Tag Archives: Staffordshire Hoard

The Staffordshire Hoard – Mysteries of the bearded man

One of the Anglo Saxon pieces in the Warrior Treasures exhibition of the Staffordshire Hoard particularly stood out from the rest, as it seemed to have a different design.

The detailing and workmanship on this sword pommel wasn’t quite as intricate, it had different colouring – not being gold (although some little bits of gold can still be seen) – and I think its the only one decorated with a strange face, alongside its zoomorphic animal designs.

I was intrigued by it and wanted to discover more about it… Does this bearded face have some significance? and what does it mean?

Anglo Saxon bearded man
bearded man image

I had come across other similar faces in Anglo-Saxon artwork and in churches, symbols for the Celtic Green Man, ancient gods and other deities.

My first internet search yielded a thesis paper by Rachel D. Brewer about the Staffordshire Hoard, which had a paragraph about the piece (it was written just after the Hoard had been discovered, so there may be newer evidence that’s come to light since then). It stated that the bearded man pommel is believed to be one of the oldest items in the Hoard and from the late 6th Century, possibly of Scandinavian origin. Its made from a copper-alloy and has a ‘ski-slope’ style shape.

On my next internet search, I came across a blog post written by Rosie Weetch, curator and Craig Williams, illustrator at the British Museum. ‘Decoding Anglo-Saxon art‘ helped explain it further for me, that these animal patterns have multi-layered symbolic meanings and stories behind them. The following passage from the blog is really interesting:

“…is a bearded face with a helmet underneath two birds that may represent the Germanic god Woden/Odin with his two companion ravens. The image of a god alongside other powerful animals may have offered symbolic protection to the wearer like a talisman or amulet.”

Anglo Saxon bearded man design
The Information board at the Warrior Treasures Staffordshire Hoard exhibition shows the designs on the pommel

Although, in the blog post other examples of Anglo-Saxon bearded faces were featured, it does seem to fit this pommel design, as I can clearly see 2 birds/ravens on the pommel, one at either side of bearded face.

I did some Wikipedia research on it:  “In Old Norse texts, Odin is depicted as one-eyed and long-bearded, frequently wielding a spear named Gungnir, and wearing a cloak and a broad hat. He is often accompanied by his animal companions—the wolves Geri and Freki and the ravens Huginn and Muninn…”

There’s further info on Wikipedia about the Norse god Odin, and his companions, the wolves and ravens.

The animals on the reverse side of the pommel have been interpreted as boars, the jagged teeth are quite prominent, but perhaps these could be his wolf companions?

Looking down at the top of the pommel you can see a lovely interlace pattern, but also that it looks quite worn / well used. I found more info about this on another blog post by the ‘Thegns of Mercia’:

“Given most items in the hoard are dated to the 7th to early 8th century, sth711 is something quite special. It may be hundreds of years older than the rest of the hoard; a historical artifact even before it was buried.

“There’s far more that is peculiar about this piece, though. First, it’s apex has seen its 2+ mm deep relief completely rubbed away. It’s fair to say that the top third of the pommel cap has lost all it’s decoration to wear and tear. This contrasts strongly with most other items in the hoard which, though made from softer materials, do not display this kind of damage. They are mangled and bent from detachment, yes, but for the most part, they were not subject to decades or centuries of wear before they were put in the ground…” read more of their blog post


I’m completely amazed by what I discovered about it!
Wow… The mysterious bearded man representing the Pagan god Wodin / Odin would indeed make it a very special sword and pommel. I think the Anglo-Saxons believed it would offer them protection and bring them good luck, especially as it had been used in many battles and had been kept and handed down the generations.
I had only intended to write a short blog post, just one or two paragraphs about this intriguing Anglo Saxon piece in the Staffordshire Hoard, but I kept on discovering more about it. I hope you’ll also find this blog post interesting. You too can visit and see this piece in the Staffordshire Hoard exhibition
x Samantha, jewellery artist 

The Staffordshire Hoard Spiral Workshops

Taking inspiration from the Anglo Saxon spiral designs in the Staffordshire Hoard exhibition and linking it to jewellery making, I taught 2 spiral jewellery making workshops for the Leeds Royal Armouries Museum in July and August 2016 as part of their Warrior Treasures exhibition.

