Sunday, 5 July 2015

Thames Mudlarking — One of the Most Beautiful Finds I Ever Made...

...but when I discovered it, there was no Eureka moment.

It was just a skinny square object that was picked up only because I pick up and examine everything down the river that is clearly made of metal and not immediately recognised. I almost pitched it back to the shingle as a worthless blank piece of modern trash. But my better judgement kicked in. Nothing unusual once found must be left for others to discover. It is the law of the foreshore!

It had no detail at all, just a covering of a strange kind of slimy muck and therefore it did not go in the leather finds pouch hung safely round my neck where anything good gets to live. I pocketed it. In the crap pouch along with pot shards and encrusted iron requiring further investigation it went!

Under magnification it seemed that there was indeed detail of sorts to be seen. So I put it in the electrolysis bath, switched on the current, and let it be while I made myself a nice cup of tea. When I went back I was astonished to find that all the crud had vanished and what was left behind was a little jewel of a thing. Each side a tiny work of art.                                              

So far as I can tell, the two plates covering what remains of the thin flat iron tang are not solid gold, though they do appear to be. I think it must be heavily gilded brass. There's hardly any wear that I can see and so the gilt finish is as fresh as the day it was made. That's very rare with gilded finds. Usually gilding on metal is microscopically thin and easily rubbed away. As you well know.

It is a knife terminal, about the size of your thumbnail, and dates circa 1500. Originating from the Rhineland it was imported to Britain for sale or arrived here with its owner. It depicts a hare and a hound, a common enough hunting theme. I think they are both charming and delightful. Naive and yet artful. 

And to think I very nearly left them behind on the shore...

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