8th Century

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Anglo-Saxon Finger Ring, 7thC - 8thC AD. Gold finger-ring; broad, flat hoop expanding to large oval bezel; covered with bands of twisted wire, simulating plaiting and diverging at the shoulders to enclose a circular design in pearled wire and pellets. Principal motive may be a quatrefoil, pellets in centre and interspaces forming a cross pattee. | ↳THE BRITISH MUSEUM

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Anglo-Saxon Gilded Silver Sword Grip and Pommel, Late 8th Century AD

Excavated at Fetter Lane in London, England. On the front, the pommel is decorated with bird heads while the grip shows 4 snakes. On the back side, the pommel has a tendril pattern and the grip shows a beast in a spread-eagle position. It’s in profile with gaping jaws and is encircled by its own zoomorphic tail.

An old warrior

You are looking at a warrior with a raised weapon in an 8th-century law manuscript. The book was made in 793 in Lyons, France, by someone who called himself Wandalgarius. The text is written in a pre-Caroline script, curly but surprisingly easy to read (especially if you’ve done it before). I love the colours and simplicity of the drawing. Very few manuscripts from 800 survive and only a fraction of them are illustrated. So this warrior is as rare as he is old. In fact, this may well be the oldest representation of a fighting figure in any European book.

Pic: St Gall, Stiftsbibliothek, MS 731 (8th century). Browse the complete manuscript here.

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Anglo-Saxon Sword Pyramid from the Stafforshire Hoard, c. 7th-8th century

The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork ever found. It was discovered in a field near the village of Hammerwich, in Staffordshire on 5 July 2009. The items, over 3,500 in all, date from the time of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, c. 7th-8th century.

The sword pyramid is one of a pair. These pyramids are hollow inside, with a bar across the opening rather like on a belt buckle. Pyramids like this have been found in a number of Anglo-Saxon graves, lying beside sword scabbards. The pyramids would have adorned a leather strap that would have been attached to a scabbard (which is a cover for a sword).  Straps like this are mentioned in the Viking sagas, where they are called ‘peace bands’. They could be tied around the handle of the sword, securing it in place in the scabbard so warriors were not able to draw their swords suddenly in anger.

The Staffordshire Hoard is remarkable for the extraordinary quantity of sword fittings. Most are of gold and many are beautifully inlaid with garnets. Such elaborate and expensive decoration would have marked out the weapon as the property of the highest echelons of nobility. The discovery of a single sword pyramid is a notable event - to find several pairs together is absolutely unprecedented.