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But unless such conditions apply, our examination is liable to end in speculation. For many of the earliest Anglo-Saxon inscriptions, and even for some of the later, we can only speculate: as, for example, with the roedeer's astragalus (ankle-bone such bones were used as playing-pieces in some sort of board game) from a cremation urn at Caistor-by-Norwich, the Loveden Hill urn, the two small bits of gold from the foreshore near Selsey, the Ash or Gilton/Guilton (Kent) sword-hilt, the Dover brooch, the cattlebone dug up at Hamwih (Southampton), the bracteate from Welbeck Hill (Lincolnshire/South Humberside), the bronze pail from Chessell Down, the badly corroded tweezers from Heacham (Norfolk), the jet disc from Whitby (North Yorkshire) and the wooden spoon from York.
In another of his plates he tried, anticipating later runologists, to trace the relationship between runic, Greek and roman characters. Book 2 of the Thesaurus is Wanley's catalogue of manuscripts containing Anglo-Saxon. In his introduction to it Wanley suggested that the Anglo-Saxons knew runes before they learnt the roman letters that were to supersede them, and he noted that they continued to include two runes, thorn/þorn and wynn, in their later bookhand. Wanley's list of manuscripts shows he was on the look-out for runes in them, for he noted several cases, as the runic pater noster in the Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS 422 text of the First Poetical Dialogue of Solomon and Saturn, runic scribbles added to MSS 41 and 326 in the same collection, and the drawing of the Bewcastle head runes in British Library MS Cotton Domitian xviii.
It is customary to scoff at Stephens, but rather we should stress the positive qualities which even Bradley admitted in him, the abounding vigour and enthusiasm that led him to become a collecting point for Anglo-Saxon runic studies through the second part of the nineteenth century. Until the publication in 1961 of Hertha Marquardt's English volume of the Bibliographie der Runeninschriften nach Fundorten (a bibliography of runic inscriptions arranged alphabetically according to find-spots), runologists looking for information turned naturally to Stephens in the first instance.