Candle holders

Introduction

Candle-holders are lighting devices into which candles were fitted. They can be of many shapes, the main division being between the socket type (with a cup into which the candle was inserted) and the pricket type (with a spike onto which the candle was pushed). Sockets were certainly used by the Romans, but are then absent from the early-medieval world where the pricket was used. Sockets could hold smaller and more brittle candles, and Egan argued that the socketed candle-holder was re-introduced from the Islamic world in the 11th century (Egan 1998, 133-4).

Most everyday pricket candle-holders seem to have been made from iron, and few are recorded on the PAS database; an exception is NLM-525AA4. Socketed candle-holders can be made from ceramic, but most recorded on the PAS database are made from copper alloy.

This guide only covers metal candle-holders; details of how to record ceramic candle-holders can be found in the guide to Ceramics.

Rushlights were apparently used both in the Roman and medieval worlds, and experienced a resurgence in post-medieval England when a candle tax was imposed, from 1709 to 1831. Post-medieval rushlight holders were made from iron and look like tongs or pliers, with one half weighted (often with a candle socket) to keep the rushlight held fast. There are no examples of these on the PAS database (but there is one in the V&A).

PAS object type to use

Use CANDLE HOLDER. The mda thesaurus defines this as ‘an object in which a candle is put in order to provide light’ and defines other words, such as candlestick, candle stand, candelabrum and chandelier as different types of candle-holder.

For toy candle-holders, use TOY (and put ‘candle holder’ in the classification field).

PAS object classifications to use

Medieval candle-holders come in several highly standardised forms. Unfortunately there are a lot of folding or collapsible candle-holders, and several which have a tripod foot, and more than one zoomorphic type. It is therefore useful to have standard terms in the Classification field for the commoner types.

Terms to use in the Classification field include the following. For medieval candle-holders: zoomorphic, Geraardsbergen type, folding, Limoges style, adjustable. For late medieval or early post-medieval candle-holders: looped, branched double socket, Bunsen burner. See below for details of when to use each term.

Terms to use in the description

Most candle-holders can be divided into base, stem and socket.

The different parts of a candle-holder. LVPL-417C75 (left) and SWYOR-25808C (right).
The different parts of a candle-holder. Left: LVPL-417C75. Right: SWYOR-25808C.

Most of the other parts of a candle-holder (prickets, drip trays, etc) do not feature much within PAS material. Other components (feet, ejectors, spikes, loops and so on) will be dealt with below as they arise.

Roman candle-holders

Candle-holders are rare in the Roman world, but examples do exist and have been gathered together by Eckardt (2002). There is a small and disparate group on the PAS database.

The commonest type of Roman candle-holder known from Britain is very simple, and is made from relief-decorated lead sheet, bent round to form a cylinder, with one end forming the socket and the other end cut into three strips which are bent out to form legs. One is known (and well illustrated) from Colchester (Crummy 1983, no. 4709; download the report here). Two more came from Heybridge and are published in Atkinson and Preston 2015 (relevant section here). We have two on the database, both from Piercebridge; BM-BBD22E and BM-BBBA45.

There are two similar copper-alloy candle-holders in the collection of the Museum of London, both with four instead of three legs; no. 1501 and no. 32.2/16.

Eckardt (2002) also notes a number of three-dimensional zoomorphic candle-holders, most in the form of cockerels. We do not appear to have any on the PAS database, but check out WAW-86E32D, which on current evidence appears to be medieval.

There is a single example on the database of what may be an ‘hour-glass’ Roman candle-holder, DENO-E13701.

Early-medieval candle-holders

When Alfred and his father Æthelwulf travelled to Rome in the 850s, among their gifts to the Pope was “a gilded silver candle-holder in the Saxon style”. So early-medieval candle-holders did apparently exist, but we don’t have any yet recorded on the PAS database. Perhaps they were all as large as this one in Essen Cathedral, made c. 1000 AD.

Medieval candle-holders

Many of the candle-holders recorded on the PAS database are small, flimsy objects which were probably used for travelling, and thus have become accidentally lost.

Most medieval candle-holders recorded on the PAS database – whether of sheet or cast metal – are made from several components which tend to come apart, so it is important to be able to recognise fragments. Most are made from copper alloy; a few are of lead alloy, but this does not tend to survive well in ploughsoil.

With circular or triangular tripod base

Ward Perkins (1940, 180-1) traces a convincing evolution of the everyday table-top cast copper-alloy candle-holder, from those with a triangular base and three small feet, to a circular base with three small feet, to the simple circular form current around 1500 AD (see below for this).

We do not have many of these sturdy household candle-holders on the PAS database. Were they melted down and recycled instead of being lost, or were they always rare in medieval England and Wales? Evidence from excavations in Winchester has suggested that there was a marked increase in the use of candles (replacing oil lamps) from around 1300 AD, possibly due to the introduction of the cotton wick to replace a linen wick (Biddle 1990, 990-1 and note 24). 

Roger Brownsword, a metallurgist with an interest in candle-holders, was of the opinion that most cast copper-alloy candle-holders of 14th-century or earlier date were made on the Continent and imported into England (Brownsword 1985, 1) which might explain their rarity. Further research is needed to confirm this hypothesis.

Examples of candle-holders with a triangular tripod base include NMS-DC4BF7. Examples of those with a circular tripod base include LON-6C500D (a lead-alloy example with a religious inscription) and PUBLIC-C37065 (which is thought to be a French import, following Egan 1998, 149-50).

