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Sword Pommel

late 9th century


This beautiful sword headpiece is one of the finest surviving fragments of the work of an Anglo-Saxon jeweler. The quasi-triangular shell of the pommel of cast copper alloy is decorated with silver panels inlaid with niello and framed with silver bands. The two end tips represent animal heads. Although the shape of the "cocked cap" and the design of the panels go back to late eighth-century sword poms (specimens from Windsor, Chiswick, Eyot and St. Ninian's Island are preserved in London, Edinburgh and Oxford), the silver wire and niello technique used to create the inlaid running spiral patterns on the curved sides appears to have been a ninth-century East Anglian metalworker specialty during the reign of King Alfred the Great (r. 849-99). Some of the blackened patterns are similar to those on the famous Fuller brooch from the British Museum in London, which was made in the late ninth century, possibly in Alfred's court workshop.