Openwork sword pommel

Anglo-Saxon, late 8th century AD
From near Woodeaton, Oxfordshire, England

A unique and brilliant piece of military metalwork

This elaborate sword pommel was discovered on farmland in 1993. Because it was green with corrosion, it was thought that the piece was made of bronze, as is usual for sword pommels from this period. However, careful cleaning in the British Museum revealed that this unusual, high status object is made from gilded silver.

The pommel was cast in two separate pieces: the upper pommel and the pommel bar below. These were riveted and soldered together, and finally polished. The pommel had been mounted on the hilt of an iron sword; a small piece of the iron core is still attached.

Both sides are decorated with unique openwork ornament. This fine decoration consists of interlace, foliage and knot patterns accompanied by animals such as the two birds at the ends of the pommel bar. Although this decoration is seen in Anglo-Saxon art at this time, it is here highly exaggerated. The complex design has no close parallels.

How and why this beautiful sword fragment came to be lost is unknown. The blade may have been broken off before or afterwards, it may have been lost in a fight or while the owner was hunting.

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More information


D.M. Wilson, Anglo-Saxon art (London, Thames and Hudson, 1984)


Length: 99.000 mm
Height: 59.000 mm
Weight: 90.790 g

Museum number

M&ME 1994,4-7,1


Purchased with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund with contribution from W. Stowell


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