Two circular tripod candle-holders (left, KENT-28DF24; right, LON-6C500D).
Two circular tripod candle-holders (left, KENT-28DF24; right, LON-6C500D). Note the wide aperture on KENT-28DF24. Good images of a triangular tripod candle-holder proved hard to find.

Zoomorphic (including the Geraardsbergen type)

Zoomorphic copper-alloy candle-holders are come in two variants. One is quite naturalistic, but the other (the Geraardsbergen type) is a tripod form where the three legs are formed into the shapes of animal heads and front legs.

The naturalistic type are made in at least two parts, a cast base in the form of an animal and a conical sheet socket that fits into a hole in the animal’s back. LVPL-05B5E4 also has a base, but it is unclear from the record whether this was cast as one with the animal or made separately. Put ‘zoomorphic’ in the Classification field.

Dogs are the usual animal shown, but a lion (NMS-11D931) and a possible cockerel (WAW-86E32D) have also been recorded on the PAS database, and two deer are known from London (Egan 1998, 147-9, fig. 116). They come in both simple and more elaborate forms, probably catering for different ends of the market. NMS-11D931 (the lion) is at the more elaborate end; NARC-6F6352 is simpler, but is complete with its sheet-metal socket (see KENT-F7117A for an example of a detached socket which is probably medieval in date).

One in the shape of a deer was excavated from a context of c. 1270-1350 in London (Egan 1998, no. 425). Egan cites parallels dated to the 14th century from France, Denmark and Germany, but there are now a dozen recorded on the PAS database and they might well also have been made in Britain.

Three zoomorphic candle-holders, all in the shape of dogs. Left: NMS-6F7566. Centre: NARC-6F6352, with socket. Right: LVPL-05B5E4, with base.
Three zoomorphic candle-holders, all in the shape of dogs. Left: NMS-6F7566. Centre: NARC-6F6352, with socket. Right: LVPL-05B5E4, with base.

The tripod type has three animal heads on tall necks, and long legs with out-turned feet; the back half of the animal merges into the centre of the candle-holder. SF-74624E is the most complete on the PAS database, missing only its socket. Others, from northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands, one still complete with dish and pricket, are published by Gomez de Soto and de Mulder (2012, fig. 3) as their Geraardsbergen type. Their distribution map unfortunately does not include any examples from the PAS database, but in the future we might be included in studies like these if we use ‘Geraardsbergen type’ in the Classification field.

Tripod candle-holders of Geraardsbergen type. Left: SF-74624E. Right: HAMP-FC7C6A (single animal head and leg only).
Tripod candle-holders of Geraardsbergen type. Left: SF-74624E. Right: HAMP-FC7C6A (single animal head and leg only).

Tripod folding

There are two main types of tripod candle-holder with folding or collapsible legs. The first has a slender cast shaft decorated with knops with cast cross-hatched grooves, and ending in three pierced lugs. The lugs would originally have had three hinged legs attached to them, which could be folded up for storage or travelling, or unfolded for use. Use ‘folding’ in the Classification field.

Examples on the PAS database include fragments of shaft SF-DB9EE4, KENT-CA9970 and IOW-5D55C5. No detached legs have yet been identified.

There is a complete example in Ward Perkins 1940, 179-82, fig. 56.1, no. A2647, but with no context. A complete example with different, very distinctive legs was found in Cork in a layer with late 13th-century pottery (Hurley 1985, 71, 81-2, fig. 11; the pdf can be downloaded here). A near-complete example comes from a 12th- or perhaps early 13th-century context in Low Petergate, York (Wenham 1972, 94-5, fig. 20.7; for dating, see p. 75 and p. 109; reproduced with a 13th-century date by Goodall (in Crossley (ed) 1981, fig. 64.1). A fragment of shaft came from a 13th/14th-century context in Laverstock, near Salisbury (Goodall in Saunders (ed) 2012, 116, fig. 35, no. 258). Taken together, the date-range of this type of candle-holder is probably best quoted as c. 1100-1350 AD.

Fragments of tripod folding candle-holders. Knopped shafts (SF-DB9EE4 left, IOW-5D55C5 centre) and a detached leg from a Limoges-style candle-holder (LIN-91AC94 right).
Fragments of tripod folding candle-holders. Knopped shafts (SF-DB9EE4, left, IOW-5D55C5 centre) and a detached leg from a Limoges-style candle-holder (LIN-91AC94 right).

A second, very distinctive type of tripod folding candle-holder was made in Limoges. They have three separately made curved legs, with loops at one end which are threaded onto the bottom of the candle-holder’s shaft. These were either spread out to support the candle-holder while standing, or swung round to make a more compact shape for travelling or storage. The legs are decorated with enamelled pseudo-heraldic devices, and several have been recorded on the PAS database; see SF-417281 for a list. Put ‘Limoges style’ in the Classification field.

There is a complete example of one of these candle-holders in the Victoria and Albert Museum (acc. no. M.355-1956), and a pair in the Metropolitan Museum, New York (acc. no. 32.100.285-6; published in Boehm and Taburet-Delahaye 1996, no. 134). They are dated to c. 1280-1320 AD and 1290-1310 AD respectively.

Adjustable

Adjustable candle-holders are flimsy and small, and are made from several pieces. When recording one, put ‘adjustable’ in the Classification field.

