Museum acquires £30,000 AD 700 gold sword pommel found in Scotland

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An “exceptionally rare” solid gold sword pommel discovered by a metal detector and dating back to the early medieval period has become the property of the National Museums of Scotland.

The impressive find was located near Blair Drummond, Stirling, and is thought to date back to 700 AD.

Measuring 5.5cm wide and weighing 25g, the gold button is valued at £30,000.

On the recommendation of the Scottish Archaeological Finds Awarding Committee, the King’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer awarded the find to the National Museums Scotland (NMS), who described the object as “exceptionally rare”.

The golden pommel is around 5.5cm wide, weighs 25g and is worth £30,000 (National Museums Scotland/PA)

Dr Alice Blackwell, senior curator of medieval archeology and history at the NMS, said the opulent object, decorated with gold filigree, is unlike anything found in the UK before.

Despite its impressive decorative details, she said it was still unclear exactly who it belonged to more than a thousand years ago.

“The pommel is certainly unique,” ​​Dr. Blackwell said.

“It’s a bit of a cultural and artistic melting pot, so it’s hard to say where it is and where it was made.

“It certainly has a lot of heritage from Anglo-Saxon art, but it belongs to that most amazing period of creative fusion where different kinds of styles, art and manufacturing techniques were fused together to create something unique. new.”

Dr Blackwood said the pommel corresponds to the “island art” style, made famous by illuminated manuscripts such as the Lindisfarne Gospels.

Closer inspection revealed that the piece had eyes and a beak at each end.

Dr Blackwood said these depict the head of a bird of prey pointing outward from the center of the object.

“The decoration is very clearly Christian,” she says, “mixing old-fashioned animal and protective motifs that you see in Anglo-Saxon art with very clear Christian iconography.

“There are two panels, one on each side, and one has a symbolic cross made out of geometric shapes, and the other looks like a potted plant.

“And those twin motifs are the cross, as in the crucifixion, and the tree of life, which is about resurrection, so it’s about death and rebirth.

“But you also have mythical beasts crawling around the sides, so there are all sorts of things going on.

“It’s so visually rich, and that’s what sets it apart from anything that’s been found in the UK.

“It’s important at the British level.”

Dr Blackwood said there was no evidence yet to suggest there was a battle on the ground in which the pommel, believed to have been attached to a steel sword, was found.

“We do, however, have a very imperfect historical record for this period,”

Since there were no other discoveries nearby, experts speculate that the object may have simply been lost.

Dr Blackwood said the exciting discovery will play its part in piecing together part of Britain’s history.

“The pommel has this fantastic fusion that certainly puts it in the north of Britain and then we find it in Scotland, so it’s a fascinating set of stories that will keep us busy for quite a while.

“There’s a lot of research to be done on this because it’s unique.

“Sometimes people think that when something enters a museum it becomes fixed and static, but that’s not the case, it’s the beginning of research to untangle all things about it, its artistic fusion , and understand and contextualize what this tells us about early medieval Scotland.”

John Logue, King’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer, said: “This discovery highlights the positive work done by the Treasure Trove unit in deciding the preservation of rare items for the nation.”

The pommel was found towards the end of 2019, but NMS said that due to restrictions during the pandemic, decisions on its acquisition had been delayed.

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