Guilden Morden boar

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Guilden Morden boar
Black and White drawing of the Guilden Morden boar
1904 drawing of the Guilden Morden boar
Colour photograph of the Guilden Morden boar
Material Bronze
Size 2.5 in × 1 in
(6 14 cm × 2 12 cm)
Created c. 500–700 AD
Discovered 1864 or 1865
Guilden Morden, England
Discovered by Herbert Fordham
Present location British Museum
Registration 1904,1010.1

The Guilden Morden boar is a sixth- or seventh-century Anglo-Saxon copper alloy figure of a boar that may have once served as the crest of a helmet. It was found around 1864 or 1865 in a grave in Guilden Morden, a village in the eastern English county of Cambridgeshire. There the boar attended a skeleton with other objects, including a small earthenware bead with an incised pattern,[1] although the boar is all that now remains.[2] Herbert George Fordham, whose father originally discovered the boar, donated it to the British Museum in 1904; in 2018 it was on view in room 41.[1][3]

The boar is simply designed, distinguished primarily by a prominent mane; eyes, eyebrows, nostrils and tusks are only faintly present.[2] A pin and socket design formed by the front and hind legs suggests that the boar was mounted on another object, such as a helmet.[1][4] Such is the case on one of the contemporary Torslunda plates found in Sweden, where boar-crested helmets are depicted similarly.[5]

Boar-crested helmets are a staple of Anglo-Saxon imagery, evidence of a Germanic tradition in which the boar invoked the protection of deities.[6] The Guilden Morden boar is one of three—together with the helmets from Benty Grange and Wollaston—known to have survived to the present,[7] and it has been exhibited both domestically and internationally.[3] The Guiden Morden boar recalls a time when such decoration may have been common;[7] in the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, where boar-adorned helmets are mentioned five times,[8][9] Hrothgar speaks of when "our boar-crests had to take a battering in the line of action."[10]


The Guilden Morden boar is simply designed and well preserved.[2] Made of cast bronze[1][2] or copper alloy,[3] it is approximately 64 mm (2.5 in) long[11] and distinguished by little other than a prominent mane.[2] An eye, eyebrows and nostrils leave slight traces and were possibly punched after the boar was cast, while a tusk is indicated on the boar's right side.[2] The tail once formed a full circle but was broken around 1904.[1][2]

The front two and back two legs were each cast as one piece, yet where a 3.5 mm (0.14 in) deep socket was hollowed into the front piece, a 6 mm (0.24 in) long pin extends down from the back piece.[2] The resultant pin and socket design would allow the boar to be mounted on another object,[5] particularly a helmet.[1][4]


Pencil drawing from 1882 to 1883 of the Guilden Morden boar and other objects found with it
1882–1883 drawing of the Guilden Morden grave goods

The boar was found around 1864 or 1865 in Guilden Morden, a parish in Cambridgeshire about 16 miles (26 km) south west of Cambridge and 5 miles (8 km) west of Royston in Hertfordshire.[1] It was found by Herbert Fordham, co-managing partner at a successful family brewery,[12][13] while digging for coprolites,[1] a particularly rich phosphate then used as fertiliser and the pursuit of which effectively provided the only employment other than agriculture in Cambridgeshire.[14] Writing about the boar in 1904, his son Herbert George Fordham suggested that:

I have always understood that it was found in the subsoil, or at no great depth, associated with some other objects, including (at all events) a small earthenware bead bearing incised pattern, the whole group occurring in what was, no doubt, a grave, and so placed with regard to remains of human bones as to suggest that the various objects were originally hung round the neck of the person buried.[1]

A drawing made between April 1882 and September 1883, held by the British Museum, shows the boar alongside a bronze ring and two glass beads, one amber-coloured, the other red with white inlay.[15][note 1] Underneath the images it is noted that the items were "all found in a grave with a doubled-up skeleton".[15] Fordham had had no further information about the discovery of the boar, its location or the associated (and now lost[2]) objects,[1] and donated the boar to the British Museum in 1904.[2][3][16]

The boar is displayed in Room 41 of the British Museum.[3] The gallery covers Europe from 300 to 1100 AD, and includes objects such as the finds from the Sutton Hoo ship-burial and the Lycurgus Cup.[17] In addition to its place at the British Museum, the Guilden Morden boar has been shown in both domestic and international exhibitions.[3] From 1 April to 30 October 2004, the boar was displayed at the Sutton Hoo Visitor Centre in Suffolk as part of Between Myth and Reality.[3] It was again exhibited from 26 July to 16 October 2013, this time at the Diözesanmuseum Paderborn (de) in Paderborn, Germany, as part of CREDO: Christianisierung Europas im Mittelalter (Christianisation of Medieval Europe).[3][18][19]