They have a cast spike which has a D-shaped lug at one end with three notches, corresponding to the three positions in which the object can be fixed. The lug is pierced to take a hinge bar, on which the shaft is hinged. This shaft, often decorated, is made from a strip of metal bent in half with a slot cut for the hinge. Between the two halves a third strip is sandwiched. This can rotate so that it can move into one of the notches, locking the candle-holder in position, or can move out again and allow the candle-holder to be folded up or adjusted into the right position. The third strip (often called a tab) can have a slight spur on one corner, presumably to allow a thumbnail purchase.

Riveted to the top of the double strip is a sheet-metal socket or pair of sockets; sometimes there is a larger candle-sized socket on one side, with a smaller taper-sized one on the other. The sockets have open fronts, allowing the spike and strips to pass through to allow the object to fold compactly.

The various parts of an adjustable candle-holder (NMS-D22F86).
The various parts of an adjustable candle-holder (NMS-D22F86). Only the spike is made from cast metal, the rest is sheet.

There is a good illustration showing the way in which these candle-holders worked in Egan 1998, 147, fig. 115; and a good explanation in Wise 2002  (link to download here). They could be either be stuck upright in a crack in a table, or at a right angle in a wall (as NMS-1D35E4), or folded in half for travel or storage. Although they are clearly medieval, the dating is uncertain. Wise (2002, 122-3) suggests a date-range of c. 1350-1500 AD, and notes that several examples have been found near routeways (major roads or ports).

Adjustable candle-holders. Left, extended for use upright but with most of the spike broken off (NMS-2B5EA5). Centre, a completely folded example (SF4651). Right, a socket and shaft with missing spike (LANCUM-662926, above) and a detached cast spike (SF-015977).
Adjustable candle-holders. Left, extended for use upright but with most of the spike broken off (NMS-2B5EA5). Centre, a completely folded example (SF4651). Right, a socket and shaft with missing spike (LANCUM-662926, above) and a detached cast spike (SF-015977, below). Note that all of these examples have a second smaller socket attached to the top of the shaft.

There are also some less complex examples of adjustable candle-holders, such as the two below, one of which is still movable. The hinge must have been quite tight to stop the candle-holder collapsing while in use.

Two simple adjustable candle-holders. Left, DOR-11C892; right, WILT-21F000.

Two simple adjustable candle-holders. Left, DOR-11C892; right, WILT-21F000.

Late medieval or early post-medieval candle-holders

Most sturdy household candle-holders made from cast copper alloy and recorded on the PAS database are dated to the 15th and 16th centuries. They develop out of the three-footed form, and have circular bases (without feet). Stems become taller, and can end in branches so that one base and stem can support two sockets. The bases, stems, branches and sockets are usually all cast separately.

Fragments of base and stem can be hard to recognise. Stems sometimes have incised circumferential lines, often in pairs, or have distinctive knops. Sockets are much easier, and some development can be seen in these. 

Looped sockets

Faceted looped sockets with apertures or perforations were in widespread use during the 15th century, probably developing from 14th-century French candle-holders such as PUBLIC-C37065 and DEV-4115C5. Most are hexagonal in cross-section, but some are octagonal; a very few are cylindrical. Nearly all have a loop at the base, normally ending in a small projection that could fit into a hole in the base or branch. Because the loop is the usual distinguishing feature, put ‘looped’ in the Classification field.

The faceted socket may continue into the 16th century; one from London is from a 15th- or 16th-century context (Egan 2005, 81, no. 335). A faceted socket on a base is illustrated by Ward Perkins (1940, fig. 55.2) and also by Goodall (in Crossley (ed) 1981, 66, fig. 64.2) but the two parts may not originally have belonged together (Egan 1998, fig. 68a, 81; Bangs 1995). There appear to be no other surviving complete candle-holders which combine these two components, but there is one other PAS example of a faceted socket in place, this time on a 15th-century double-branched candle-holder (NARC-5BBD69).

Faceted and perforated sockets from 15th- or 16th-century candle-holders. Left, a hexagonally faceted socket (SF-E44700). Centre, an octagonally faceted socket (NLM-AF8214). Right, a socket without loop (NMS-CFEEE3).
Faceted and perforated sockets, mostly with loops, from 15th- or 16th-century candle-holders. Left, a hexagonally faceted socket (SF-E44700). Centre, an octagonally faceted socket (NLM-AF8214). Right, a socket without loop (NMS-CFEEE3).

At the same time, or perhaps slightly later, an unperforated cylindrical socket was in use, often decorated with bands of circumferential incised lines. NMS-CFEEE3 (illustrated above) may be a transitional form between the two types, as it has the faceted socket but is missing the loop and simply has the small projection; BH-4D9E72 alternatively is cylindrical and unperforated, but has a loop, and ends in a horizontal ring with an internal screw thread. 

Some unusual candle-holder sockets which are probably 15th or 16th century. From left: BH-4D9E72, BH-890115, DEV-B81FD7, SF-74B798.
Some unusual candle-holder sockets which are probably 15th or 16th century. From left: BH-4D9E72 (with screw thread), BH-890115, DEV-B81FD7, SF-74B798.

The cylindrical sockets were often used in pairs; each one fixed into a hole on a ‘branch’ with a central ring which fitted over the stem of the candle-holder. These are illustrated by Brownsword (1985, fig. 3) and dated by him to the late 15th and 16th centuries. He calls them the ‘branched double-socket’ type, and this (without the hyphen) can be added to the Classification field.

