Silver gilt mount from a sword scabbard

Anglo-Saxon, late 5th - early 6th century AD
From Grave 76, Chessell Down, Isle of Wight, Hampshire, England

With a runic inscription on the reverse

The sword was the most prestigious weapon an Anglo-Saxon man could own and the component parts were often highly decorated. This mount protected the open end of the sword scabbard. The upper section is decorated with a billeted band surrounded by stamped zig-zag triangles enhanced with niello. Below this is an openwork section with two bearded helmeted heads at either end. Interlaced loops represent their bodies with hands and upraised thumbs to either side of a central 'eye' below an angular surround. The back was repaired at some point with silver strips on which runes were scratched.

The mount is an Anglo-Saxon version of scabbard mouthpieces made in northern Europe and Scandinavia in the fifth and early sixth century. Specific features, such as the niello inlay, the openwork design and the Style I heads, are also found on the earliest square-headed brooches.

The runic text on the reverse reads 'æco: sœri'. It is difficult to translate these words satisfactorily, although the first may be a personal name, Æco or Acca. Other Anglo-Saxon sword fittings, notably pommels, have runic inscriptions. The runes appear to be later in date, from around the middle of the sixth century.

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More information

Bibliography

C.J. Arnold, The Anglo-Saxon cemeteries on (London, The British Museum Press, 1982)

S.C. Hawkes and R.I. Page, 'Swords and runes in south-east England', The Antiquaries Journal-3, 47 (1967), pp. 1-26

R.A. Smith, A guide to the Anglo-Saxon and (London, British Museum, 1923)

V.I. Evison, 'The Dover ring-sword and other sword-rings and beads', Archaeologia, 101 (1967)

Dimensions

Length: 5.500 cm

Museum number

M&ME 1867,7-29,150

MCS8489;MCS8474

Collected by Lord Otho FitzGerald

Location

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