Franks Casket (or the
Auzon Casket) is a small
bone (not "whalebone" in the sense of baleen) chest from the early 8th
century, now in the British Museum. The casket is densely decorated
with knife-cut narrative scenes in flat two-dimensional low-relief and
with inscriptions mostly in
Anglo-Saxon runes. Generally reckoned to
be of Northumbrian origin, it is of unique importance for the
insight it gives into early
Anglo-Saxon art and culture. Both
identifying the images and interpreting the runic inscriptions has
generated a considerable amount of scholarship.
The imagery is very diverse in its subject matter and derivations, and
includes a single Christian image, the Adoration of the Magi, along
with images derived from Roman history (Emperor Titus) and Roman
mythology (Romulus and Remus), as well as a depiction of at least one
legend indigenous to the Germanic peoples: that of Weyland the Smith.
It has also been suggested that there may be an episode from the
Sigurd legend, an otherwise lost episode from the life of Weyland's
brother Egil, a Homeric legend involving Achilles, and perhaps even an
allusion to the legendary founding of England by Hengist and Horsa.
The inscriptions "display a deliberate linguistic and alphabetic
virtuosity; though they are mostly written in
Old English and in
runes, they shift into Latin and the Roman alphabet; then back into
runes while still writing Latin". Some are written upside down or
back to front.
3.1 Front panel
3.2 Left panel
3.3 Rear panel
3.5 Right panel
Sigurd and Grani?
3.5.2 Hengist and Horsa?
3.5.3 The Deity of the Grove?
3.5.4 The Madness of Nebuchadnezzar?
3.5.5 The Death of Balder?
3.5.6 The Penance of Rhiannon?
Satan and the Nativity?
4 Runological and numerological considerations
6 See also
10 External links
Original of right panel, on display in Bargello Museum, Florence
A monastic origin is generally accepted for the casket, which was
perhaps made for presentation to an important secular figure, and
Wilfrid's foundation at
Ripon has been specifically suggested, The
post-medieval history of the casket before the mid-19th century was
unknown until relatively recently, when investigations by W. H. J.
Weale revealed that the casket had belonged to the church of
Haute Loire (upper Loire region), France; it
is possible that it was looted during the French Revolution. It was
then in the possession of a family in Auzon, a village in Haute Loire.
It served as a sewing box until the silver hinges and fittings joining
the panels were traded for a silver ring. Without the support of these
the casket fell apart. The parts were shown to a Professor Mathieu
from nearby Clermont-Ferrand, who sold them to an antique shop in
Paris, where they were bought in 1857 by Sir Augustus Wollaston
Franks, who subsequently donated the panels in 1867 to the British
Museum, where he was Keeper of the British and Medieval collections.
The missing right end panel was later found in a drawer by the family
Auzon and sold to the Bargello Museum, Florence, where it was
identified as part of the casket in 1890. The
British Museum display
includes a cast of it.
The Brescia Casket, one of the best survivals of the sort of Late
Antique models the
Franks Casket emulates. Late 4th century
The casket is 22.9 cm long, 19 cm wide and 10.9 cm high
– 9 × 7 1⁄2 by 5 1⁄8 inches, and can be dated
from the language of its inscriptions and other features to the first
half of the 8th century AD. There are other inscriptions, "tituli"
identifying some figures that are not detailed below and appear within
the image field. The mounts in precious metal that were undoubtedly
originally present are missing, and it is "likely" that it was
originally painted in colour.
The chest is clearly modelled on
Late Antique ivory caskets such as
the Brescia Casket; the
Veroli Casket in the V&A Museum is a
Byzantine interpretation of the style, in revived classical style,
from about 1000.
