Medieval Sword Pommel from Sleat, Skye

02 March 2021

News Type:
Find of the Month

This cast copper alloy sword pommel was found on the Sleat peninsula of Skye. Its pommel is hollow, and open-sided up to around half of the body. It is slightly asymmetrical, suggesting crude manufacturing.

The pommel probably dates to the Medieval period, perhaps 14th/15th century (pers comm David Caldwell), with the shape reminiscent of some carvings on West Highland Medieval gravestones. Finds of Medieval swords are fairly rare, being expensive and presumably heirlooms.

In the Highlands evidence for iron-working for sword-making has been identified in excavations at Portmahomack and Eilean Donan Castle, both dated to the 15th to 16th century (Carver et al 2016; Clark et al forthcoming). Recent work at Castle Camus on Sleat has provided dating for parts of the castle probably in the 13th century, and it would have been a centre for this area (Thacker 2019-2020). Perhaps sword-making took place here, as at Eilean Donan Castle.

The sword pommel is at Museums of the Isles, Armadale Castle.

Further information:

Carver, Martin, Garner-Lahire, Justin, and Spall, Cecily 2016 Portmahomack on Tarbat Ness. Changing ideologies in north-east Scotland, sixth to sixteenth century AD, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland: Edinburgh.

Clark, J, Garner-Lahire, J I, Spall, C A and Toop N J forthcoming ‘Excavations at Eilean Donan Castle’, Scottish Archaeological Internet Reports

Thacker, Mark 2019-2020 ‘Castle Camus, Isle of Skye: buildings, materials and radiocarbon analysis in the borderlands of medieval Sleat’, Proc Soc Antiq Scot 149, 277-301.

Archaeology for Communities in the Highlands (ARCH), The Goods Shed, The Old Station, Strathpeffer, Ross-Shire, Scotland IV14 9DH
Tel: +44 (0)77888 35466 Email: