National Museums Scotland has acquired an “exceptionally rare” gold sword pommel unearthed by a metal detectorist near Stirling,
BBC News reported. A pommel is a decorative piece attached to the bottom of a sword. Credit: National Museums Scotland
The pommel, which is approximately 1,300 years old, was discovered in 2019 and was declared to the Scottish Treasure Trove unit.
The gold decoration, which would have sat at the top of a sword handle, measures 5.5cm wide, weighs 25g, and was estimated to be worth about £30,000.
The finding has been described a “hugely significant.”
According to Dr. Alice Blackwell, senior curator of medieval archaeology and history at National Museums Scotland (NMS), goldwork from this period is “virtually unknown” in the UK.
She said it showed the spectacular skill and craftsmanship of the early medieval period.
The pommel is believed to have been made around 700 AD.
The solid gold object is encrusted with garnets and intricate goldwork depicting religious motifs and fantastical creatures.
The discovery was made at the end of 2019 at Blair Drummond, but NMS stated that due to restrictions during the pandemic, decisions about its acquisition were delayed.
It was allocated to them on recommendation of the Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel.
“Its archaeological value was due to what it told us about important cultural, political and artistic interactions in northern Britain at this time,” Dr Blackwell said.
“Its decoration combined elements from both Anglo-Saxon England and the kingdoms of Early Medieval Scotland,” She added. “Early medieval Scotland is a really interesting period.”
“You have a number of culturally distinct kingdoms and the pommel’s design has taken from the different cultures and melded them together ”
Senior Curator Dr Alice Blackwell holds the rare gold sword pommel. Credit: Stewart Attwood
The blending of different cultural styles is known as “insular art” style, which was made famous by illuminated manuscripts such as the Lindisfarne Gospels.
Dr Blackwell said this fusion of styles had made it hard to determine where exactly it was made and whom it may have belonged to.
However, she believes it could have belonged to royalty due to the higher standard of goldwork on the pommel compared to other goldware discovered in this period.
“In a way this is the start of the
artifact’s journey,” Dr Blackwell said.
“A lot of research and work is still to be done to uncover what stories it can tells us about the political and cultural landscape of Northern Britain at this time.” —