Black and white photograph of one of the Torslunda plates, showing two warriors with boar crested helmets
Torslunda plates showing warriors with boar-crested helmets

The Guilden Morden boar is of Anglo-Saxon origin, so marked by the additional items found in the grave,[2][20] and by comparable helmets discovered elsewhere in England,[4] although until 1977 it was misidentified as Celtic.[2][21] It was likely once mounted atop a boar-crested helmet,[5][21][22][7] a number of which have been either found in archaeological excavations or seen in artistic depictions.[23] Two other boar-crested helmets are known—from Benty Grange and from Wollaston[7][24]—and the Guilden Morden boar is a close parallel of the boar fixed to the former.[4] The Benty Grange boar has a similar shape; it has a long and distinctive elongated snout projecting forward, a similar stance, and front and hind legs each joined as one.[22][note 2] It dates to approximately 650 to 700 AD[26] and the Wollaston helmet to the time around 675 AD,[27] although a date more specific than the sixth or seventh century AD has not been suggested for the Guilden Morden boar.[3]

Understood in its broader context, the boar would likely have adorned an early model of the "crested helmets" known in Northern Europe in the sixth through eleventh centuries AD.[28][29] Though the remains of fifty such helmets are known, most are from Scandinavia and only five from the Anglo-Saxon period are preserved enough that their original form can be determined.[30][note 3] These, the helmets from Benty Grange, Sutton Hoo, Coppergate, Wollaston and Staffordshire, may have shared similarities with the helmet to which the Guilden Morden boar was attached. Scandinavian helmets are also depicted artistically with boar crests, such as on one of the four Torslunda plates found in Sweden.[5][32] The boars atop the helmets worn by the two warriors on the plate are highly similar to the one from Guilden Morden, and similarly appear to be fastened to their helmets with a pin and socket device.[5]


The boar was an important symbol in prehistoric Europe, where it was "venerated, eulogised, hunted and eaten ... for millennia, until its virtual extinction in recent historical time."[33] Anglo-Saxon boar symbols follow a thousand years of similar iconography, coming after La Tène examples in the fourth century BC, Gaulish examples three centuries later, and Roman boars in the fourth century AD.[34] They likely represent a fused tradition of European and Mediterranean cultures.[35] The boar is said to have been sacred to a mother goddess figure among linguistically Celtic communities in Iron Age Europe,[36] while the Roman historian Tacitus, writing around the first century AD, suggested that the Baltic Aesti wore boar symbols in battle to invoke her protection.[37][38] Boar-crested helmets are depicted on the turn of the millennium Gundestrup cauldron, discovered in Denmark, and on a Torslunda plate from Sweden, made some five hundred years later.[36] Though the Romans also included the boar in their stable of symbols—four legions,[34] including the twentieth,[39] adopted it as their emblem—it was only one among many.[36] The boar nonetheless persisted in continental Germanic tradition during the nearly 400 years of Roman rule in Britain, such as in association with the Scandinavian gods Freyja[40][41] and Freyr.[42] Its return to prominence in the Anglo-Saxon period, as represented by the boars from Benty Grange, Wollaston, Guilden Morden, and Horncastle, may therefore suggest the post-Roman reintroduction of a Germanic tradition from Europe, rather than the continuation of a tradition in Britain through 400 years of Roman rule.[40] Whatever its precise symbolism, the Anglo-Saxon boar appears to have been associated with protection; the Beowulf poet makes this clear, writing that boar symbols on helmets kept watch over the warriors wearing them.[43][44]

Boar-crests in Beowulf

Colour photograph of the Benty Grange helmet
The boar-crested Benty Grange helmet

The Guilden Morden boar recalls the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf,[22] where helmets with boar imagery are referenced five times.[8][9][45][46] In three cases[47] they appear to feature freestanding boars atop the helmets,[48][49][44] like the Guilden Morden example.[note 4] Such is the case when Grendel's mother seeks vengeance for the death of her son.[32]

Com þa to Heorote, ðær Hring-Dene
geond þæt sæld swæfun. Þa ðær sona wearð
edhwyrft eorlum, siþðan inne fealh
Grendles modor. Wæs se gryre læssa
efne swa micle, swa bið mægþa cræft,
wiggryre wifes be wæpnedmen,
þonne heoru bunden, hamere geþruen,
sweord swate fah swin ofer helme
ecgum dyhtig andweard scireð.
Ða wæs on healle heardecg togen
sweord ofer setlum, sidrand manig
hafen handa fæst; helm ne gemunde,
byrnan side, þa hine se broga angeat.

