The Thames Scramasax is a blade that was recovered from the Thames River in England in 1857. It was discovered by a common laborer by the name of Henry Briggs, who in turn sold the find to the British Museum, where it is currently still on display. The single-edged blade is more commonly referred to as the Seax of Beagnoth. “Seax” is derived from the Old English word meaning “knife” and “Beagnoth” refers to either the knife’s owner or maker.
Here are 3 interesting things you should know about the discovery of the Thames Scramasax and its historical significance.
The single-edged knife has been dated to the 9th century, and as late as 900 AD. It’s a remarkably intact discovery that bears intricate inscriptions which allow historians to trace its origins and also garner some information on the rune, Old English language of the markings.
A 9th century seax was likely used either as a hunting knife, weapon or both. It is a long weapon with a single, sharpened edge that comes to a point. It is reminiscent of a flat-sided sword. The design and composition of the blade support the notion that it would have been made for someone of wealth and status, as it is intricately inlaid with copper, silver and brass.The wire inlaying technique required much skill from the artisan and can also be found on Viking swords from the same era.
In addition to the name “Beagmoth”, the knife also displays the entire 28 character runic alphabet known as futhorc. Interestingly, the knife-maker who made the inscriptions must have omitted certain character of the alphabet and had to go back and insert it. The extra character, which appears squeezed between the others, may be an indication of how difficult the process of inscribing the blade was, or even that he was not that familiar with the language.
Inscribing the blades with runic phrases and characters is believed by scholars to be a technique that pre-dates the making of this weapon. The inscription intent was to assist in warding off evil spirits and provide the bearer with mythical protection. The fact that there were errors in the inscriptions might support this theory and signify that the person who commissioned the knife, was trying to create an artifact and highlight his status in society.
The fact that the blade is intact and dates to the 9th century is, in itself, significant from a historical perspective. But when you consider that it also bears the entire rune alphabet, you see why this knife has been on display in the British Museum for over one hundred years. Its a remarkable treasure and important link to 9th century Old England.
Author Bio: Kathleen Hubert is a blogger who writes on a variety of different sites. Check out more of her work at Prefab Houses.