Some fragments of branched double-socket candle-holders. From left: SWYOR-25808C (socket and complete branch), PUBLIC-F17633 (socket and fragment of branch), DENO-6D070D (incomplete branch), NMS-93AC56 (complete branch), PUBLIC-DB1BF2 (socket), WILT-6686EC (socket).
Some fragments of branched double-socket candle-holders of late 15th or early 16th century date. From left: SWYOR-25808C (socket and complete branch), PUBLIC-F17633 (socket and fragment of branch), DENO-6D070D (incomplete branch), NMS-93AC56 (complete branch), PUBLIC-DB1BF2 (socket), WILT-6686EC (socket).

The ‘Bunsen burner’ type

Alternatively, the sockets and stems could be made in one piece, and this is often known as the Bunsen burner type due to its straight-sided, narrow stem and only slightly wider straight-sided unperforated socket; it looks much like a modern Bunsen burner, so add ‘Bunsen burner’ to the Classification field.

The Bunsen burner type “has long been regarded as the first socket candlestick of English design as well as manufacture” (Bangs 1995, 52) because few are known from outside England; in fact, very few unperforated sockets of any type are found on the Continent (Bangs 1995, 52). The stems are usually hollow, and have short flared ends below which a short length of tube extends to fit into a hole in the separate base. 

There are some known with apertures in the socket, and some are shown below. Whether these are of English or Continental manufacture is uncertain.

One was found in a 16th-century context in London (Egan 2005, 81, no. 337) and another in a pit with early 16th century pottery in Winchester (Rees et al 2008, no. 1799). Two Norwich finds came from the levels of the 1507 fire (Margeson 1993, 83-4, nos. 537-8), so a date-range of 1450-1550 seems appropriate.

Candle-holders of Bunsen burner type. From left: SOM-619B4B, DEV-AF2114, SWYOR-EC45A9, LVPL-417C75, SF-3DBCE5.
Candle-holders of Bunsen burner type. From left: SOM-619B4B, DEV-AF2114, SWYOR-EC45A9, SF-3DBCE5, LVPL-417C75 (cast in one piece).

16th- or 17th-century candle-holders

Similar shafts, but with bulbous lower ends, seem to be a 16th-century development. They are often combined with a socket with out-turned rim and often a slight flare at the base (e.g. WILT-858EEE; also see Bangs 1995, nos. 48-50). Brownsword (1985, 1) dates this development to the end of the 16th century.

This type of socket appears to continue into the 18th century, with examples from America (Hume 1969, fig. 24).

It is hard to know if the perforated socket illustrated below (YORYM-0E6643) is of similar date, but it may well be.

Candle-holders with bulbous shafts and sockets with out-turned rims and flared bases. These may be 16th- or early 17th-century in date. From left: NLM-753765, WILT-858EEE, WILT-0F75A1, WILT-BE3B82, YORYM-0E6643.
Candle-holders with bulbous shafts and sockets with out-turned rims and flared bases. These may be 16th- or early 17th-century in date. From left: NLM-753765, WILT-858EEE, WILT-0F75A1, WILT-BE3B82, YORYM-0E6643.

Bases of 15th- to 17th-century candle-holders

Bases from late medieval or early post-medieval candle-holders (c. 1450-1700 AD) were made separately, and are not nearly so easy to recognise or to date precisely. Brownsword (1985) does give some useful hints on dating bases, but fragments will always be difficult. In addition, fragments of candle-holder base may be difficult to tell apart from fragments of bell, or of the bases of small vessels such as ewers or chafing dishes.

Three candle-holders with surviving bases, all of late medieval or early post-medieval date. Left to right: LIN-249D46, SWYOR-4DC433, SOMDOR-9F8701.
Three candle-holders with surviving bases, all of late medieval or early post-medieval date. Left to right: LIN-249D46, SWYOR-4DC433, SOMDOR-9F8701.

Later post-medieval candle-holders

We have a few slightly later sockets with a neo-classical appearance; these may be later 17th or 18th century. Copper-alloy versions are shaped a little like a classical urn, with curved sides. Lead-alloy (perhaps pewter) versions have relief decoration.

Candle-holder fragments of late 17th- or 18th-century date. Left to right: WILT-C6F1E8, NLM-3C6BE4, NLM-13DB96, WMID-7F30A2, CORN-F86F80 (above), YORYM-215DD0 (below).
Candle-holder fragments of late 17th- or 18th-century date. Left to right: WILT-C6F1E8, NLM-3C6BE4, NLM-13DB96, WMID-7F30A2, CORN-F86F80 (above), YORYM-215DD0 (below).

Some of these sockets may be from saucer-type candle-holders (also known as chambersticks). These are short candle-holders with wide flat bases, stable on a bedside table and easily carried about.

Saucer-type candle-holders were certainly in use in the 17th century, when they had flat projecting handles like little frying pans; we do not have any of this type yet identified on the PAS database, but there is a mid 18th century illustration of one in the British Museum.

The PAS database does have some later looped handles from saucer-type candle-holders, dating perhaps to the 18th to 20th centuries. These have a flat circular or oval plate which formed a thumb-rest, and one or two projections which may have joined the handle to the saucer (check these for breaks).

All certain examples of these loops have undecorated thumb-rests. There are some examples (e.g. SWYOR-8AC357 and FAKL-C674F7) which look a little earlier, and have decorated thumb-rests opposite the scar of an attachment; these may be from candle-holders, but also may be finger-ring pipe tampers which have lost their tamping end.

A ceramic version of the 1770s in the British Museum provides dating evidence (1921,1215.139.CR).

