What was Anglo-Saxon art and culture like?

The Anglo-Saxons were great craft workers. They made intricate jewellery, musical instruments and homemade toys and games.

They were also keen storytellers. They would gather together in feasting halls and tell thrilling stories. Often their stories would be accompanied by music played on an instrument called a lyre.

The Saxons liked to play with words too. They amused themselves by telling clever riddles.

Anglo-Saxon jewellers made brooches, beads and gold ornaments. Take a look below at these Anglo-Saxon treasures.

What did their art and treasure look like?

A rusty Anglo Saxon helmet.

This helmet was found at Sutton Hoo. It is one of the most famous Anglo-Saxon finds. There are boar's heads on the end of each eyebrow and a dragon head above the nose. Together they make the shape of a bird with outspread wings.

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How did they tell stories?

Very few Anglo-Saxons could read or write. All their stories were told to them by their friends and family.

On dark winter days, people gathered in the great hall around a log fire. They listened to stories and poems, feasted and sang songs.

They ate roast meats with bread and fruit, and they drank ale or a strong drink made from honey called mead. People often drank too much, so feasts were usually noisy and sometimes ended in fights!

Anglo-Saxons loved tales about brave warriors and their adventures. A favourite story told how Beowulf, a heroic prince, battled the fierce man-eating monster Grendel.

An Anglo-Saxon storyteller captivates his audience around the camp fire at night
A storyteller played music on a small harp or a lyre to accompany their stories and poems

The story of Beowulf

The story of Beowulf was first written down around the 8th or 9th century, but long before that the story was told around the fire.

What games did they play?

Children played with homemade toys. They had rag dolls and carved wooden toys, as well as games that used counters and dice.

From finds in graves, we know children also had spinning tops and played tunes on pipes made from reeds or animal bones.

Anglo-Saxon men enjoyed sporting pastimes, like wrestling, weight-lifting (using heavy rocks) and horse-racing. These sports kept them fit for work and strong for war. In swimming races, it was fair to push other swimmers underwater!

The Anglo-Saxons liked to tell each other riddles too. Can you work out the answer to this one?

Anglo-Saxon riddle

I appear on the ground like a blanket and melt in the midday sun. What am I?

Did you get it right? The answer is snow!

Three children playing games on an Anglo-Saxon farm
Anglo-Saxon children played games with counters and stones
An Anglo-Saxon village