She came to Heorot. There, inside the hall,
Danes lay asleep, earls who would soon endure
a great reversal, once Grendel's mother
attacked and entered. Her onslaught was less
only by as much as an amazon warrior's
strength is less than an armed man's
when the hefted sword, its hammered edge
and gleaming blade slathered in blood,
razed the sturdy boar-ridge off a helmet.
Then in the hall, hard-honed swords
were grabbed from the bench, many a broad shield
lifted and braced; there was little thought of helmets
or woven mail when they woke in terror.

Old English text[56] —English Translation[57]

In another case, Hrothgar laments the death of Æschere, "my right-hand man when the ranks clashed and our boar-crests had to take a battering in the line of action"[10] (eaxlgestealla, ðonne we on orlege hafelan weredon, þonne hniton feþan, eoferas cnysedan[58]). Both instances likely refer to crests such as those on the Benty Grange or Wollaston helmets,[48][49][53] or to the one found in Guilden Morden.[59]


  1. ^ "Unfortunately the name associated with the objects is Great Maldon, rather than Guilden Morden. It is likely that this was merely a mistake in copying, as Guilden Morden was specifically mentioned as the findspot by Fordham. ... Also, despite extensive research, it seems that no settlement named Great Maldon exists, or existed in the 19th century, in any county of England."[2]
  2. ^ Rather than the legs being cast individually, the Benty Grange boar was cast in two longitudinal halves.[25]
  3. ^ A sixth reconstructible Anglo-Saxon helmet, the Shorwell helmet, is known. It is of the Frankish style and not of the crested variety.[31]
  4. ^ In the other two instances boars are referred to in the plural,[50] such as when Beowulf and his men leave their ship as "[b]oar-shapes flashed above their cheek-guards".[51] (eoforlic scionon ofer hleorbergan[52]) These references were perhaps made with the intention of recalling boars like those on the eyebrows of the Sutton Hoo helmet.[48][49][53][54][55]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Fordham 1904, p. 373.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Foster 1977a, p. 166.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i British Museum a.
  4. ^ a b c d Foster 1977a, pp. 166–167.
  5. ^ a b c d e Fordham 1904, p. 374.
  6. ^ Foster 1977b, pp. 5, 27.
  7. ^ a b c d Meadows 2010, p. 16.
  8. ^ a b Beowulf, ll. 303–306, 1110–1112, 1286, 1327–1328, 1448–1454.
  9. ^ a b Hatto 1957a, pp. 155–156.
  10. ^ a b Heaney 2000, p. 93.
  11. ^ Fordham 1904, pp. 373–374.
  12. ^ Whitaker 2006, p. 42.
  13. ^ ODNB.
  14. ^ Grove 1976, p. 36.
  15. ^ a b Foster 1977a, pp. 166, pl. XIV.
  16. ^ Morley 1905, p. 73.
  17. ^ British Museum b.
  18. ^ Stiegemann, Kroker & Walter 2013a.
  19. ^ Stiegemann, Kroker & Walter 2013b, pp. 189, 825.
  20. ^ Foster 1977b, p. 23.
  21. ^ a b Hatto 1957b, p. 258.
  22. ^ a b c Foster 1977a, p. 167.
  23. ^ Frank 2008, p. 76.
  24. ^ Meadows 1996–1997, p. 193.
  25. ^ Bruce-Mitford 1974, p. 237.
  26. ^ Bruce-Mitford 1974, p. 242.
  27. ^ Meadows 1997, p. 4.
  28. ^ Steuer 1987, pp. 199–203, 230–231.
  29. ^ Tweddle 1992, pp. 1083, 1086.
  30. ^ Butterworth et al. 2016, p. 41 n.27.
  31. ^ Hood et al. 2012, p. 92.
  32. ^ a b Stiegemann, Kroker & Walter 2013b, p. 189.
  33. ^ Foster 1977b, p. 1.
  34. ^ a b Frank 2008, p. 78.
  35. ^ Frank 2008, p. 82.
  36. ^ a b c Foster 1977b, p. 5.
  37. ^ Tacitus 1868, p. 31.
  38. ^ Tacitus 1886, p. 25.
  39. ^ Foster 1977b, pp. 15, 19, 26.
  40. ^ a b Foster 1977b, p. 27.
  41. ^ Frank 2008, p. 80.
  42. ^ Frank 2008, p. 86.
  43. ^ Beowulf, ll. 303–306.
  44. ^ a b Chaney 1970, pp. 123–124.
  45. ^ Speake 1980, p. 80.
  46. ^ Bateman 1861, p. 33.
  47. ^ Beowulf, ll. 1110–1112, 1286, 1327–1328.
  48. ^ a b c Cramp 1957, pp. 62–63.
  49. ^ a b c Davidson 1968, p. 354.
  50. ^ Beowulf, ll. 303–306, 1448–1454.
  51. ^ Heaney 2000, pp. 21–23.
  52. ^ Beowulf, ll. 303–304.
  53. ^ a b Chaney 1970, p. 123.
  54. ^ Bruce-Mitford 1972, p. 122.
  55. ^ Bruce-Mitford 1974, p. 200.
  56. ^ Beowulf, ll. 1279–1291.
  57. ^ Heaney 2000, pp. 89–91.
  58. ^ Beowulf, ll. 1326–1328.
  59. ^ Frank 2008, pp. 78–79.