Leslie Webster regards the casket as probably originating in a
monastic context, where the maker "clearly possessed great learning
and ingenuity, to construct an object which is so visually and
intellectually complex. ... it is generally accepted that the scenes,
drawn from contrasting traditions, were carefully chosen to
counterpoint one another in the creation of an overarching set of
Christian messages. What used to be seen as an eccentric, almost
random, assemblage of pagan Germanic and Christian stories is now
understood as a sophisticated programme perfectly in accord with the
Church's concept of university history". It may have been intended to
hold a book, perhaps a psalter, and intended to be presented to a
"secular, probably royal, recipient"
Detail of front panel, depicting the Germanic legend of Wayland the
Smith and the Christian adoration of the Magi
The front panel, which originally had a lock fitted, depicts elements
from the Germanic legend of
Wayland the Smith
Wayland the Smith in the left-hand scene,
Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi on the right. Wayland (also spelled
Weyland or Welund) stands at the extreme left in the forge where he is
held as a slave by King Niðhad, who has had his hamstrings cut to
hobble him. Below the forge is the headless body of Niðhad's son,
whom Wayland has killed, making a goblet from his skull; his head is
probably the object held in the tongs in Wayland's hand. With his
other hand Wayland offers the goblet, containing drugged beer, to
Bodvild, Niðhad's daughter, whom he then rapes when she is
unconscious. Another female figure is shown in the centre; perhaps
Wayland's helper, or
Bodvild again. To the right of the scene Wayland
(or his brother) catches birds; he then makes wings from their
feathers, with which he is able to escape.
In a sharp contrast, the right-hand scene shows one of the most common
Christian subjects depicted in the art of the period; however here
"the birth of a hero also makes good sin and suffering". The Three
Magi, identified by an inscription ("magi"), led by the large star,
approach the enthroned
Madonna and Child
Madonna and Child bearing the traditional
gifts. A goose-like bird by the feet of the leading magus may
represent the Holy Spirit, usually shown as a dove, or an angel. The
human figures, at least, form a composition very comparable to those
in other depictions of the period.
Around the panel runs the following alliterating inscription, which
does not relate to the scenes but is a riddle on the material of the
casket itself as whale bone, and specifically from a stranded whale:
Fisc flodu ahof on fergen-berig
Warþ gas-ric grorn þær he on greut giswom
The flood cast up the fish on the mountain-cliff
The terror-king became sad where he swam on the shingle.
The left panel, depicting Romulus and Remus
The left panel depicts the mythological twin founders of Rome, Romulus
and Remus, being suckled by a wolf lying on her back at the bottom of
the scene. The same wolf, or another, stands above, and there are two
men with spears approaching from each side. The inscription reads:
Romwalus and Reumwalus, twœgen gibroþær,
afœddæ hiæ wylif in Romæcæstri,
Romulus and Remus, two brothers,
a she-wolf nourished them in Rome,
far from their native land.
Carol Neuman de Vegvar (1999) observes that other depictions of
Romulus and Remus
Romulus and Remus are found in East Anglian art and coinage (for
example the very early Undley bracteate). She suggests that
because of the similarity of the story of
Romulus and Remus
Romulus and Remus to that of
Hengist and Horsa, the brothers who were said to have founded England,
"the legend of a pair of outcast or traveller brothers who led a
people and contributed to the formation of a kingdom was probably not
unfamiliar in the 8th-century
Anglo-Saxon milieu of the Franks Casket
and could stand as a reference to destined rulership."
The rear panel, depicting a scene from the First Jewish-Roman War
The rear panel depicts the Taking of Jerusalem by
Titus in the First
Jewish-Roman War. The inscription is partly in
Old English and partly
in Latin, and part of the Latin portion is written in Roman letters
(indicated below in upper case letters), with the remainder
transcribed phonetically into runic letters. Two isolated words stand
in the lower corners. It reads:
her fegtaþ titus end giuþeasu
HIC FUGIANT HIERUSALIM afitatores
dom / gisl
Titus and a Jew fight:
Here its inhabitants flee from Jerusalem.
Judgement / Hostage
At left in the upper register the Romans, led by
Titus in a helm with
a sword, attack a domed building, probably the Temple of Jerusalem, in
the centre. At upper right the Jewish population flee, casting glances
backwards. In the lower register at left, a seated judge announces the
"doom" or fate of the defeated Jews, which as recounted in Josephus
was to be sold into slavery. In the lower right hand scene, the "gisl"
or slaves/hostages are led away.