Three loops from saucer-type candle-holders, with breaks where they were joined to the saucer marked. From left: HAMP-0AA051, LVPL-600557, SWYOR-B13D83.
Three loops from saucer-type candle-holders, with breaks where they were joined to the saucer marked. From left: HAMP-0AA051, LVPL-600557, SWYOR-B13D83.

Ejectors

Ejectors are an easily recognisable part of a post-medieval candle-holder. The candle-holder had a long socket with a slot, which could be used to hold a tall candle which was pushed up with the ejector. When recording one, add ‘ejector’ to the Classification field.

Some ejector handles can be oval, sometimes inscribed with initials. Others are simple knobs, which can be hard to recognise. The most recognisable ones, and the commonest on the PAS database, have an openwork trefoil of three circular loops.

A screw thread on the shaft of the ejector helps to identify an object as an ejector, but if this is missing then the general shape of the object and its size (15-25mm wide) can help. The holes tend to be bevelled on one face and with right-angled edges on the other, and there is often a short flaring collar between the trefoil and the shaft.

Bangs suggests that the trefoil type of ejector dates from the second half of the 17th century onwards (Bangs 1995, 145-146, 326; no. 121) but they seem to have become more common in the 18th century.

Ejector handles from late 17th- or 18th-century candle-holders, all of openwork trefoil type except for one. From left: DOR-F8C076, NLM-074D4A, BH-C623B4, SUSS-AA9D95, WMID-6FAB26.
Ejector handles from late 17th- or 18th-century candle-holders, all of openwork trefoil type except for one. From left: DOR-F8C076, NLM-074D4A, BH-C623B4, SUSS-AA9D95, WMID-6FAB26.

Toy candle-holders

There are several lead-alloy toy candle-holders in the Museum of London, catalogued in Forsyth and Egan 2005, 181-3. The earliest date to the 17th century, although Forsyth and Egan suggest that there may be occasional earlier examples. The bases are generally 24-40mm in diameter and the candle-holders 40-60mm tall.

We have more than a dozen toy candle-holders now recorded on the PAS database. They are recorded as TOY, and should have ‘candle holder’ in the Classification field. This search should find all examples.

Bird feeders, inkwells and other small lead vessels

Introduction

Small lead or lead-alloy vessels can be bird feeders, inkwells, cup weights, dice shakers or be of unknown function. A few are described below with tips on identification and recording.

Most of these objects should be recorded as Lead. Only use Lead Alloy if the object seems rather too lightweight to be pure lead.

PAS object type(s) to use

In general, the term VESSEL should be used. The exception is for cup weights; use WEIGHT for these.

PAS object classification to use

If you know it, add the specific type of vessel to the classification field. For example, for bird feeders, use bird feeder, and for inkwells, use inkwell.

How to take the dimensions

It’s not immediately obvious how to take the dimensions of these small vessels, so it is worth explaining how you have done it in the Description field.

Height and width are relatively straightforward; the height is generally taken from the base to the rim (measure up the flat reverse) and the width is taken perpendicular to this, across the flat reverse. the maximum (usually at the top) should be stated in the Width box, and the minimum (usually at the bottom) can be added in the Description field.

Thickness is usually used for the overall depth of the object from front to back; the maximum (usually at the top) should be stated in the Thickness box, and the minimum (usually at the bottom) can be added in the Description field; the thickness of the lead can also be described separately. The Length field is less useful and is often not filled in.

How to take the dimensions of a bird feeder (IOW-5BB8E2).
How to take the dimensions of a bird feeder (IOW-5BB8E2).

Bird feeders

These are small lead or pewter (lead-alloy) vessels, usually with flat reverses and curved fronts, making them D-shaped when looked at from above.

Some are made in two pieces, the flat back and the curved front joined together by soldering; others appear to have been cast in one piece. They are often said to have holes, hooks or pierced lugs on the reverse, for attachment to the bars of the cage, but these features are not common on the bird feeders recorded on the PAS database.

There are many other small lead vessels, which do not have the characteristic D shape. It is uncertain whether these have the same function; alternative suggestions include inkwells, cup weights and dice shakers. See below for more on these.

An entire book was published on small lead and lead-alloy vessels in 2011, but in Dutch. It is by Theo Bottelier, and called Inktpot of Vogeldrinkbakje (‘Inkwell or Bird Drinker’). Hopefully an English version will be published in the near future.

Medieval bird feeders

There is a small group of narrow, upright bird feeders, normally with the flat reverse. Some of these have complex relief decoration in a medieval style, often with cross-hatching, similar to that found on other lead objects such as ampullae.

Four examples with medieval-style decoration are illustrated in Spencer 1985, and there are a few on the PAS database, such as HESH-005348, WMID-1BE532DEV-D19B1C, NMS-0A2C74 and LON-216584.

Egan (2005, 128-9) suggests a start date in the late 15th century for these, and Spencer (1985, 451) suggests an earlier date of c. 1400 onwards. It is possible that undecorated examples with similar narrow shapes (e.g. IOW-72B185 and NARC-5C78F2) may also date this early. Egan (2005, 128-9) feels that they continue into the 16th century, so a date of 1400-1600 is probably right for the examples with medieval-style decoration, and for similarly narrow examples. Use MEDIEVAL as broad period.

Bird feeders, probably of 15th- or 16th-century date. Left, two decorated examples (HESH-005348 above, WMID-1BE532 below). Right, two similar undecorated examples of less certain date (DENO-E6155F above, IOW-9242EA below).
Bird feeders, probably of 15th- or 16th-century date. Left, two decorated examples (HESH-005348 above, WMID-1BE532 below). Right, two similar undecorated examples of less certain date (DENO-E6155F above, IOW-9242EA below).

