HESH-4714F5: Medieval Knife Handle

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Unique ID: HESH-4714F5

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Awaiting validation Find awaiting validation

Corroded iron knife blade with bone (?) handle of late medieval or early post medieval date (1450-1600). The knife blade has corroded and been broken; the extent of the original blade cannot be assessed. The handle is set onto the knife by a tapering small sectioned tang. The end of the tang protrudes from the top edge of the handle and is covered by a decorative cap. Due to the nature of the artefact and the expense of x-rays the extent and nature of the tang cannot be investigated. It seems that the only method of attaching the blade to the handle is the tang. The handle is formed from a single carved piece of bone (?) which has been fitted onto the tang. No rivets or other forms of pinning are present. The handle of the knife is sub rectangular in plan and cross section. The long edges of the handle taper along their length to a narrowed terminal; here the handle meets the top of the blade. The opposite terminal is decoratively shaped and relatively wide. The nature of the handle is difficult to assess. It is believed to be made from bone rather than antler; this is due to the nature of the close grain of the material and lack of clear vessels. The knife and handle measures 88.1mm length, 19.3mm width, is 8.2mm thick and weighs 22.81 grams. The handle measures 41.2mm length, 19.3mm width and is 8.2mm thick. The blade is 11.3mm width and 4.8mm thick.

The handle is decorated with a number of carved motifs; both faces of the handle are carved with the same design. The design consists of two zones; these are contained by vertical and horizontal paired carved lines. On the main part of the handle are a series of 5 incised ring and dot decoration, These have been ranged into an irregular cross shape, with the head of the cross being formed by a single ring and dot, the arms; two, and the foot; two. Above the cross and horizontal line are two further ring and dots, these are positioned on either side of the tang. The outer edges of the handle have also been shaped with a clear rounded / narrowed terminal. The top face of the knife has been heavily scratched or possibly filed terminal; the majority of these scratches are old as they have a similar patina to them as the handle. The cap over the tang is very small and probably made from brass; it is circular in shape and domed. The tang protrudes though the top but is flush with the surface of the handle. There are several areas of damage present; these include a small fracture on the body of the handle which is likely to be caused by the corrosion of the iron tang. The top of the handle has also been damaged or broken, and there is a small worm (?) hole on one face of the handle.

The handle is a mid brown colour with patches of darker brown staining, the blade is a corroded mid orange brown colour. The handle has been stained by the iron corrosion. The blade of the knife is not encrusted; however, there are areas of light orange active corrosion present. The nature of the object is relatively fragile, if the corrosion is not abated then it is likely to cause damage (split) the bone handle, however any treatment for the corrosion (like keeping it in a dry box with silica gels) is likely also to split the bone through the drying process. A direct parallel for this style of knife handle has not been found. The blade is likely to be a whittled tanged knife, however, this is difficult to establish due to the fragmentary nature of the artefact. Similar decorative styles can be seen in examples of Tudor date from London (see Egan, 2005; Material Culture in London in the age of transition section 9) and a similar date is suggested for this example.

Class: Handle

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


Broad period: MEDIEVAL
Subperiod from: Late
Period from: MEDIEVAL
Date from: AD 1450
Date to: AD 1600

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 88.1 mm
Width: 19.3 mm
Thickness: 4.8 mm
Weight: 22.81 g

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Mr Peter Reavill
Identified by: Mr Peter Reavill

Materials and construction

Primary material: Iron
Secondary material: Animal skeletal material
Manufacture method: Multiple
Completeness: Incomplete

Spatial metadata

Region: West Midlands (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: County of Herefordshire (Unitary Authority)
District: County of Herefordshire (Unitary Authority)
Parish or ward: Wellington (Civil Parish)

Spatial coordinates

4 Figure: SO4948
Four figure Latitude: 52.127942
Four figure longitude: -2.746417
1:25K map: SO4948
1:10K map: SO44NE
Grid reference source: From finder
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 1 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Other chance find
General landuse: Other
Specific landuse: Garden

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: HESH
Created: 13 years ago
Updated: 8 years ago

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