Could this partly gilded hilt have held Blackbeard's sword? There's no way to know for sure, though it was found amid the North Carolina wreck of the Queen Anne's Revenge, the flagship of the infamous 18th-century pirate.
Since 1997, archaeologists have been excavating the Queen Anne's Revenge. The sword hilt—found in pieces but reassembled for this picture—is among their latest finds and was revealed to the public this month.
(Related: exclusive pictures of Blackbeard pirate relics and gold.)
After running aground on a sandbar in 1718 near the town of Beaufort (map), the ship was abandoned but likely remained intact and partly above water for as long as a year before collapsing and disintegrating, according to archaeologist David Moore of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.
"In any event," he said, "the pirates would have had ample opportunity to take anything that they thought valuable." The newfound hilt may have been left behind because it was unwanted, or it may have been inaccessible, according to Moore's colleague Wendy Welsh, a conservator on the project.
Blackbeard’s brief career as a pirate lasted only about two years, but during that time he became one of history's most feared outlaws. Operating in the West Indies (map) and off the coast of colonial America, he struck terror into the hearts of commercial ships' captains and once held the entire city of Charleston, South Carolina (map), hostage.