Today is Valentine’s Day and our Finds Liaison Officers have been busy highlighting love-themed objects from the Portable Antiquities Scheme database. Be sure to check them out on Twitter! In the meantime, here are a few more objects that demonstrate the range of subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways people in the past have professed their love. Happy Valentine’s Day!
SILVER RING (LIN-349214)
This simple silver finger ring dates to the late medieval period (AD1300-1400). It bears the inscription:
+ AMORVIC:ITOMN+I+A for AMOR VINCIT OMNIA
which translates to “Love conquers all”. This seems to have been a relatively popular inscription and appears on 16 items in the PAS database. The motto even appears on a gold brooch worn by the Prioress in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (Gilchrist, R., Medieval Life: Archaeology and the Life Course, 2012: 111).
An elaborate silver-gilt seal-matrix depicting a man and woman facing each other with a flowering plant between them and a bird overhead. The lettering around the edge reads: +AMI AMES LEAVMEnT. Although the meaning is uncertain, it relates to love or loyalty – seals with sentimental designs are typical of the 14th century.
BENT COIN ‘LOVE TOKEN’ (IOW-C44001)
This fourpence of Charles II has been pierced and is bent in two places. These ‘crooked’ coins are often thought to be love tokens, bent to prevent them being spent accidentally. The idea was that the enamored man would prove the strength of his love by bending the coin in front of his chosen lady. Hopefully she would keep and treasure it; else it would be discarded along with the poor chap’s affections. Many of these coins have been found on open farmland in places where fairs were held, indicating a large number of disappointed beaus! Alternatively, they may simply have been good luck charms. What do you think?
A trio of medieval gold brooches. The first is a gold annular brooch with clasped hands at the top, that may once have held a pearl or stone. The crude inscription translates as “Love, I will you only”, with “will” taking its earlier meaning of “want”. The second brooch, with its asymmetric heart design, is almost modern in appearance but actually dates to around the 14th century, with parallels in the British Museum collection. The final brooch is gilded silver and is inscribed on both sides with messages of love. The front reads: + AMVR VENT TVTEN, a variant of the common “Love conquers all” but in French rather than Latin (amour vainc tout). The reverse reads: + IO SVI FLUR DE LEL IA, meaning I Am The Flower Of Loyal [Love].