SF-08C44F: Anglo-Saxon zoomorphic prick spur of 9th century date

Rights Holder: Suffolk County Council
CC License:

Rights Holder: The Portable Antiquities Scheme
CC License:

Rights Holder: The Portable Antiquities Scheme
CC License:

Rights Holder: The Portable Antiquities Scheme
CC License:

Rights Holder: The Portable Antiquities Scheme
CC License:

Rights Holder: The Portable Antiquities Scheme
CC License:

Rights Holder: The Portable Antiquities Scheme
CC License:

Rights Holder: The Portable Antiquities Scheme
CC License:

Image use policy

Our images can be used under a CC BY attribution licence (unless stated otherwise).


Unique ID: SF-08C44F

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find published

A complete copper-alloy prick spur in good condition, dating to the Early Medieval period (probably 9th century AD), missing only its iron goad. The sides of this prick spur are curved but they do not extend into the very straight arms of a U shape like most spurs. They are roughly D-shaped in cross-section and have zoomorphic terminals.

Each of these terminals takes the form of open-mouthed animal heads, with narrow faces with swept-back elongated ears embellished with a niello-inlaid curve. Below the ears is a triangular brow, then bulging eyes which may once have been surrounded by niello. A narrow slit forms the open mouths as well as providing the housing for two circular-sectioned in-situ copper-alloy rivets (one in each terminal) located through the nose of each head, which would have originally secured the spur in place. The outer surface of one terminal demonstrates significantly more wear than the other, probably indicating intensity of use.

The D-shaped arms are flat and undecorated on their inner face and each have central longitudinal ridges on their outer face, with a pair of recessed rectangular panels or cells on either side. Each cell is decorated with inlaid niello and scrolls of silver wire formed into S shapes.

The centre of the outer face of the spur, where the four decorative cells meet, is partly obscured by surface iron corrosion, presumably the remains of the corroded goad. At the centre of the outer face, a small circular aperture is visible which would originally have provided the housing for the iron 'goad' element of the spur. Projecting from the centre, perpendicular to the longer arms, are two opposing shorter arms, giving the spur a cruciform appearance when viewed from behind. These may possibly have been a means of stabilising the spur on the ankle. They are D-shaped in cross-section with a rounded outer and flat inner surface. They each have four transverse grooves dividing them into beaded segments, and have highly stylised zoomorphic terminals with circular indentations representing eyes and a small horizontal slit across the rounded end, representing the mouth.

The spur measures 79.80mm long from terminal to terminal, while each of the longer arms measures c. 8.85mm wide by 6.15mm thick at their mid-points. Each of the shorter arms measures c. 16.95mm long and 6.50mm wide by 5.79mm thick at their mid-points. The object weighs 43.28g.

The decoration of silver wire scrolls is the same as that found on strap ends of Thomas's Class A Type 5, and hooked tags of the same date (c late 8th-9th century). This type of decoration appears to be concentrated in East Anglia (Thomas, 2003, 4) but this is the first example of it on any other type of object. Although no published spur with this type of decoration could be found, spurs of similar form are known, with animal head terminals and sometimes also have an animal head at the base of the goad. See examples from Pakenham and Icklingham in Suffolk (Hinton 1974, 55-6 for both), from Lyng and Bawsey in Norfolk (Geake 2001, 239, fig. 6f), Brome and Oakley, Suffolk (SF-E877A6), Surlingham, Norfolk (NMS-4C4E28), and Gooderstone, Norfolk (SF4685). These copper-alloy spurs are unlike earlier spurs (in graves) and later (Viking) spurs, both in their shape and their material (the earlier and later spurs are made of iron and the sides are a deep U shape). At the moment they appear to be a rare East Anglian type and are most likely to be mid Anglo-Saxon, c. 750-900 in date.

Find of note status

This is a find of note and has been designated: Regional importance

Class: prick

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


Broad period: EARLY MEDIEVAL
Subperiod from: Middle
Subperiod to: Middle
Ascribed Culture: Anglo-Saxon
Date from: Circa AD 750
Date to: Circa AD 900

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 79.8 mm
Width: 8.85 mm
Thickness: 6.15 mm
Weight: 43.28 g

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Monday 7th November 2016

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Mr Alex Bliss
Identified by: Mr Alex Bliss

Materials and construction

Primary material: Copper alloy
Decoration style: Zoomorphic
Completeness: Complete
Surface Treatment: Inlaid with metal

Spatial metadata

Region: Eastern (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Norfolk (County)
District: King's Lynn and West Norfolk (District)
To be known as: Methwold

Spatial coordinates

Grid reference source: From finder
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 100 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
General landuse: Cultivated land
Specific landuse: Character undetermined

References cited

No references cited so far.

Similar objects

Find number: SF-29FBB8
Object type: SPUR
An incomplete cast copper-alloy prick spur dating to the early Medieval period, c. 750-1000. The spur originally would have taken the form of …
Workflow: Awaiting validationFind awaiting validation

Find number: SF-E877A6
Object type: SPUR
A small copper-alloy prick spur, measuring 64mm from terminal to terminal. The sides of this prick spur are curved and one side seems to have …
Workflow: PublishedFind published

Find number: NMS-4C4E28
Object type: PRICK SPUR
MS/LS Ae prick spur consisting of curving arm with animal-head terminals cast in one with a goad set on a third animal head …
Workflow: PublishedFind published

Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: SF
Created: 2 years ago
Updated: 8 months ago

Other formats: this page is available as qrcode json xml geojson pdf rdf representations.