Length: 84 cm (sword blade)
Museum number: M&ME 1939,1010.95
Gift of Mrs E.M. Pretty
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Sword from the ship-burial at Sutton Hoo
Anglo-Saxon, early 7th century AD
From Mound 1, Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, England
With gold and cloisonné garnet fittings
Anglo-Saxon sword blades are made using a technique known as pattern-welding, where rods of iron are twisted and then forged to form the core of a blade to which a sharp cutting edge is added. The sword blade found in the Sutton Hoo ship-burial is especially complex and is matched only by the fragmentary blade found in Mound 2 at Sutton Hoo.
The sword is richly furnished with a gold and garnet pommel, gold guards and filigree clips on the hilt. It was buried in a wooden scabbard which was lined with sheep wool, whose oil kept the blade bright.
The sword hung from a belt whose fittings are equally magnificent. All are made of gold with inlaid garnet cloisonné. One of these, the strap distributor, is made of three moving parts; on the back of one are the marks of a tiny goldsmith's hammer where a repair has been made. The belt buckle is the only piece of 'jewellery' found in this extraordinary grave that is damaged - it lay beneath the blade and was crushed when the burial chamber collapsed.
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R.L.S. Bruce-Mitford, The Sutton Hoo ship burial-2, vol. 2: arms, armour and regalia (London, The British Museum Press, 1978)
A.C. Evans, The Sutton Hoo ship burial, revised edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)