The lid of the casket is said by some to depict an otherwise lost
legend of Egil; Egil fends off an army with bow and arrow while the
female behind him may be his wife Olrun. Others interpret it as a
scene from the
Trojan War involving Achilles
The lid as it now survives is incomplete. Leslie Webster has suggested
that there may have been relief panels in silver making up the missing
areas. The empty round area in the centre probably housed the metal
boss for a handle. The lid shows a scene of an archer, labelled
ᚫᚷᛁᛚᛁ or Ægili, single-handedly defending a fortress
against a troop of attackers, who from their larger size may be
Sophus Bugge "followed up his explanation of the Weland
picture on the front of the casket with the suggestion that the bowman
on the top piece is Egil, Weland's brother, and thinks that the
'carving tells a story about him of which we know nothing. We see that
he defends himself with arrows. Behind him appears to sit a woman in a
house; possibly this may be Egil's spouse Ölrún.'" In Norse
mythology, Egil is named as a brother of Weyland (Weland), who is
shown on the front panel of the casket. The
Þiðrekssaga depicts Egil
as a master archer and the
Völundarkviða tells that he was the
husband of the swan maiden Olrun. The
Pforzen buckle inscription,
dating to about the same period as the casket, also makes reference to
the couple Egil and
Olrun (Áigil andi Áilrun). The British Museum
webpage and Leslie Webster concur, the former stating that "The lid
appears to depict an episode relating to the Germanic hero Egil and
has the single label 'aegili' = 'Egil'."
Josef Strzygowski (quoted by Viëtor 1904) proposed instead that the
lid represents a scene pertaining to the fall of Troy, but did not
elaborate. Karl Schneider (1959) identifies the word Ægili on the lid
Anglo-Saxon form of the name of the Greek hero Achilles. As
nominative singular, it would indicate that the archer is Achilles,
while as dative singular it could mean either that the citadel belongs
to Achilles, or that the arrow that is about to be shot is meant for
Achilles. Schneider himself interprets the scene on the lid as
representing the massacre of Andromache's brothers by
Thebes in a story from the Iliad, with
Achilles as the archer and
Andromache's mother held captive in the room behind him. Amy
Vandersall (1975) confirms Schneider's reading of Ægili as relating
to Achilles, but would instead have the lid depict the Trojan attack
on the Greek camp, with the Greek bowman
Teucer as the archer and the
person behind the archer (interpreted as a woman by most other
Achilles in his tent.
Other authors see a Biblical or Christian message in the lid: Marijane
Osborn finds that several details in Psalm 90, "especially as it
appears in its
Old English translation, ... may be aligned with
details in the picture on the lid of the casket: the soul shielded in
verse 5 and safely sheltered in the ... sanctuary in verse 9, the
spiritual battle for the soul throughout, the flying missiles in verse
6 and an angelic defender in verse 11." Leopold Peeters (1996:44)
proposes that the lid depicts the defeat of Agila, the Arian
Visigothic ruler of
Hispania and Septimania, by Roman Catholic forces
in 554 A.D. According to Gabriele Cocco (2009), the lid most likely
portrays the story of
Elisha and Joas from 2 Kings 13:17, in which the
Elisha directs King Joas to shoot an arrow out an open window
to symbolise his struggle against the Syrians: "Hence, the
Ægili-bowman is King Joas and the figure under the arch is Elisha.
The prophet would then be wearing a hood, typical of Semitic
populations, and holding a staff." Webster (2012b:46-8) notes that
the two-headed beast both above and below the figure in the room
behind the archer also appears beneath the feet of Christ as King
David in an illustration from an 8th-century Northumbrian manuscript
of Cassiodorus, Commentary on the Psalms.
The replica right panel in London
This, the Bargello panel, has produced the most divergent readings of
both text and images, and no reading of either has achieved general
acceptance. At left an animal figure sits on a small rounded mound,
confronted by an armed and helmeted warrior. In the centre a standing
animal, usually seen as a horse, faces a figure, holding a stick or
sword, who stands over something defined by a curved line. At right
are three figures; the two outer ones perhaps hold fast the one in the
Raymond Page reads the inscription as
Her Hos sitiþ on harmberga
agl[.] drigiþ swa hiræ Ertae gisgraf
sarden sorga and sefa torna.
risci / wudu / bita
Here Hos sits on the sorrow-mound;
She suffers distress as Ertae had imposed it upon her,
a wretched den (?wood) of sorrows and of torments of mind.
rushes / wood / biter
However, a definitive translation of the lines has met with
difficulty, partly because the runes are run together without
separators between words, and partly because two letters are broken or
missing. As an extra challenge for the reader, on the right panel
only, the vowels are encrypted with a simple substitution cipher.
Three of the vowels are represented consistently by three invented
symbols. However, two additional symbols represent both a and æ, and
according to Page, "it is not clear which is which or even if the
carver distinguished competently between the two." Reading one
rune, transcribed by Page and others as r but which is different from
the usual r-rune, as a rune for u, Thomas A. Bredehoft has suggested
the alternative reading
Her Hos sitæþ on hæum bergæ
agl[.] drigiþ, swæ hiri Eutae gisgraf
sæuden sorgæ and sefa tornæ.
Here sits Hos on [or in] the high hill [or barrow];
she endures agl[.] as the Jute appointed to her,
a sæuden of sorrow and troubles of mind.
Page writes, "What the scenes represent I do not know. Excited and
imaginative scholars have put forward numbers of suggestions but none
convinces." Several of these theories are outlined below.
Sigurd and Grani?
Sigurd saga runestone from eastern Sweden depicts Sigurd's horse Grani
Elis Wadstein (1900) proposed that the right panel depicts the
Germanic legend of Sigurd, known also as Siegfried, being mourned by
his horse Grani and wife Guthrun. Eleanor Clark (1930) added, "Indeed,
no one seeing the figure of the horse bending over the tomb of a man
could fail to recall the words of the Guthrunarkvitha (II,5):
The head of Grani was bowed to the grass,
The steed knew well his master was slain."
While Clark admits that this is an "extremely obscure legend," she
assumes that the scene must be based on a Germanic legend, and can
find no other instance in the entire
Norse mythology of a horse
weeping over a dead body. She concludes that the small, legless
person inside the central mound must be
Sigurd himself, with his legs
gnawed off by the wolves mentioned in Guthrun's story. She interprets
the three figures to the right as Guthrun being led away from his tomb
by his slayers Gunnar and Hogne, and the female figure before Grani as
the Norn-goddess Urd, who passes judgement on the dead. The warrior to
the left would then be
Sigurd again, now restored to his former prime
for the afterlife, and "sent rejoicing on his way to Odainsaker, the
realms of bliss for deserving mortals. The gateway to these glittering
fields is guarded by a winged dragon who feeds on the imperishable
flora that characterised the place, and the bodyless cock crows
lustily as a kind of eerie genius loci identifying the spot as Hel's
Although the Sigurd-Grani thesis remains the most widely accepted
interpretation of the right panel,
Arthur Napier remarked already in
1901, "I remain entirely unconvinced by the reasons [Wadstein] puts
forward, and believe that the true explanation of the picture has
still to be found."
Hengist and Horsa?
White horse of Kent
White horse of Kent is said to be based on the banner of Horsa
A.C. Bouman (1965) and Simonne d'Ardenne (1966) instead interpret
the mournful stallion (
Old English hengist) at the centre of the right
panel as representing Hengist, who, with his brother Horsa, first led
the Old Saxons, Angles, and
Jutes into Britain, and eventually became
Anglo-Saxon king in England, according to both Bede's
Ecclesiastical History of the English People and the Anglo-Saxon
Chronicle. The miniature person inside the burial mound he grieves
over would then be Horsa, who died at the battle of Ægelesthrep in
455 A.D. and was buried in a flint tumulus at Horsted near Aylesford.
Bouman suggests that the female mourner could then be Hengist's famous
Bouman and d'Ardenne identify the strange creature on the left with
the head of a horse, the clothing and posture of a man, and the wings
of a spirit, as Horsa again, this time as a spirit seated on his own
burial mound. Horsa (whose name means horse in Old English) would then
be the "Hos" referred to in the panel's inscription as sitting on a
"sorrow-mound." They note that there is a miniature horse in each
corner of the panel, in keeping with its theme of two famous "horses."
The Deity of the Grove?
