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The British Museum

ESS-27D367: Early Medieval gold sword pommel cap

Rights Holder: Colchester Museums
CC License:

Rights Holder: Colchester Museums
CC License:

Rights Holder: Colchester Museums
CC License:

Rights Holder: Colchester Museums
CC License:

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Unique ID: ESS-27D367

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

Angela Evans of the British Museum provided the following report.

Late 6th or early 7th century Early Medieval gold sword pommel cap of high cocked-hat form decorated with panels of beaded wire filigree. The pommel cap is damaged and distorted but retains details of both faces, the top and the side panels. Each face is divided into three panels by fillets of gold sheet arranged in the shape of an inverted Y. The outer panels are each filled by an identical peg-headed zoomorph with open flaring jaws and a body that interlaces asymmetrically to fill the irregular field. The central, lower, panel is filled with a well formed quatrefoil knot. All the decorative elements are executed in beaded wire filigree whose clarity is diminished by a wash of the gold solder used to attach it to the panel. Each length of beaded wire is outlined by thin wire and light-weight beaded wire forms the borders of each panel. The top of the pommel cap is plain. The side panels are each filled with a single skein of interlace.

This pommel belongs to a series of pommels known as 'cocked hat' pommels. It belongs to Menghin Group E (Typ Beckum-Vallstenarum; Wilfried Meghin, 'Das Schwert im Frühen Mittelalter', 1983, p. 315 and Map 3), high status pommels of the late sixth/early seventh century whose distribution is concentrated in eastern Scandinavia, with outliers in Kent, east and north-east England, the Danube headwaters and northern Italy.

This example can be compared to the pommel found at Aldbrough, East Yorkshire ('Treasure Annual Report' 1998-1999, no. 60), a pommel that is decorated with filigree interlace on one face and empty cloisonné cell work on the other. Similar, but better executed, filigree interlace also occurs on the pyramidal mount from Bury St Edmunds ('Treasure Annual Report 2000', no. 59). The style of filigree ornament on the Ardleigh pommel is however more relaxed than either of these examples and the peg-heads of the zoomorphs suggest an earlier date. The use of peg-headed as opposed to ring-headed zoomorphs is unusual but can be seen for example on a mount from grave 81, Bidford on Avon, on a harness mount from Faversham, Kent, and as fillers between the legs of intertwined boars on the Sutton Hoo shoulder-clasps (George Speake, 'Anglo-Saxon Animal Art and its Germanic Background', Oxford, 1980, fig. 12, a and b, c; fig. 2a). Peg-heads also occur on the smaller of two bronze dies from Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk (Leslie Webster and Janet Backhouse, 'The Making of England, Anglo-Art and Culture, AD 600-900', 1991, cat. no. 40b).

The use of an inverted Y to divide each face into three anticipates the cruciform ornament on many seventh century disc pendants, where the device forms the arms of an equal-armed cross, e.g. two pendants from grave 93, Boss Hall, Ipswich (Webster and Backhouse op.cit. cat. no. 33b).

The quatrefoil knot is also unusual in an early seventh century context, but it is occasionally found - for example its use as the dominant motif on a sword pommel from Åker, Hedermarken, Norway, which also belongs to the Beckum-Vallstenarum group (Menghin, op. cit. p.316).


This object was reported under the stipulations of the Treasure Act and subsequently acquired by Colchester Museums.

Find of note status

This has been noted as an interesting find by the recorder.

Class: Pommel
Sub class: high-cocked hat

Subsequent actions

Current location of find: Colchester Museum
Subsequent action after recording: Acquired by museum after being declared Treasure

Treasure details

Treasure case tracking number: 2004T37


Broad period: EARLY MEDIEVAL
Subperiod from: Early
Subperiod to: Early
Ascribed Culture: Anglo-Saxon style
Date from: Circa AD 575
Date to: Circa AD 625

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 23.62 mm
Width: 42.84 mm
Thickness: 0.98 mm
Weight: 10.42 g

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Wednesday 1st October 2003

Personal details

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Other reference numbers

Treasure case number: 2004T37

Materials and construction

Primary material: Gold
Completeness: Incomplete

Spatial metadata

Region: Eastern (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Essex (County)
District: Tendring (District)
To be known as: East of Colchester

Spatial coordinates

Grid reference source: From a paper map
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 1000 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
Current location: Colchester Museum
General landuse: Cultivated land

References cited

No references cited so far.

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: ESS
Created: 15 years ago
Updated: 4 years ago

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