A 1,300-year-old gold sword fitting uncovered by a metal detectorist has been acquired by Scotland’s national museum.
The ornate pommel, thought to date from around 700AD, was found near Blair Drummond in Stirlingshire and features a bird of prey motif.
Experts believe the “exceptionally rare” object is “like nothing else found in the UK before,” but its origins remain shrouded in mystery.
The 5.5cm wide golden knob is valued at £30,000.
Dr Alice Blackwell, senior curator of medieval archaeology and history at National Museums Scotland (NMS), described the find as “significant at a UK level”.
She added: “The decoration is quite clearly Christian, mixing old fashioned animal, protective motifs that you see on Anglo-Saxon art with very clear Christian iconography.
“There are two panels, one on each side, and one has a symbolic cross made of geometric shapes, and the other looks like a pot plant.
“And those twin motifs are the cross, as in the crucifixion, and the tree of life, which is about resurrection, so it’s about death and rebirth.
“But you also have mythical beasts crawling up the sides, so there’s all sorts going on.
“It’s so visually rich, and it’s that which sets it apart from anything else that’s been found in the UK.”
Dr Blackwell said there is nothing yet to suggest there was a battle in the grounds in which the pommel, which would have been attached to a steel sword, was found.
John Logue, King’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer, said: “This discovery highlights the positive work done by the Treasure Trove Unit to decide upon the preservation of rare items for the nation.”