An “exceptionally rare” gold sword pommel discovered by a metal detector near Stirling has been acquired by National Museums Scotland.
The approximately 1,300-year-old pommel was found in 2019 and was declared to the Scottish Treasure Trove unit.
The gold decoration that would have been found on top of a sword hilt measures 5.5cm wide, weighs 25 grams and has been valued at around £ 30,000.
The find was described as “extremely significant”.
Dr Alice Blackwell, Senior Curator of Archeology and Medieval History at National Museums Scotland (NMS), said that goldsmithing from this period was “virtually unknown” anywhere in the UK.
He said it displayed the spectacular skill and craftsmanship of the early medieval period.
The pommel is thought to date back to around 700 AD.
The solid gold object is encrusted with garnets and intricate gold work featuring religious motifs and fantastic creatures.
The discovery was made to Blair Drummond in late 2019, but NMS said that due to restrictions during the pandemic, decisions on its acquisition have been delayed.
It was awarded to them on the recommendation of the Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel.
Dr Blackwell said its archaeological value was due to what he told us about the important cultural, political and artistic interactions in Northern Britain at this time.
He said his decoration combined elements of both Anglo-Saxon England and the kingdoms of early medieval Scotland.
“Early medieval Scotland is a really interesting time,” said Dr Blackwell.
“You have a number of culturally distinct realms and the knob design has taken from different cultures and merged them together”
That fusion of different cultural styles is known as the “island art” style, made famous by illuminated manuscripts such as the Lindisfarne Gospels.
Dr Blackwood said this fusion of styles made it difficult to determine where exactly it was produced and who it might belong to.
However, he said it potentially could have belonged to royalty due to the higher level of gold workmanship the pommel had compared to other gold objects found around this time.
“In a way this is the beginning of the artifact journey,” said Dr. Blackwell.
“Much research and work still needs to be done to find out what stories he can tell us about the political and cultural landscape of Northern Britain right now.”