  • Bateman, Thomas (1861). Ten Years' Digging in Celtic and Saxon Grave Hills, in the counties of Derby, Stafford, and York, from 1848 to 1858; with Notices of some Former Discoveries, Hitherto Unpublished, and Remarks on the Crania and Pottery from the Mounds. London: John Russell Smith. pp. 28–33.  open access publication – free to read
  • Beowulf. n.d. 
  • Old English quotations above use the Klaeber text, published as Klaeber, Friedrich (1922). Beowulf and The Fight at Finnsburg. Boston: D.C. Heath & Company.  open access publication – free to read
  • Bruce-Mitford, Rupert (Autumn 1972). "The Sutton Hoo Helmet: A New Reconstruction". The British Museum Quarterly. British Museum. XXXVI (3–4): 120–130. JSTOR 4423116.  closed access publication – behind paywall
  • Bruce-Mitford, Rupert (1974). Aspects of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology: Sutton Hoo and Other Discoveries. London: Victor Gollancz. ISBN 978-0-575-01704-7. 
  • Butterworth, Jenni; Fregni, Giovanna; Fuller, Kayleigh & Greaves, Pieta (2016). "The Importance of Multidisciplinary Work within Archaeological Conservation Projects: Assembly of the Staffordshire Hoard Die-impressed Sheets". Journal of the Institute of Conservation. Institute of Conservation. 39 (1): 29–43. doi:10.1080/19455224.2016.1155071. 
  • Chaney, William A. (1970). The Cult of Kingship in Anglo-Saxon England: The Transition from Paganism to Christianity. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 
  • Cramp, Rosemary J. (1957). "Beowulf and Archaeology" (PDF). Medieval Archaeology. Society for Medieval Archaeology. 1: 57–77. doi:10.5284/1000320.  open access publication – free to read
  • Davidson, Hilda Ellis (1968). "Archaeology and Beowulf". In Garmonsway, George Norman & Simpson, Jacqueline. Beowulf and its Analogues. London: J. M. Dent & Sons. pp. 350–360. OCLC 421931242. 
  • Fordham, Herbert George (1904). "A Small Bronze Object Found near Guilden Morden" (PDF). Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society. Cambridge Antiquarian Society. X (4): 373–374, 404.  open access publication – free to read
    • Image on page 404
  • "Fordham, Sir Herbert George (1854–1929)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/33200.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • Foster, Jennifer (1977a). "Notes and News: A Boar Figurine from Guilden Morden, Cambs" (PDF). Medieval Archaeology. Society for Medieval Archaeology. XXI: 166–167. doi:10.5284/1000320.  open access publication – free to read
    • Images on plate XIV
  • Foster, Jennifer (1977b). "Bronze Boar Figurines in Iron Age and Roman Britain". British Archaeological Reports. 39. ISBN 978-0-904531-74-9. 
  • Frank, Roberta (2008). "The Boar on the Helmet". In Karkov, Catherine E. & Damico, Helen. Aedificia Nova: Studies in Honor of Rosemary Cramp. Publications of the Richard Rawlinson Center. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University. pp. 76–88. ISBN 978-1-58044-110-0. 
  • Grove, Richard (1976). "Coprolite Mining in Cambridgeshire". The Agricultural History Review. British Agricultural History Society. 24 (1): 36–43. JSTOR 40273687. 
  • Hatto, Arthur Thomas (August 1957a). "Snake-swords and Boar-helmets in Beowulf". English Studies. XXXVIII (4): 145–160. doi:10.1080/00138385708596994.  closed access publication – behind paywall
  • Hatto, Arthur Thomas (December 1957b). "Notes and News: Snake-swords and Boar-helmets". English Studies. XXXVIII (6): 257–259. doi:10.1080/00138385708597004.  closed access publication – behind paywall
  • Heaney, Seamus (2000). Beowulf: A New Verse Translation. New York: W. W. Norton. 