It was a pleasure and an honour to be able to combine teaching jewellery making with my interest in the Anglo Saxons. It also mean’t I’d have another opportunity to visit the Staffordshire Hoard Warrior Treasures exhibition.

a mixture of spiral and other patterns
a mixture of spiral and other patterns

Anglo Saxon design is fascinating and its so intricate. I’m especially interested in ancient civilizations in particular their art and design, as I studied design for 3 years at college (this was followed by working as an in-house designer for a number of years, before retraining as a teacher. I also studied silversmithing for 5 years part-time at college and have been making jewellery for over 25 years).

one of my spiral demonstration pieces
spiral demonstration

The workshop included many demos, as we covered a number of different spiral designs, from basic spirals to double spirals using different types and thicknesses of copper wire, plus there were a few continuation spiral designs. This was followed by turning these spiral pieces into jewellery.

Everyone that took part in the workshops, seemed to enjoy themselves and became engrossed in making their spirals and finished the day with a number of pieces of spiral jewellery, including earrings, pendants, charms and a spiral charm / pendant beaded cord necklace or bracelet.

Some of the super spiral jewellery created by the students on these workshops:

Samantha, jewellery artist x

The Staffordshire Hoard Spirals

The pieces on display in the Warrior Treasures Staffordshire Hoard exhibition are completely fascinating and enchanting. So much work and skills has gone into creating them. There are a number of pieces that are decorated with spirals, most of these have double spirals, but a few of them have a mixture of different spiral patterns.

sea horse piece decorated with spiral patterns
my favourite piece in the hoard in the shape of a horse and decorated with double spirals

Many ancient civilizations across the world used spirals in their artwork. Neolithic examples that are 4-5,000 years old can be seen at the entrance to the Newgrange passage tomb in Ireland as well as Megalithic Temple decoration in Malta.

malta spirals
Neolithic / Copper Age spiral temple decoration from Malta

Spirals are believed to signify the cycle of life and double spirals  the Spring and Autumn equinoxes.

Maybe the use of spirals by these ancient civilizations helped to make them revered mysterious symbols and continue their usage by later civilizations.

Some of the spiral decorated pieces in the Staffordshire Hoard exhibition:

Taking inspiration from these Anglo Saxon spiral designs in the Staffordshire Hoard exhibition and linking it to jewellery making, I taught 2 spiral jewellery making workshops for the Leeds Royal Armouries Museum in July and August 2016 as part of their Warrior Treasures exhibition.

See some pieces created by my students on these workshops in my next blog post. Samantha, jewellery artist x

The Staffordshire Hoard

The ‘Warrior Treasures, Saxon Gold from the Staffordshire Hoard’ exhibition is on at Leeds Royal Armouries Museum until 2 October 2016. This stunning exhibition is not too be missed!

This treasure was discovered in 2009 in a field in Staffordshire by a metal detectorist.

map of discovery Staffordshire Hoard
the map showing where the Staffordshire Hoard had been discovered

Since its discovery, the objects have been cleaned and studied by archaeologists and the treasure’s story is slowly being revealed. The decorations on these hidden weapons are giving us further insight and knowledge about the world of the Anglo Saxon’s in the 7th Century.

The warrior Treasures exhibition at Leeds Royal Armouries Museum

Some info about the Hoard from the Leeds Royal Armouries museum leaflet:

“The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon treasure ever found. It was probably buried over 1300 years ago, around AD 650-675. The hoard contains beautifully crafted gold and silver objects which were originally used to decorate high status swords and knives. Nothing like this has ever been found before.”

for more info – visit the Leeds Royal Armouries Museum website

At the end of 2012, I was nearby Stoke collecting my kiln stand and got chatting to the lady I’d bought my kiln off and discovered from her that the Staffordshire Hoard exhibition was on in Stoke. I spent an enjoyable afternoon looking at the exhibits, learning about them and being absorbed in another world. I was fascinated by the skill involved in designing and creating such beautiful pieces. A mix of different styles has been used; garnet and gold cloisonné work using step and key patterns in the carpet style, zoomorphic animals, interlace patterns and filigree spiral decoration. They are amazing!

different patterns and styles of Anglo Saxon art
some examples of Anglo-Saxon patterns and decoration in the Staffordshire Hoard

I never imagined at the time, that a few years later I would have the opportunity to be involved with the Staffordshire Hoard touring exhibition at Leeds Royal Armouries Museum and teach some jewellery making workshops using inspiration from the spiral designs in the Staffordshire Hoard.

It follows on from my previous jewellery making workshops a few years ago for the Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition in Durham and the Landscapes Project in the Forest of Bowland. These enabled me to bring together my teaching of jewellery making with my interest in the artwork designs of the Anglo-Saxons.

See some examples created at these workshops in my next blog posts, Samantha x