Anglo-Saxon CSI: Sittingbourne

sword fittings
March 5, 2010, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Conservation | Tags: , , , , ,

There were two of these decorative fittings found in grave 174 at The Meads.  Grave 174 is a male grave consisting of a number of objects including a shield boss, spearhead, sword and one object said to be Bronze Age.  The grave also contained some human remains, one of the few where some survived.

Photo of the excavation of grave 174 (Image copyright Canterbury Archaeological Trust)

These decorative pyramidal decorations were found associated with the sword.  They were located close to the mouth of the sword scabbard, and are perhaps part of some kind of strap due to the appearance from the back.

Plan of grave 174 - objects 7 and 8: click to enlarge (Image copyright Canterbury Archaeological Trust)

The objects measure just over 1cm square and are manufactured from silver.  The peak is flat and is inset with a red garnet.  Behind this is gold foil, something that would have made the stone sparkle a little more: we also see this on many of the brooches.  Some other good examples of this can be seen on finds from Sutton Hoo and the recent Staffordshire Hoard.

Pyramid mount before conservation

The sloped sides of the pyramids have some decorative “cut-outs” that appear to be gold plated.  Niello decoration is also present.  Niello is a black metallic alloy consisting of silver, copper, sulfur and lead.  It is used to inlay metals, and was utilised extensively throughout the Anglo-Saxon period.  Perhaps the finest example of this is the great gold buckle which was discovered at Sutton Hoo.  These were heated and fused much like with the production of enamels in jewellery and glassware.

The objects were mechanically cleaned using a scalpel and then swabbed using a paste of IMS and marble flour.  The marble flour acts as a very fine abrasive in order to help remove the more stubborn soil.  Whilst swabbing one of the pyramids some niello came loose.  This gave us a chance to see the fineness of the detail present on these interesting little objects.

Pyramid mount after conservation

“It was nice to be able to work on such an interesting object.  Iron can be very interesting and can preserve a lot of valuable information that can tell us a lot about the object and the people, but it is nice to be able to work on different materials and objects, especially jewellery.  It is much easier to establish when to stop cleaning on objects like this and the results are really pleasing.”

2 Comments so far
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Hi there

I’m a student at Bristol University currently writing a disertation on Anglo saxon warrior graves. I would very much apreciate it if you were able to send me as much information on grave 174 as possible, or tell me where to find such information. fell free to contact me at my email adress.

Comment by Thomas Brown

i’ll pass your contact details onto Dana and she might be able to help further or put you in touch with Andrew Richardson

Comment by anglosaxoncsi

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