Post-medieval bird feeders

These are much more common than the earlier type. They flare from a D-shaped base, with a further wider flare at the rim. Most are undecorated apart from a few raised parallel ridges at the top, but some have a band of decoration around the rim, normally in a scrolly floral post-medieval style.

Initials are also sometimes found, perhaps cast in relief on the front or scratched on the reverse. If you have initials on yours, don’t forget to add them to the Inscription field.

Egan (2005, 128-9) does not suggest a start date for undecorated examples, but says that they continue in use until at least the late 17th century. They may overlap with the earlier type, but do not seem to have any medieval-style decoration, so it seems sensible therefore to date them to c. 1500-1700 AD.

Bird feeders, probably of 16th- or 17th-century date. Left: IOW-FEB074, with decorated frieze around the rim. Right: PUBLIC-2F0163, undecorated.
Bird feeders, probably of 16th- or 17th-century date. Left: IOW-FEB074, with decorated frieze around the rim (and note the hole in the reverse, perhaps for attachment). Right: PUBLIC-2F0163, undecorated.

The function of bird feeders

The best source of reliable information on these vessels is Egan 2005, 128-9. This discusses a group of four D-section lead or lead-alloy vessels, with and without decoration. It follows the evidence given in Spencer 1985 for the identification as bird feeders (holding water, greenstuff or bird seed). Spencer cites a crushed container brought in to the Museum of London still holding leguminous seed, probably vetch (Spencer 1985, footnote 24).

For a possible picture of a bird feeder in use on a rectangular cage, see the print ‘Buy a Fine Singing Bird’ in Marcellus Laroon’s series Cries of London, published in the 1680s and still available as a poster. A toy bird cage from London, thought to be 17th or 18th century, has a bird feeder shown in its decoration (Forsyth and Egan 2008, 197, no. 6.1).

These vessels would certainly be practical as bird feeders; modern food bowls for caged birds are of similar size and depth, and can also be fixed firmly to the bars of a cage.

Inkwells

All inkwells should have inkwell in the classification field.

Medieval inkwells

Geoff Egan identified an item rather like an ampulla, but tall and rectangular, as a possible medieval inkwell, and gave it a tentative early to mid 15th-century date (in Saunders (ed) 2001, 99, fig. 83, cat. no. 34). Similar examples on the PAS database include LIN-98F38A, BUC-3803B7, WILT-276366 and DEV-178CC5.

Possible medieval inkwells. Left: DEV-178CC5. Right: LIN-98F38A
Possible medieval inkwells. Left: DEV-178CC5. Right: LIN-98F38A (of uncertain size).

Post-medieval inkwells

An object from the Mary Rose (sank 1545), identified as an inkwell, is a simple hollow metal cube with a small central circular hole in one face (Gardiner and Allen 2005, 132-3, fig. 3.23). There are plenty of parallels on the PAS database, with a variety of shapes, some decorated; a selection is shown below. The Mary Rose example shows that the date-range for these starts at 1500 AD, but the date at which they went out of use is uncertain.

Lead inkwells of post-medieval date. From left: IOW-5559F8 (with slotted pen holder), FAKL-218D3E, NLM-EA9F7D, HESH-05C8E6, SWYOR-BAA23C.
Lead inkwells of post-medieval date. From left: IOW-5559F8 (with slotted pen holder), FAKL-218D3E, NLM-EA9F7D, HESH-05C8E6, SWYOR-BAA23C.

IOW-25ECC1 is recorded as a bird feeder, but looks more like an inkwell, with a wide rim all the way around, which looks as if it was designed to catch drops; another example with this wide rim is SWYOR-565A19.

Small lead vessels, perhaps inkwells. Left: IOW-25ECC1. Right: SWYOR-565A19. Centre: a modern inkwell from a 20th-century school desk, for comparison.
Small lead vessels, perhaps inkwells. Left: IOW-25ECC1. Right: SWYOR-565A19. Centre: a modern inkwell from a 20th-century school desk, for comparison.

These possible inkwells, with their small central holes or wide rims, resemble the ceramic, glass or lead inserts for post-medieval inkwells, which have both features, and so are tentatively dated to the post-medieval period.

Other small lead or lead-alloy vessels

There are many small lead vessels which do not have the characteristic D-shaped cross-section, and it is uncertain whether they all have the same function. Alternative suggestions include dice shakers, cup weights, etc.

Dice shakers

A decorated, D-shaped bird feeder from London (Museum of London 84.136/25) was found to contain 24 dice (see Spencer 1985 for more details). A cylindrical lead container is recorded on the PAS database at LIN-47EE46, with a single die inside.

These two finds may suggest that at least some cylindrical containers were used as dice shakers, and that bird feeders may have occasionally been pressed into service for this too. It does not mean that the primary use of D-shaped vessels was as dice shakers.

Cup weights

There are several small lead bowls with straight, steeply sloping walls which may be a lead version of the well-known medieval to modern copper-alloy cup weight. Cup weights typically have decoration on their upper rims, and/or can be identified by being a precise weight. They should be recorded as WEIGHT.

Lead examples with decoration on the rim have pellets, whereas copper-alloy examples tend to have annulets. Cup weights have a very long period of use, from the 12th to the 19th century.

