British Museum guidebook, £3.50
Length: 69.300 cm
Purchased by the
Prehistory and Europe
Sword and scabbard end
Pevensey, East Sussex,
Roman, 3rd century AD
Well-preserved sword, possibly from a soldier's burial
This iron sword with scabbard end (chape) has survived in excellent condition. The sword is an example of a 'ring-pommel sword' (Ringknaufschwert), so-called because of the distinctively shaped ring at the end of the grip. The blade is double-edged and relatively short, ending in a tapered tip. The copper-alloy chape has decorative incised mouldings and a tinned surface that would originally have shone like silver, although the rest of the scabbard and the hilt (handle-grip) fittings have perished. This type of sword originated around the mid-second century AD and was used throughout Europe (excluding the Mediterranean region) but was most common in Romanised and free Germany.
This particular example is said to have been found at Pevensey in East Sussex, England, in 1940. It was accompanied by some silver coins of the Emperor Commodus (176-92 AD) in what might have been a soldier's burial. Around the late third century AD a fort was constructed at Pevensey, part of a network of coastal stone forts, but the area may already have seen military deployments prior to this. Whether directly connected to the stone fort or to the earlier activity, the sword was surely linked with the control the province at this time.
M.C. Bishop and J.C.N. Coulston, Roman military equipment: from (London, Batsford, 1993)
A. Pearson, The Roman Shore Forts (Tempus, Stroud, 2002)