  • "helmet / figurine". The British Museum Collection Online. The British Museum. Retrieved 25 June 2017.  open access publication – free to read
  • Hood, Jamie; Ager, Barry; Williams, Craig; Harrington, Susan & Cartwright, Caroline (2012). Investigating and Interpreting an Early-to-mid Sixth-century Frankish Style Helmet (PDF). The British Museum Technical Research Bulletin. 6. British Museum. pp. 83–95. ISBN 978-1-904982-80-7.  open access publication – free to read
  • Meadows, Ian (1996–1997). "The Pioneer Helmet". Northamptonshire Archaeology. Northamptonshire Archaeological Society. 27: 191–193. OCLC 221836053. 
  • Meadows, Ian (1997). "The Pioneer Helmet: A Dark-Age Princely Burial from Northamptonshire". Medieval Life. Medieval Life (8): 2–4. ISSN 1357-6291. 
  • Meadows, Ian (2010) [2004]. "An Anglian Warrior Burial from Wollaston, Northamptonshire". Northamptonshire Archaeology Reports (digital ed.). Northamptonshire County Council. 10 (110). 
  • Morley, John (17 April 1905). Return to an Order of the Honourable The House of Commons, dated 7 March 1904 ;—for, COPY "of Account of the Income and Expenditure of the British Museum (Special Trust Funds) for the Year ending the 31st day of March 1905; and, Return of the Number of Persons admitted to visit the Museum and the British Museum (Natural History) in each Year from 1899 to 1904, both Years inclusive ; together with a Statement of the Progress made in the Arrangement and Description of the Collections, and an Account of Objects added to them in the Year 1904 (Report). London: His Majesty's Stationary Office.  open access publication – free to read
  • "Room 41: Europe AD 300–1100". The British Museum. Retrieved 19 September 2017.  open access publication – free to read
  • Speake, George (1980). Anglo-Saxon Animal Art. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0-19-813194-6. 
  • Stiegemann, Christoph; Kroker, Martin & Walter, Wolfgang, eds. (2013a). CREDO: Christianisierung Europas im Mittelalter. I: Essays. Petersberg: Michael Imhof Verlag. ISBN 978-3-86568-827-9.  (in German)
  • Stiegemann, Christoph; Kroker, Martin & Walter, Wolfgang, eds. (2013b). CREDO: Christianisierung Europas im Mittelalter. II: Katalog. Petersberg: Michael Imhof Verlag. ISBN 978-3-86568-827-9.  (in German)
  • Steuer, Heiko (1987). "Helm und Ringschwert: Prunkbewaffnung und Rangabzeichen germanischer Krieger". In Häßler, Hans-Jürgen. Studien zur Sachsenforschung [Saxon Research Studies]. 6. Hildesheim: Lax. pp. 13–21. ISBN 978-3-7848-1617-3.  (in German) open access publication – free to read
  • Tacitus (1868). "Germany and its Tribes". The Agricola and Germania of Tacitus. Translated by Church, Alfred John & Brodribb, William Jackson. London: Macmillan.  open access publication – free to read
  • Tacitus (1886). "Germania". In Church, Alfred John & Brodribb, William Jackson. The Agricola and Germania of Tacitus: With a Revised Text, English Notes, and Maps. London: Macmillan.  open access publication – free to read
  • Tweddle, Dominic (1992). The Anglian Helmet from 16–22 Coppergate (PDF). The Archaeology of York. 17/8. London: Council for British Archaeology. ISBN 978-1-872414-19-5.  open access publication – free to read
  • Whitaker, Allan (2006). "Fordham's Brewery". Brewers in Hertfordshire. Hertfordshire: University of Hertfordshire Press. pp. 42–46. ISBN 978-0954218973. 

External links

Retrieved from ""
This content was retrieved from Wikipedia :
This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article "Guilden Morden boar"; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA