This is the terminal of a medieval staff, which was recently discovered by a metal-detectorist near St Mary in the Marsh, Kent. Many similar objects have been identified over the centuries across England – including several examples recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Early in the 20th century, however, their use was not known and some of these objects appear to have been identified as sword pommels during this time. Their function was reassessed at the end of the century, and it was determined that they are more likely to represent the ends of ecclesiastical short staffs. It was then assumed that they were primarily used specifically for priests’ croziers, but as more and more examples have been found it is now thought that they were used more widely.
Many of these staff ends recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme appear to be virtually identical: made of copper-alloy, discoidal in shape, and with an open-worked design. The main difference between them is their decoration. In this example, the central motif has a butterfly effect, consisting of a vertical bar flanked on each side by two joined C-shaped curves. Around the edges of the disc is a continuous border of closely spaced raised pellets, while the edge of the object is pierced by eight rectangular openings, which vary in size. There is a socket at the base where it would have attached to the staff. Based on similar finds, this object probably dates to sometime between the 11th and 12th centuries AD.
For more information about the object, see https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/1075073 or you can search for KENT-A56CA2 on the PAS database.
The Portable Antiquities Scheme is an initiative to encourage the recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales. For more information on the Scheme, and to browse its database of over 1.5 million finds, visit www.finds.org.uk. Information for this find was provided by Jo Ahmet, Finds Liaison Officer – Kent.