This is a 7th-century gesture figurine of a man, made of copper alloy. It was found by a metal-detectorist last December in the parish of Kintbury, West Berkshire.
While fully three-dimensional and displaying decoration on all sides, the figurine is flat and square in profile. The face is fairly crude, consisting of an oval-shaped head with a long, rounded chin that might represent a beard. The eyes are two small circular depressions, the mouth a transverse line, and the nose a simple raised ridge. Two bulges on either side of the head appear to be ears, but these are not normally depicted in early Anglo-Saxon art, so it is thought that this may instead be the remains of some sort of worn headdress. The torso is long, with the arms by the sides and hands folded in front. Compared to the rest of the body, the legs are short, and a transverse line along the knees of both legs may represent boots.
This find adds to a small but slowly growing number of similar Anglo-Saxon figurines that have been found in the south and east of England, primarily along the coast. This specific example has some unusual characteristics, however. In particular, his thumbs are upturned. While similar artefacts from Scandinavia are shown biting their thumbs, this is the first known figurine from Britain to have been found with thumbs in this position. The Scandinavian examples also typically depict a penis, as this one also does, but – unlike on this figurine – they are usually erect.
For more information on this figurine, see https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/1029406 or search for BERK-0929C9 on the PAS database.
The Portable Antiquities Scheme is an initiative, funded by the DCMS, to encourage the voluntary recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales. For more information on the Scheme, and to browse its database of over 1.5 million finds, visit www.finds.org.uk. Information for this find was provided by Philip Smither, Finds Liaison Officer – Berkshire.