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14 October 2011

The Mystery Object

The three pieces that make up the mystery object are held together to show what it once looked like.

Mystery Object (K545, K1055 and K130)

Three pieces of the Hoard have been identified as belonging to one object, but no one is sure what the object once was.

A number of very tentative suggestions have been made as to what it MIGHT be (see below), but none have met with general agreement. So, the field is wide open for you to put forward your opinion.

The three bits of the mystery object fit together as follows:

The millefiori mount K545 has a rectangular hole and four small round holes on the back which match the rectangular protrusion and circular holes on the top end of the cylinder K1055, so K1055 clearly slotted into the back of K545. K545 is made up of two components, a base plate with a cloisonne garnet border and the top with the mounted glass checkerboard gem.  When these two components are separated, you can see that the rectangular protrusion passed through the base plate and into the back of the gem mount. The circular holes also appear in the back of the gem mount.

As already mentioned, the cylinder K1055 has the rectangular protrusion and four circular holes at the top end. At the bottom end are four matching circular holes and the torn remains of a silver plate with clear evidence that the same rivet holes also passed through it. The torn edge of this silver plate matches precisely the torn edge at the centre of a circular silver disc which was set at the inner apex of K130, showing that these two pieces of silver were originally one object, which means that K1055 and K130 joined.

All three parts are shown together making one object.

K130, K1055 and K545

The elaborate gold piece K130 was originally circular and somewhat domed, but has been squashed, and rather damaged at one side. It is decorated with splendid cloisonne garnet designs and added gold plates with zoomorpic decoration of biting beasts. The silver disc was originally rivetted inside this, on the inner side of the domed top, by four rivets in the outer edge of the disc which fastened the disc inside the top of K130. The central part of the silver disc protruded through the hole at the centre of K130 and was in its turn fastened to the lower end of K1055 via four holes. Since these holes appear to run from the silver disc, through the entire length of the cylinder K1055 and right inside K545 as well, we are assuming these must have contained something like fixing wires rather than rivets. These must have served to anchor the whole construction together.

Rivet holes around the lower edge of K130 show that this was also fastened to another object, but there is no evidence to suggest what this might have been.

The construction is so complicated that it is very difficult at the moment to be sure in precisely what order the parts were assembled.

Suggestions as to what the mystery object might be include:

(1) A fitting on a saddle.

(2) The decorative tip to a shield boss, presumably from a very elaborate shield. (In this case the object would have been rivetted to the top / front of a standard iron shield boss. A warrior held his shield by grasping a handgrip that ran across a circular hole cut in the centre of the shield. The domed boss covered the hole while leaving space for the warrior’s hand inside.)

(3) A decorative top to a stopper that fitted into a drinking horn. (Here the object would have been rivetted to a wooden stopper that fitted inside the mouth of the horn.)

(4) A decorative terminal to a parchment roll. (I think the suggestion is that there would be one at each end of the roll, fixed to whatever the roll was attached to.)

(5) A lid to something. But what? (Again this probably requires the object being rivetted to something like a wooden stopper.)

Dr David Symons, curator at BMAG, Research Advisory Panel.

Could it be a very ornate thurible lid?

It looks to me as if it is some kind of drawer or cabnet handle. The gap at the top is wise enough for fingers to goin and pull and the nature of the mid stem break tends to indicate pressure in a pulling motion on K545.
The holes for the “fixing wires” could have been to secure it to whatever cabnet it was attached to.

Perhaps an oil lamp fixture (any residues?). Also, consider a censor (incense or oils), or a helmet decoration, atop a helm, indicating rank or status.

I like it as a lid. Drinking horn stopper could be a good guess?

It reminds me of a sword hilt,the other thing it reminds me of is a candle stick holder.

Bottom portion to a drop spindle?

I wonder whether it was a mirror. Quite different from other known mirrors, but just because it’s different doesn’t mean it isn’t.

It could be the end of a ‘stamp’ – used to impress on wax seals, etc.?

My first thought was that it reminded me of a top from a parasol

My initial thought,as already mentioned, was that it was an ornate shield boss from, possibly, a ceremonial shield; certainly not for practical use.

1.) Upper part of a shishas (where the bottle connects).
2.) Ceremonial incense-burner (where the holding chains connects).

The round shape makes me think it must has a rolling functions. Must be the end or top of something that needed to be rolled up or out. Was it originally oval? And what is the golden symbol on the left?

Spice grinder.

Drinking Horn Stopper
top of a Staff of office

Again that emblem used as a logo by the Staffordshire Hoard.
Arms entwined through shoulderblades.
Part of a set of items?
Who did they belong to.
Is this a pagan emblem.

Thanks to everyone for your suggestions. Dr Symons is currently in Washington D.C. and will comment on his return.

I agree! That was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw the object. A drawer pull.

K545 would make it too uncomfortable as a carrying handle, so I think it might be some kind of lid. The kind that needs a sharp tug every now and again.

Or a very fancy bit mount, one of a pair. But it might not be sturdy enough for that.

I thought it could be a mount for the top of a helm or helmet, the domed nature of K130 seems to indicate it might be rivetted to the top of a helmet. would the assemblage be able to support feathers? Or a horsehair plume? Or maybe an heraldic device of some kind; Boar, Bear or Lion perhaps?

I think what we are looking at is part of a a royal sceptre . last user King athelbald. Part of the looted royal treasury when he was murdered at seckington.

I’m with the parasol suggestion.

I suspect that what we are looking at is a cloisonne brooch originally in the Kentish style which has been “messed around”, drilled and riveted with pieces added to it.
It could have come from Kent or Northumbria, both raided by King Aethelred of the Mercians, the former in 676 when Bede records “his wicked soldiery” destroyed the City of Rochester, looted the cathedral and ravaged the countryside.

The objects remind me of a chalice lid, although they appear a bit small unless fastened to a larger piece.

Thanks, everyone, for your suggestions as to what the ‘mystery object’ might be. As there were so many ideas to reply to I have written a new blog post rather than reply to all the comments here. Please see:

The top of the upper boss is decorated very clearly with a christian cross. I think it might be the lid of a pyx used to transport the sacramental bread for the eucharist. The lower part would have been a shallow chalice-like vessel.

it could be an ornate pouring device on a leather water/drinking bottle as used by a noble or king.

The base was mounted on a leather strap running diagonally accross the chest and over the shoulder. The cyclinder and top piece held a cloak or mantile in place by a loop on the garment.

It seems to me that the central cylinder (K1055) is less ornate and shows signs of use (scratches etc.) and so perhaps this was the functional component?