Silver knife mount with runic inscription

Anglo-Saxon, late 8th century AD
Found in London, England

Biting head for a sharp weapon

This fragment of a gilded silver fitting was discovered in the River Thames near Westminster Bridge. The fierce animal head with its great fangs appears to have marked the point where two strips joined to make a V-shaped mount.

It is most likely that this was part of the binding of a scabbard for a knife or seax. The fancy rivets in threes along its length would have held it to the leather or wood of the scabbard. When worn it would have been seen from one side only. This explains why the fitting has been decorated on one side.

The main decoration is a prominent runic inscription twenty-one letters long. Although the clearly cut runes have no obvious meaning, they could have acted as a magical charm to protect or bring good luck to the owner of this valuable weapon set.

The three-dimensional animal head resembles a wolf and is well suited to a weapon case. It has a long tongue which passed between its fangs and ends at the throat to make a loop. The beast has blue glass eyes which add to its fearful appearance.

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More information

Bibliography

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

R.I. Page, An introduction to English run, 2nd ed. (Woodbridge, Boydell, 1999)

L. Webster and J. Backhouse, The making of England: Anglo-S, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)

Dimensions

Length: 18.800 cm

Museum number

M&ME 1869,6-10,1

MCS275

Gift of Thomas D E Gunston

Location

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