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Iron spearhead with silver and copper decoration

  • Other side

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Length: 53.500 cm

Gift of Sir Augustus Franks, 1893

Britain, Europe and Prehistory
1893,0715.2

M&ME 1893,7-15,2

    Iron spearhead with silver and copper decoration

    Viking, late 9th-10th century AD
    London, England

    All free men in Viking society were entitled to own and carry weapons. Swords were the most prized, while spearheads were more common and affordable. Many comprised plain iron blades attached to wooden shafts, but the finest were highly decorated.

    The socket of this elegant spearhead is completely covered with rings of twisted silver. Copper wires are inlaid into the iron surface in a herringbone pattern. This decoration is typical of the craftsmanship of the Viking smiths in Norway. The blade itself is slender and tapering. One substantial rivet originally attached the spearhead to its shaft, making an effective thrusting weapon for both hunting and fighting.

    This spearhead was found in the River Thames in London, in 1848. Although often discovered in graves, there is much discussion about why so many weapons from this period are found in rivers. They may represent simple losses, for instance during Viking raids and battles; but the numbers involved suggest that some were deliberately placed here – perhaps as ritual dedications of weapons taken from the enemy.

    J. Graham-Campbell, Viking artefacts: a select cat (London, The British Museum Press, 1980)

    S. Marzinzik, Masterpieces: Early medieval a (London, British Museum Press, 2013)