Lead cup weights. From left: DEV-F3B4A4 (two-ounce), DENO-9FE081 (one-ounce), BH-7A13F3 (quarter-ounce).
Lead cup weights. From left: DEV-F3B4A4 (two-ounce), DENO-9FE081 (one-ounce), BH-7A13F3 (quarter-ounce).

Powder-holder caps

Fragmentary small lead cups or bowls can be the remains of powder-holder caps; see the separate guide to these. They tend to measure c. 30 x 20mm at their base and are c. 20mm high.

Ceramics (including the Pottery Guide)

The PAS has produced a guide to the recording of pottery vessels which can be downloaded as a pdf here: PAS Pottery Recording Guide.

The Guide to Recording Pottery
The Pottery Recording Guide.

Other ceramic items (clay pipes, ceramic lamps and moulds, kiln furniture and so on) are briefly noted towards the end of the Pottery Recording Guide, with recommendations as to the object type to use.

Object types to use for other ceramic objects

As a quick aide-memoire, here are some object types that can be used for some non-vessel ceramic objects (see pp. 43-49 of the Pottery Recording Guide for more detail):

Clay tobacco pipes: PIPE (SMOKING)

Pipeclay figurines: FIGURINE (as long as they are humans or animals)

Dolls: TOY

Wig-curlers and hair-curlers: HAIR CURLER

Moulds: MOULD or COIN MOULD

Lamps: LAMP

Candle-holders: CANDLE HOLDER

Curfews: FIRE COVER

Crucibles and cupels: CRUCIBLE and CUPEL respectively

Briquetage: BRIQUETAGE

Kiln furniture: KILN FURNITURE

Spindle-whorls: SPINDLE WHORL

Loomweights: LOOMWEIGHT

Other weights, often Bronze Age or Iron Age: WEIGHT

Object types to use for ceramic building materials (CBM)

Ceramic building material has a short section in the Pottery Recording Guide as well (pp. 50-54).  Here are some object types to use:

Field drains: DRAIN PIPE

Roof tiles (including imbrex, tegula and antefix): TILE

Floor tiles (including pamments, pavers etc): TILE

Roman brick used for levelling courses, hypocaust supports or walling: TILE (this is following York Archaeological Trust CBM conventions, available as a pdf here)

Tesserae, even if made from brick or tile: TESSERA

Other Roman CBM, of unidentified function: BRICK (this is following York Archaeological Trust CBM conventions, available as a pdf here)

Medieval or modern brick, including malting brick: BRICK

Daub: DAUB. This term has historically not been available, and recorders have used ARCHITECTURAL FRAGMENT; but we have asked for it to be replaced on our wordlist, and this should be happening soon.

How to Search the Database

Introduction

Without knowing how to search, you can’t get any data out of the PAS database. It’s important to know how to construct searches so that you can find the records you need. For recorders, it’s essential to know how people will be searching, so that you can make records which are easier to find.

This guide will also help you map your search results, and download search results as an Excel spreadsheet.

How to find the search forms

The database welcome page (https://finds.org.uk/database) has a Basic Search box at the top (labelled ‘Search our database’). You can find all the other searches by going to the Search page; click on ‘Search database’ at the top of the menu on the left-hand side. The main menu on this page lets you choose between the 12 different search forms.

On every Search Results page, you will find a menu above the search results which allows you to click back to either the Basic Search or the Advanced Search form.

The Advanced Search

Paradoxically, it’s best to start learning about searching the PAS database with Advanced Search. The Advanced Search gives you a lot of help in constructing your searches.

The 23 boxes are taken from both the Artefact form and the Findspot form. Have a go at filling in the boxes and see what results you get.

How to find the Advanced Search box

From anywhere in the database, you will find ‘Search database’ at the top of the left-hand menu. Click through to the Search page and choose ‘Advanced Search’ at the top of the menu.

The Advanced Search boxes explained

Each box is slightly different. Some are tick-boxes, some ask you to choose between the drop-down menu options, and others are free-text fields. Some (e.g. the Object Type box) look like free-text fields, but when you start to type, they will offer you a set of drop-down results based on your initial typing.

The ‘Object Description Contains’ box will, in theory, search on the precise string of letters (so entering ‘brooch hare’ will give different results to ‘hare brooch’) but it adds some fuzziness to the searches. This is known as ‘approximate string matching’ and means that the search looks for plurals and past tenses as well as the specific word. So if you want to find a radiate-headed brooch, instead of a coin with a radiate head, you may need to use the filters (see below) to narrow down your search results.

Filling in the ‘Start date’ and ‘End date’ with numbers will mean that your search will find everything after the start date and before the end date. So if you enter ‘1500’ as the start date and ‘1600’ as the end date, you will get records with date-ranges of 1500-1600, but also 1500-1550, 1520-1550, 1550-1600, etc.  Because the searching is done mathematically, BC dates need a minus sign at the front, so 800 BC is -800.

If you are looking for records by date created or updated, click in the relevant box and a calendar will come up. Choose the year, month and finally day, and the date will be automatically entered in the correct format.

Search results

The search results page will give you the details of what you searched for at the top. The url box at the top also gives a precise ‘address’ for your search results.

The filters down the right-hand side allow you to narrow your search results without going right back to the advanced search form. Filters can be applied or removed very easily (see below).

Basic (or Simple) Search

This is in fact a very powerful tool, and all the most complicated searches are done from this simple box.

