Decorative item unearthed in England depicts a hippogriff – half horse, half eagle

The Hippogriff, much as it came out of the ground. Photo: Oxford Archaeology East
The Hippogriff, much as it came out of the ground. Photo: Oxford Archaeology East

A decorative item depicting a mythical creature that is half horse, horse eagle has been unearthed in England ahead of a major housing development in the Cambridge region.

The legendary creature, known as a hippogriff, which features the front of an eagle and the rear of a horse, had probably been recycled, having originally been decoration on a shield, according to heritage experts Oxford Archaeology East.

It was probably repurposed as a piece of jewellery, or perhaps as a protective symbol or talisman.

It has been assessed as being more than 1400 years old.

The hippogriff is among a haul of rare Anglo-Saxon finds at Cherry Hinton, in Cambridge.

The archaeologists say the discoveries shed light on the origins of Cherry Hinton itself.

A field team spent three months during the summer on the site next to Cambridge Airport, excavating and recording the archaeology in advance of redevelopment.

Anglo-Saxon jewellery, such as fine brooches, multi-coloured glass and amber beads, rings and hairpins, were recovered alongside more workaday tools including small knives and iron shield bosses and spear heads.

Oxford Archaeology East say these items date to around the 6th century AD and are linked to several burials and a nearby pre-Christian building.

In addition to the metalwork, several complete early Anglo-Saxon vessels were found, including a stunning glass claw beaker. Such elaborate drinking vessels are normally found further southeast in Kent or the area now covered by northern France, the Netherlands and Germany, where they were probably produced.

Although crushed over the centuries by the weight of soil above, this vessel is complete and could be reconstructed.

Roman finds also unearthed during the work are considered of equal archaeological value. They pre-date the Anglo-Saxon period and include fine pottery vessels and plates from 2nd-century cremations. The archaeologists also uncovered an early Roman pottery kiln and a complex of late Iron Age and Roman ditches that defined a field system.

The site fell out of use in the 7th century, but there was another phase of activity in the 8th century or Middle Saxon period; evidence was uncovered for post-built structures, possibly workshops or livestock pens, and pits relating to industrial activity.

The site lies on the western edge of the Middle Saxon settlement around Church End, and which formed the 9th-10th century manor. By 1086 it had become known as Hintona in the Domesday Book.

The finds are still at an early stage of cleaning, conservation and analysis. The hippogriff is pictured almost as it came out of the ground.

The site was unknown until it was evaluated by test trenches in 2007. Developer funding from Weston Homes enabled excavation to take place during 2016.

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One thought on “Decorative item unearthed in England depicts a hippogriff – half horse, half eagle

  • January 19, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    In all courteousness, the hippogriff emblem is a nicely remarkable find as are the rest that are described in this nicely excellent article: we appreciate the good news, truly. May the lightness follow you! Thx! 😀 – The Bellamys


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