Anglo Saxon Sword Pommel

Anglo Saxon 7th Century sword pommel

This Yorkshire World Collections object, is one of 100 chosen by young people aged 16-24, as part of the London Cultural Olympiad programme Stories of the World.


This Anglo Saxon sword pommel dates from the 7th Century AD (about 600 650 AD). A sword pommel is the small (in this case only 4.5cm x 1.5cm) decorative knob at the top of the handle. It was used to improve grip, to stop the sword slipping out of a warrior's hand. 

This pommel is made of leaded bronze, with a thin sheet of gold covering it. On one side of the pommel you can see an irregular design of empty gold 'cells' which would have held very small slices of precious stone. The other side has a pattern of knotwork made of fine gold wire soldered to the surface.

This highly decorative sword must have belonged to someone important, because it would have taken so long to make and uses such rare materials. It was found on the beach at Aldborough in East Yorkshire by two metal detectorists in 1997.

Who were the Anglo Saxons?

Anglo Saxons were tribes from mainland Europe who invaded Britain after the Romans left in 400 AD. They made beautiful jewellery, armour, drinking cups etc, using gold and gems from countries sometimes thousands of miles from their homes. They were not Christians; they had their own gods. 

Objects that once belonged to the Anglo Saxons are still being found in Britain often by people using metal detectors. The Staffordshire Hoard, a huge group of objects, was found in 2009 and the Sutton Hoo burial ship site and its contents was found in 1939.

Glossary

Knotwork - intricate pattern with lines criss-crossing each other
Leaded bronze - bronze is a mixture (an alloy) of copper and tin. Sometimes other metals would be added to give the mix extra strength or make it easier to work. This piece had lead added
Pagan - local religion, sometimes to do with the earth or witchcraft 
Soldered - metalworkers used a soft metal called solder, which was easy to melt and could glue together parts of a metal object

Discussion ideas:

  • When complete this sword would have been used by an important soldier. How would his opponents feel when they saw this rich object?
  • How would it make the ordinary soldiers on his own side feel?
  • Anglo Saxons were invaders who left few buildings for us to see now. There is evidence in some old churches of their pagan worship. Find out if there are any Saxon remains in your area.

Activity ideas:

  • The Saxons came across from mainland Europe by sea to find land to conquer. Why do you think people at this time found it simpler and quicker to travel by sea and river, rather than by land?

  • Zoom into this map of the East Riding showing the coast line and work out where the invading Anglo Saxons might have landed. (Look for sheltered bays). 





 
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