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A stitch in time

16 August 2013 by Gina

M6466

What do you think this little box was used for? The box is part of the fantastic Anglo-Saxon collection at World Museum, which I’m lucky enough to curate.

Here are a couple of clues:

The box once belonged to a woman who lived in Kent in the 6th or 7th century, and it was found in her grave.

When the excavator opened it he found a bundle of short woollen threads; you can see their remains on the left of the picture.

If you said ‘work box’, you could be right, but perhaps the threads are too short to use for sewing. Another name for this type of object is ‘relic box’ because some scholars think the threads were special to their owner.

At the moment, there are two relic boxes on display on the third floor of World Museum. One is in the Weston Discovery Centre and the other in the Ancient World Gallery, where you can also see the beautiful Kingston Brooch.

  1. Carla says:

    I am especially interested in this beautiful object and its intriguing contents. Would it possible to post a magnified pic of the contents to understand if the threads are separate or woven in some way? Thank you!

  2. Gina says:

    Many thanks for your comment on this interesting object, Carla. The textile is on display at the moment, but I will try to take it out of the case for a more detailed photograph. The contents of the box were examined in 1998 by specialists from the Manchester Medieval Textiles project, who described them as a ‘mass on unspun wool’, fragments of tablet-woven braid, threads of wool tied in a knot, and a cable made from yarns; in other words, a mixture of separate threads and woven textile. If you need more specific information, please contact the Antiquities section via our contact details, which you can find via the World Museum website.

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