The Tängelgårde Stone from Gotland, Sweden depicts two valknuts
between the horse's legs, as on the right panel of the Franks Casket
Usually her hos sitæþ is read, "here sits the horse". However,
Wilhelm Krause (1959) instead separates herh (temple) and os
(divinity). Alfred Becker (1973, 2002), following Krause, interprets
herh as a sacred grove, the site where in pagan days the
worshipped, and os as a goddess or valkyrie. On the left, a warrior
"has met his fate in guise of a frightening monster... As the outcome,
the warrior rests in his grave shown in the middle section. There
(left of the mound) we have a horse marked with two trefoils, the
divine symbols.... Above the mound we see a chalice and right of the
mound a woman with a staff in hand. It is his Valkyrie, who has left
her seat and come to him in the shape of a bird. Now she is his
beautiful sigwif, the hero's benevolent, even loving companion, who
revives him with a draught from that chalice and takes him to
Valhalla. The horse may be Sleipnir, Woden's famous stallion."
Krause and Becker call attention to the significance of the two
trefoil marks or valknutr between the stallion's legs, which denote
the realm of death and can be found in similar position on picture
stones from Gotland, Sweden like the
Tängelgårda stone and the Stora
Hammars stones. Two other pictures of the
Franks Casket show this
symbol. On the front it marks the third of the Magi, who brings myrrh.
It also appears on the lid, where according to Becker,
The Madness of Nebuchadnezzar?
“Nebuchadnezzar” by William Blake (Tate)
Leopold Peeters (1996) proposes that the right panel provides a
pictorial illustration of the biblical Book of Daniel, ch. 4 and 5:
The wild creature at the left represents
Nebuchadnezzar after he
“was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he
lived with the wild asses and ate grass like cattle.” The figure
facing him is then the “watchful one” who decreed
Nebuchadnezzar’s fate in a dream (4.13-31), and the quadruped in the
centre represents one of the wild asses with whom he lived. Some of
the details Peeters cites are specific to the
Old English poem based
According to Peeters, the three figures at the right may then
represent Belshazzar’s wife and concubines, "conducting blasphemous
rites of irreverence (Dan. 5:1-4, 22)." The corpse in the central
burial mound would represent
Belshazzar himself, who was murdered that
night, and the woman mourning him may be the queen mother. The cryptic
runes on this panel may be intended to invoke the mysterious writing
that appeared on the palace wall during these events.
The Death of Balder?
Hother and the wood maidens by Lorenz Frølich
David Howlett (1997) identifies the illustrations on the right panel
with the story of the death of Balder, as told by the late
12th-century Danish historian
Saxo Grammaticus in his Gesta
Danorum. According to Saxo, Balder’s rival Hother meets three
women in a dank wood late at night, who provide him with a belt and
girdle that will enable him to defeat Balder. Hother wounds Balder,
who dies three days later and is buried in a mound.
Howlett identifies the three figures at the right with the three wood
maidens (who may be the three Norns), and the shrouded man within the
central mound with Balder. “The woman to the right of the mound is
Hel, Saxo’s Proserpina, prophesying Balder’s death and condemning
Woden to sorrow and humiliation. The stallion to the left of the mound
is Balder’s father Woden.” In Saxo’s story,
begets a second son, Boe (Bous or Váli), to avenge Balder’s death.
Howlett interprets the warrior at left as Boe, and “one infers that
the mound is depicted twice and that the stallion mourning in the
centre of the panel is identical with the figure seated at the left
end, where he retains his horse’s head and hooves.”
The Penance of Rhiannon?
Rhiannon riding in Arbeth, from The Mabinogion, translated by
Charlotte Guest, 1877
Ute Schwab (2008), following Heiner Eichner (1991), interprets the
left and central scenes on the right panel as relating to the Welsh
legend of Rhiannon. According to the Mabinogion, a medieval collection
of ancient Welsh stories,
Rhiannon was falsely accused of murdering
and eating her infant son Pryderi, who, according to Schwab, is
represented by the swaddled infant in the central scene. As a penance,
she was required, as depicted in the scene on the left, "to sit beside
the horse-block outside the gates of the court for seven years,
offering to carry visitors up to the palace on her back, like a beast
of burden.... Rhiannon's horse-imagery and her bounty have led
scholars to equate her with the Celtic horse-goddess Epona."
Satan and the Nativity?
