Length: 81.100 cm
Room 41: Europe AD 300-1100
Seax of Beagnoth
Anglo-Saxon, 9th-10th century
From the River Thames at Battersea, London
The only inscription of the complete Anglo-Saxon runic alphabet
The Old English word seax means 'knife', but is specifically used today to describe large Anglo-Saxon single-edged knives made of iron. This seax was found in the River Thames at Battersea.
A narrow panel of decoration runs along the back edge on each side of the blade. These panels are outlined by strips of twisted copper and brass wire and separated from the rest of the blade by a deep groove. On one side of the blade two inscriptions run along this panel.
One inscription is a copy of the twenty-eight letters of the runic alphabet, known as the futhorc. The other inscription, also in Anglo-Saxon runes, reads 'Beagnoth' which is the name of the person who owned or made the knife, something commonly found on these knives. The two inscriptions are here separated by a length of pattern made up of linked lozenges of silver and copper, and which takes up the entire length of the panel on the other side. The smith made mistakes in his runic alphabet and had to squeeze in a missing 's'.
Seaxes were weapons probably used in both combat and hunting. They are mainly found in the south of England.
R.I. Page, An introduction to English run, 2nd ed. (Woodbridge, Boydell, 1999)
J. Backhouse, D.H. Turner and L. Webster (eds.), The golden age of Anglo-Saxon, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1984)