The Cuddesdon Bowl

Gallery 35,
Ancient Roman and Dark Age Europe,
first floor


Focus on the Object

This early seventh-century Anglo-Saxon bowl, probably made in Kent, was discovered in 1847 in Cuddesdon, Oxfordshire. It was found in the grave of an Anglo-Saxon of noble rank, during alterations to the Bishop of Oxford’s palace. The bowl subsequently went missing and was re-discovered in 1971 in a house in Leicestershire, where it was being used as flower vase.


The bowl’s dark blue colour was created by adding copper to the molten glass. Around the upper part of the bowl is a thin applied trail of glass, arranged in ten tight spirals. The lower part of the bowl is decorated with thirteen vertical loops. These trails were formed by applying molten glass to the outer surface.


This squat dark-blue jar or bowl was probably a drinking cup. The grave in which it was found contained another similar blue bowl, a bronze bucket and an inlaid bronze plaque. A great deal of our information about Anglo-Saxon England comes from artefacts found in graves. (Cremation was also practiced at this time, but graves containing cremated bone (in specially made urns) are usually less well provided with objects). These grave-goods were believed to accompany the dead into the afterlife. In Anglo-Saxon burials the body was normally clothed and provided with ornaments, weapons or vessels appropriate to its gender and status. Drinking vessels and miniature buckets held food and drink for the sustenance of the deceased. Such burials were a pagan practice and gradually died out once the Anglo-Saxons had been converted to Christianity.