Nativity scene, 4th-century Roman Christian sarcophagus
Austin Simmons (2010) parses the frame inscription into the following
herh os-sitæþ on hærm-bergæ
agl drigiþ swæ hiri er tae-gi-sgraf
sær-den sorgæ and sefa-tornæ
This he translates, "The idol sits far off on the dire hill, suffers
abasement in sorrow and heart-rage as the den of pain had ordained for
it." Linguistically, the segment os- represents the verbal prefix oþ-
assimilated to the following sibilant, while in the b-verse of the
second line er "before" is an independent word before a three-member
verbal compound, tae-gi-sgraf. The first member tae- is a rare form of
the particle-prefix to-.
The inscription refers specifically to the scene on the left end of
the casket's right side. According to Simmons, the 'idol' (herh) is
Satan in the form of an ass, being tortured by a personified Hell in
helmet. The scene is a reference to the apocryphon Decensus ad
Inferos, a popular medieval text translated into Anglo-Saxon. In one
version of the story of the Harrowing of Hell, a personified Hell
Satan for having brought about the Crucifixion, which has
allowed Christ to descend to Hell's kingdom and free the imprisoned
souls. Therefore, Hell tortures
Satan in retribution. Simmons
separates the other scenes on the right side and interprets them as
depictions of the Nativity and the Passion.
Runological and numerological considerations
The inscription "Fisc Flodu …" on the front of the Franks Casket
alliterates on the F-rune ᚠ feoh, which connotes wealth or treasure
Anglo-Saxon runic letter had an acrophonic
Old English name,
which gave the rune itself the connotations of the name, as described
Old English rune poem. The inscriptions on the Franks Casket
are alliterative verse, and so give particular emphasis to one or more
runes on each side. According to Becker (1973, 2002), these tell a
story corresponding to the illustrations, with each of the scenes
emblematic of a certain period of the life and afterlife of a
warrior-king: The front inscription alliterates on both the F-rune ᚠ
feoh (wealth) and the G-rune ᚷ gyfu (gift), corresponding to the
jewellery produced by the goldsmith Welund and the gifts of the three
Magi. “In this box our warrior hoarded his treasure, golden rings
and bands and bracelets, jewellery he had received from his lord, …
which he passed to his own retainers… This is feohgift, a gift not
only for the keep of this or that follower, but also to honour him in
front of his comrade-in-arms in the hall.” The Romulus and Remus
inscription alliterates on the R-rune ᚱ rad (journey or ride),
evoking both how far from home the twins had journeyed and the
owner’s call to arms. The
Titus side stresses the T-rune ᛏ Tiw
Anglo-Saxon god of victory), documenting that the peak of a
warrior-king’s life is glory won by victory over his enemies. The
right side alliterates first on the H-rune ᚻ hagal (hail storm or
misfortune) and then on the S-rune ᛋ sigel (sun, light, life), and
illustrates the hero’s death and ultimate salvation, according to
Becker also presents a numerological analysis of the inscriptions,
finding 72 = 3 x 24 signs on the front and left panels, and a total of
288 or 12 x 24 signs on the entire casket. All these numbers are
multiples of 24 = 3 x 8, the magical number of runes in the elder
futhark, the early continental runic alphabet preserved within the
Anglo-Saxon futhorc. "In order to reach certain values the
carver had to choose quite unusual word forms and ways of spelling
which have kept generations of scholars busy."
Osborn (1991a, 1991b) concurs that the rune counts of 72 are
intentional. However, "whereas [Becker] sees this as indicating pagan
magic, I see it as complementing such magic, as another example of the
Franks Casket artist adapting his pagan materials to a Christian
evangelical purpose in the mode of interpretatio romana. The artist
manipulates his runes very carefully, on the front of the casket
supplementing their number with dots and on the right side reducing
their number with bindrunes, so that each of the three inscriptions
contains precisely seventy-two items.... The most obvious Christian
association of the number seventy-two, for an
Anglo-Saxon if not for
us, is with the missionary disciples appointed by Christ in addition
to the twelve apostles.... The number of these disciples is mentioned
in scripture only in Luke 10, and there are two versions of this text;
whereas the Protestant Bible says that Christ appointed a further
seventy disciples, the Vulgate version known to the Anglo-Saxons
specifies seventy-two. In commenting on that number,
it with the mission to the Gentiles (that is, "all nations"), because
seventy-two is the number of nations among the Gentiles, a multiple of
the twelve tribes of Israel represented by the twelve apostles."
