Jan 7, 2013
The latest in the British Museum Objects in Focus series, The Franks Casket by Leslie Webster is published today by the British Museum Press! The whale-bone box known as the Franks Casket has intrigued and puzzled viewers since its discovery in the nineteenth century in France. Made in northern England in the eighth century AD, the sides and lid of the rectangular casket carry some of the most intricate and intriguing carvings from Anglo-Saxon times. The lively scenes depicted are drawn from a variety of sources, including Germanic and Roman legends and Jewish and Christian stories. They are accompanied by texts in both Old English and Latin, using the runic and Roman alphabets.
Setting the Franks Casket in its political and religious context, and looking at the significance of its ingenious images and inscriptions, this book explores the meaning, function and history of this extraordinary icon of Anglo-Saxon culture.
Detail from the casket’s front panel, showing Weland the Smith at his forge. Along the left edge, the runes read hronaes ban, ‘whale’s bone’, describing the material from which the casket is made.
The left end of the casket illustrates the Roman legend of the twins Romulus and Remus, who were raised by a she-wolf.
The helmeted general Titus, who leads the assault on Jerusalem, resembles in his bearing and battle-gear the leading warrior on the lid.
Text and images © Trustees of the British Museum
British Museum Objects in Focus: The Franks Casket is available for £5 in good bookshops and on the British Museum shop website.