Surrey Archaeological Collections

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https://doi.org/10.5284/1000221
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Surrey Archaeological Society (2016) Surrey Archaeological Collections [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor] https://doi.org/10.5284/1000221

The swords of the Saxon cemetery at Mitcham

PAUL HILL AND LOGAN THOMPSON

The purpose of this paper is to gather together and interpret for the first time the detailed information on the seven surviving swords from the pagan Saxon cemetery at Mitcham. What follows is an appraisal of these weapons in the light of a recent lengthy investigative project undertaken by the authors. This looked into the background of each weapon, the accurate recording of measurements, evidence for manufacturing methods of blades, hilts, guards and pommel arrangements and a suggestion as to their combat usage. The weapons are put into context and explained in the light of contemporary comparative material across Europe. The Mitcham cemetery, with its higher than usual number of swords (at least thirteen), affords a greater amount of information to be drawn upon than is usually the case. Although the varying quantities of weapons in pagan Saxon burials may have more to do with differing regional ritual practices (Härke 1989, 59; 1990, 22–43), M itcham does at least afford, through its seven surviving swords, the chance to consolidate a greater amount of information on roughly contemporary swords from the same site. Of approximately 238 burials at Mitcham, 47 were weapons burial rite graves, and at least thirteen of them contained swords. This compares with 272 inhumation burials incorporating 66 weapons burial rite graves and 27 swords from Sarre in Kent; 106 inhumation burials incorporating 49 weapons burial rite graves and five swords from Gilton in Kent and 151 inhumation burials incorporating 38 weapons burial rite graves and nine swords from Alfriston in Sussex. It is likely that the Mitcham sword total was higher than the confirmed figure of thirteen.

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