Friday, September 25, 2009

What Sort of Person Has 67 Gold Sword Pommels?

And removes them from the swords, and buries them in the ground, along with a lot of other pieces of precious metal and never comes back for them? In 7th or early 8th century Mercia?

Whoever buried the Staffordshire Hoard.

The catalogue on the Hoard website says there were 67 gold pommels in the hoard.

Now the thing that strikes me is that the kind of people who owned swords with gold pommels in 7th to early 8th c. Mercia probably took a dim view of other people taking their swords and prying the pommels off. Let's call this class of individual elite thegns.

Here's one scenario. Somebody wipes out a force including at least 67 elite thegns, or several forces resulting in the same total. However, this happens in the middle of a war or other conflict and the issue is in doubt, so they strip the precious metal from the loot and bury it, with the hope of coming back later, but the other side wins. Everyone who knows where the loot is buried dies. Interesting.

Scenario two: a king or warlord has a treasury that includes 67 gold-pommeled swords, available to hand out to followers any time he needs to recruit twenty elite thegns in a hurry. Things go badly, and he needs to condense the treasury and bury it. Also interesting.

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Steve Muhlberger said...

I choose #2, which is pretty close to my own theory -- someone's hoard near the end of a run of luck.

hudebnik said...

A thought from my wife:

Is there evidence that the pommels had actually been removed from weapons, as opposed to not attached yet (e.g. if it was a goldsmith's shop)?