On an excavation site in Oegstgeest (South Holland), Leiden University archaeologists discovered a silver bowl dating to the first half of the seventh century. The bowl is decorated with gold-plated representations of animals and plants and inlaid with semi-precious stones. The discovery suggests the existence of an Oegstgeest elite with a wide international network.
Researchers believe that the bowl, which is 21 centimetres wide and 11 centimetres high, was buried as part of a ritual sacrifice. Such gilded discoveries are extremely rare. This one is exceptional because such bowls were usually made of bronze and were not, as a rule, lavishly decorated with gold leaf, making this is a unique artefact for the whole of Western Europe. Until the discovery of this bowl there were no indications of the presence of a local or regional elite on the Oegstgeest settlement.
The bowl, which may have been used as a drinking vessel or washbasin, is composed of a number of elements dating from different periods. The oldest element, the bowl itself, probably dates from the Late Roman Empire and the figures seem to indicate that the bowl originated in the Eastern Mediterranean or the Middle East. The other decorations date from the first half of the seventh century and show signs of German cultural influences, while the bowl’s suspension rings are characteristic of England and Scandinavia. Together, these elements symbolise the international position of the Netherlands fifteen hundred years ago.
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