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Knife handle

  • Place of origin:

    England (probably, made)

  • Date:

    10th to 11th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved bone with a fragment of iron

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mr Harold Bompas

  • Museum number:

    A.101-1927

  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery, case DR10

This handle of a knife or dagger was made in Anglo-Saxon England, probably in the 10th to the 11th century. It is carved in bone and decorated with pierced scrolls and animals.

Inhabited scrolls of the type seen on the handle have a long history in Anglo-Saxon Northern England. Ultimately deriving from Late Antique prototypes, they are seen in similar form in stone crosses from the late 7th century onwards and remained in fashion until the end of the 11th century. Because of the continuity of this decorative fashion it is difficult to date the handle with precision.

Physical description

Bone handle for a knife or dagger, decorated with pierced scrolls and animals with the vestigial remains of the blade at one end. The animals are from bottom upwards: a quadruped, a bird, and another quadruped turning its head to eat fruit. The carved field is bordered by two strips of elongated bead-and-reel ornament. The other side is plain except for a 1cm section of interlaced basket-work carving at the bottom.

Place of Origin

England (probably, made)

Date

10th to 11th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved bone with a fragment of iron

Dimensions

Length: 10 cm including remains of blade, Width: 3 cm at base

Object history note

Given by Mr Harold B. Bompas, London.

Historical significance: Inhabited scrolls of the type seen on the handle have a long history in Anglo-Saxon Northern England. Ultimately deriving from Late Antique prototypes, they are seen in similar form in stone crosses from the late 7th century onwards and remained in fashion until the end of the 11th century. Because of the continuity of this decorative fashion it is difficult to date the handle with precision.

Historical context note

Vine scrolls enclosing animals eating grapes are characteristic of 7th to 9th century, North English works, and they appear again in the 11th century. The vine in the debased form shown on this handle may well belong to the latter part of the period.

Descriptive line

Handle for a knife or dagger, bone, decorated with pierced scrolls and animals, Anglo-Saxon, probably 10th to 11th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Beckwith, J. Ivory carving in Early Medieval England. London, 1972. no. 53. fig. 104.
Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1929. Part II. p. 131.
Williamson, Paul. Medieval Ivory Carvings. Early Christian to Romanesque. London, V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010, pp. 256, 7, cat.no. 66

Production Note

probably 10th to 11th century

Materials

Bone

Techniques

Carving

Subjects depicted

Scrolls (motifs); Vines; Animals

Categories

Sculpture; Eating; Household objects; Tableware & cutlery

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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