This is a glossary of the
Old English words on the casket, excluding
personal names. Definitions are selected from those in Clark Hall's
Transliteration of runes on casket
Form normalised to Late West Saxon
Headword form (nominative singular for substantives, infinitive for
This word is a mystery, but often emended to āglǣc (neuter noun)
trouble, distress, oppression, misery, grief
āhebban (strong verb)
lift up, stir up, raise, exalt, erect
bān (neuter noun)
bita (masculine noun)
biter, wild beast
den (occurring in the string særden)
denn (neuter noun)
den, lair, cave
dōm (masculine noun)
doom, judgment, ordeal, sentence; court, tribunal, assembly
drēogan (strong verb)
experience, suffer, endure, sustain, tolerate
ēðel (masculine/neuter noun)
country, native land, home
fēdan (weak verb)
feed, nourish, sustain, foster, bring up
feohtan (strong verb)
fight, combat, strive
firgenbeorg (feminine noun)
fisc (masculine noun)
flōd (masculine/neuter noun)
mass of water, flood, wave; flow (of tide as opposed to ebb), tide,
flux, current, stream
gāsrīc? (masculine noun)
brōðor (masculine noun)
gescræf (neuter noun)
cave, cavern, hole, pit
geswimman (strong verb)
gīsl (masculine noun)
grēot (neuter noun)
grit, sand, earth
hē (personal pronoun)
hearmbeorg (feminine noun)
herh (possibly occurring in the string herhos)
hearg (masculine noun)
temple, altar, sanctuary, idol; grove?
hē/hēo/þæt (personal pronoun)
hēo (personal pronoun)
hran (masculine noun)
in, into, upon, on, at, to, among
Iūdēas (masculine plural)
on, upon, on to, up to, among; in, into, within
os (possibly occurring in the string herhos)
ōs (masculine noun)
a divinity, god
Rōmeceaster (feminine noun)
the city of Rome
sær (occurring in the string særden)
sār (neuter noun)
bodily pain, sickness; wound, sore, raw place; suffering, sorrow,
sefa (masculine noun)
mind, spirit, understanding, heart
sittan (strong verb)
sit, sit down, recline
sorg (feminine noun)
sorrow, pain, grief, trouble, care,distress, anxiety
so as, consequently, just as, so far as, in such wise, in this or that
way, thus, so that, provided that
torn (neuter noun)
anger, indignation; grief, misery, suffering, pain
not near, far, away from
weorðan (strong verb)
wudu (masculine noun)
wood, forest, grove
wylf (feminine noun)
Anglo-Saxon England portal
Old English rune poem
^ The first considerable publication, by George Stephens, Old-Northern
Runic Monuments of Scandinavia and England (1866–1901) I-II:470-76,
921-23, III:200-04, IV:40-44, placed it in
Northumbria and dated it to
the 8th century. Although A. S. Napier (1901) concurs with an early
8th-century Northumbrian origin, Mercia, and a 7th-century date, have
also been proposed . The
British Museum website (see
external links) says
Northumbria and "first half of the 8th century
AD", as does Webster (2012a:92), "early part of the eighth century".
^ Vandersall summarises the previous scholarship as at 1972 in setting
the casket into an art-historical, rather than linguistic context. Mrs
Leslie Webster, former Keeper at the
British Museum and the leading
expert, has published a new short book on the casket (Webster 2012b).
^ Webster (2000).
^ Parsons (1999, 98-100) has an important discussion on the runes used
in the Franks Casket.
^ Webster (2012a:97);
Ripon was suggested by Wood, who was able to
Brioude through the Frankish scholar Frithegod
"active in both areas in the middle tenth century (Wood 1990, 4-5)" -
Webster (1991) from BM collection database.
^ Vandersall 1972:24 note 1.
^ Webster (1991), from
British Museum collection database
^ Measurements from
British Museum Collections Database webpage. For
date see note to lead.
^ Webster (2012a:92).
^ Webster (1991); Webster (2012a:92); Webster (2012b:30-33).
^ Webster (2000).
^ Webster (2012a:96-97). (both quoted, in that order)
^ This scene was first explained by Sophus Bugge, in Stephens
(1866-1901, Vol. I, p. lxix), as cited by Napier (1901, p. 368). See
also Henderson (1971, p. 157).
^ Webster (1991)
^ Hough and Corbett (2013: 106).
^ Page (1999, p. 175).
Anglo-Saxon bone plaque, existing only in a fragment at the
Castle Museum, Norwich, which was found at Larling, Norfolk, also
Romulus and Remus
Romulus and Remus being suckled, with other animal ornament.
(Wilson 1984, p. 86).
^ Neuman de Vegvar (1999, pp. 265–6)
^ Page (1999, pp. 176–7).
^ MacGregor, Arthur. Bone, Antler, Ivory and Horn, Ashmolean Museum,
1984, ISBN 0-7099-3507-2, ISBN 978-0-7099-3507-0, Google
^ Napier (1901, p. 366), quoting Bugge in Stephens (1866-1901, vol. I,
British Museum Collections Database webpage, accessed Jan. 26, 2013;
Webster (2012), p. 92
^ Osborn (1991b: 262-3). Psalm 90 in the Vulgate bible and Old English
translation referenced by Osborn corresponds to Psalm 91 in Protestant
and Hebrew bibles.
^ Cocco (2009: 30).
^ Page (1999, 178-9). Page's translations are endorsed by Webster
(1999). See Napier (1901), Krause (1959), d'Ardenne (1966), and
Peeters (1996) for discussion of alternative readings.
^ Page (1999: 87)
^ Thomas A. Bredehoft, 'Three New Cryptic Runes on the Franks Casket',
Notes and Queries, 58.2 (2011), 181-83, doi:10.1093/notesj/gjr037.
^ Page (1999: 178).
^ Translation of H.A. Bellows, Oxford Univ. Press, 1926, as cited by
Clark (1930, p. 339).
^ Clark (1930, p. 340)
^ Clark (1930, p. 342)
^ Clark (1930, pp. 352–3).
^ Napier (1901: 379 n.2). Napier (p. 364) reports that Dr. Söderberg
of Lund had anticipated Wadstein's proposal already in the Academy,
referring to a brief mention in the Notes and News section of The
Academy, A Weekly Review of Literature, Science and Art, August 2nd
1890, p.90, col.1.
^ D'Ardenne independently put forward Bouman's Hengist and Horsa
reading, which she only discovered as her own article was going to
^ Becker (2000, unpaginated section "H-panel (Right Side) - The
^ Peeters (1996: 29), citing Daniel 5:21.
^ Peeters (1996: 31).
^ Schneider (1959) similarly identified the right panel with Saxo’s
version of the death of Balder.
^ Howlett (1997: 280-1).
^ Howlett (1997: 281).
^ Green (1993, p. 30).
^ Simmons (2010).
^ Simmons (2010).
^ Becker (2002, unpaginated, section The Casket – a Warrior’s
^ Becker (2002, unpaginated section F-panel (Front) - Number and value
of the runes.
^ Osborn (1991b: 260-1). Howlett (1997: 283) concurs with Becker and
Osborn that "The carver counted his characters."
^ John R. Clark Hall, A Concise
Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, 4th rev. edn
by Herbet D. Meritt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1960);
1916 second edn available at
d'Ardenne, Simonne R.T.O., "Does the right side of the Franks Casket
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Magi on the Franks Casket," Harvard Studies and
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Franks Casket.
Archaeosoup Productions, In Focus: Franks Casket. Posted 25 Aug. 2012.
Boulton, Meg, Considering the institutional narratives and object
narratives of the Franks Casket, public lecture at the University of
York, Feb. 3, 2015.
British Museum, The Franks Casket, elementary Explore/Highlights page,
with 4 low-resolution photos.
British Museum, The
Franks Casket / The
Auzon Casket, more technical
Research/Collection Database page, with intermediate discussion and 35
British Library, UK Web Archive Franks Casket, preserving Alfred
Ramirez, Janina, Treasures of the Anglo Saxons. BBC Four production
first broadcast 10 Aug. 2010. Part 3 of 4 discusses the Franks Casket
and the Welund legend.
Ramirez, Janina, "The
Franks Casket - with Tony Robinson". Podcast in
acast Art Detective series. Published Feb. 22, 2017.
Anglo-Saxon Runic fonts.
West, Andrew, Runic Text on the Franks Casket.
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