The Typochronology of Sword Pommels from the Staffordshire Hoard
By Svante Fischer and Jean Soulat
Paper given at the Staffordshire Hoard Symposium, held at the British Museum, March, 2010
Introduction: Typology and Chronology do not equate or coalesce into typochronology. Why is this? Human agency in time and space prevents material culture from manifesting itself in a linear progression within different archaeological contexts. A case in point is a stray find of a Late Roman solidus struck in Trier for emperor Valentinian II (388-392), fitted into a 7th-century Anglo-Saxon garnet pendant which was found at Forsbrook, Staffordshire, now in the British Museum. There were at least 200 years from the minting of the coin to its final deposition. There is a similar parallel with a 5th-century solidus in the cremation grave of Ottarshögen, Uppland (Fischer 2008). To further illustrate this problem, we have chosen seven types of Swedish pommel contexts.
The chronology of these seven types of contexts is always different, regardless of the typological parallels between or the hierarchical structures behind them. As has been shown recently by Herschend and Possnert (forthcoming), the most accurate chronology for inhumations is not that of typochronology but rather of organic remains, especially animals slaughtered just before the burial. This argument can be illustrated easily with a reconstruction of the Ultuna boat-grave. The best chronological precision is to be found in the skeletal remains of the animals at the prow of the boat; the core of the boat, by contrast, is a typological construction, consisting of an assembly of objects that together create an ambience in time and space for the buried individual. This may prove to be very misleading.