8.6.1 Weapons and equipment

Weapon finds are rather uncommon throughout the study region with only a handful known, and primarily having been recovered by antiquarians or through metal-detecting. One such item is the Dalmeny sword harness mount (NMS X.FE 50), found sometime before 1853, which has been attributed to Dalmeny Churchyard. This decorative garnet and gold filigree pyramidal mount is assumed to have been part of an Anglo-Saxon warrior’s grave and likely dates to the 7th century. A 7th century silver-gilt pyramidal mount (NMS X.2022.24) for a sword harness was also recently found near Sprouston. The apex of the pyramid contains a square cloisonné inset in a translucent red material, most likely garnet. In East Linton (MEL2053) another sword fitting from the 7th century was recovered, in the form of an Anglo-Saxon gold and cloisonné stud from a sword harness (Spearman 1991). Along with other goldwork found in the area, this concentration of deluxe gold and garnet sword mounts from the SESARF area is unparalleled in northern Britain (Blackwell 2018, 190-93), and reinforces the centrality of the Lothian plain as part of the core area of the kingdom of Bernicia at its height.

Close-up photograph of a pyramid-shaped gold and garnet ornament
Gold ornament, with garnet settings and core of bronze, from Dalmeny Church, West Lothian © NMS

In addition to sword harness/belt fittings, two sword pommels have also been found. At Luffness, Aberlady, an Anglo-Saxon lobed copper-alloy sword pommel was recovered by metal detecting (Hunter 2002). The pommel has been dated to the late 9th or early 10th century (NMS X.2001.16). The other pommel was found by metal-detecting in Hawick. This undecorated cast copper-alloy pommel cannot be dated any closer than generally medieval (NMS X.2022.31).

Close-up photograph of a sword pommel
Sword pommel, of copper alloy, from near Luffness House, Aberlady (late 9th – early 10th century AD) © NMS

In contrast to rare sword finds, spears/spear fragments have been found at several sites in the SESARF study area. One such example comes from a long-cist grave at Easter Ferrygate Gardens, North Berwick (MEL1236). In this grave an iron spearhead (NMS X.EQ 637) was found at the east end of the cist (Henshall 1960, 27). The 10th-century weapon burial from Auldhame also contained an iron spearhead, as well as a set of iron spurs (Heald and Paterson 2016). Blackwell (2018, 280–2) has tentatively identified two early medieval spearheads and one javelin/small spearhead from Traprain Law, and a spearhead from a pit at Newstead. Lastly, a small Anglo-Saxon spearhead was found during excavations at Edinburgh Castle (Driscoll & Yeoman 1997, 156).