If you type a single word into the Basic Search box, the database will search for this word across most of the fields in a record. So if you search for ‘Birdlip’ (or ‘birdlip’ – it is not case-sensitive), you will get all of the Roman Birdlip brooches that were recorded using this word, but also all of the finds recorded as from Birdlip in Gloucestershire, and all the Iron Age combs which can be paralleled by a comb from Birdlip.

If you type a PAS number into the Basic Search box, like SUSS-8D0E38, the results will include that record, but also every record that has quoted it as a parallel. So the Basic Search is useful when you don’t know which field the information might have been put into.

If you type two or more words into the Basic Search box, the database will search for records that contain both or all of these words somewhere in the record, separately. So if you type ‘strap end’ into the Basic Search box, it will search for all records which include both the word ‘strap’ and the word ‘end’.

If you would like to search for the string ‘strap end’ – that is, the precise phrase with the words in that order – then you have to wrap them up in double inverted commas. Searching for “strap end” will get the right results.

If you would like to search for records that contain either of two words, see below under ‘Search operators’.

You can restrict the Basic Search to a particular field; see below, under ‘Turning Basic Search into a very powerful tool’.

Search operators

If you type two or more words into Basic Search, it will search for records that contain both of these words somewhere in the record. It is just as if you have typed AND between the words. For example, ‘brooch lead’ will find you all records that have both of those two words; ‘brooch AND lead’ will give the same set of results. Note that if you type ‘brooch and lead’ you will get all records that contain those three words – brooch, and, and lead. Putting AND in capitals tells the search engine that the word is an ‘operator’ – something that instructs the search engine to narrow the search.

Two other commonly used operators are OR and NOT. Searching for ‘brooch OR lead’ will give you all those records with ‘brooch’ in them, and all the records with ‘lead’ in them. Searching for ‘brooch NOT lead’ will retrieve all the records with ‘brooch’ in them, except for those which also use ‘lead’.

Searches using AND, OR and NOT are also sometimes called Boolean searches. They are often visualised with Venn diagrams.

Venn diagram illustrating the results of AND, OR and NOT searches
Venn diagram illustrating the results of AND, OR and NOT searches

If you want to search using three or more terms, you need to add brackets to tell the database which set of records to search within.

For example, what would you need to write if you want to find all objects decorated with a knight, which also had either a horse or a sword? You would use ‘knight AND (horse OR sword)’.

If, on the other hand, you put the brackets around the other two terms – ‘(knight AND horse) OR sword’, your results would include every record with both ‘knight’ and ‘horse’, and every record with ‘sword’.

There are a few other search operators which are described in detail below. They include the wild card *, the negative sign – and the range finders { } and [ ].

The wild card *

The asterisk can be used to replace text. For example, if you wanted to search for records which had used the word ‘lozengiform’ and those which had used the word ‘lozenge-shaped’, you could type ‘lozeng*’ in the Basic Search box and the database would find any word starting with those letters. Similarly, if you wanted to find records that had used ‘circular’ ‘triangular’ or ‘rectangular’, you could type ‘*ular’ to retrieve records with all of these.

How to find the Basic Search box

The database welcome page (https://finds.org.uk/database) has a Basic Search box at the top (labelled ‘Search our database’). If you click through to the Search page (‘Search database’ at the top of the menu on the left-hand side) you will find another Basic Search box at the top.

Searching across individual fields using the Basic Search (Search Syntax)

You can ask the Basic Search to look at one or more specific fields. You type a code for the individual field, then a colon, and then the term to search for – in this format: classification:annular. The search operators can be used as well, so in effect this is a better, more flexible version of the Advanced Search. The system is known as Search Syntax.

Most of the codes for the individual fields can be found in a little-known but very useful area of the website. Scroll down to the bottom of any page, find ‘About Our Site’, and click on the final option, Help. Option 3 is Searching our database, and contains many of the codes. A fuller list of the field names is also given below.

One way to work out the names of the fields and the codes for different drop-down options (such as the materials options) use the Advanced Search and check the url. For example, if you search for Primary Material = Silver, the url of the search results will be: https://finds.org.uk/database/search/results/material/22. This will show you not only the name of the field (material) but also the code for silver (22) which you can then use to search for Secondary Material, which does not appear in the Advanced Search fields.

Another way to work out the field names is to do an Excel download (see below, under Using Your Search Results). The column headers will be the field names.

By the way, it is also worth looking at option 1, Searching the PAS database for the first time.

Full list of fields

If the field you want is not included here, it is usually better to use one of the more specific searches. For people (finders and identifiers) or dates (date from, date to, dates record created or updated), use Advanced Search (and remember that you may not have the correct access level to access the People database). For coin-specific fields, use the relevant numismatic search.

A string is a set of characters that can contain letters, numbers and symbols (such as hyphens). The numbers are treated as symbols rather than as mathematical units.

If your string contains a space, the database will search as if you had added AND as an operator, unless you enclose it in double inverted commas. Wildcards (*) can be used in strings, but not in numeric fields.

Search terms for nearly every field on the database.
Search terms for nearly every field on the database.

‘Date from’ and ‘date to’ searches

For date from and date to searches, you have a choice of how precise to be. Using the Basic Search fromdate:700 will give you that precise result; all the records where the date from has been entered as 700 AD. Similarly, if you enter fromdate:700 AND todate:800 you will get all records where both these fields have this precise value. It will not retrieve a record with dates of 700-750, or 710-780.

It is usually easier to use Advanced Search to search for a date-range. In Advanced Search, entering ‘700’ in the Start Date field will retrieve all records from 700 AD onwards, right up to the present day. Entering 700 in Start Date and 800 in End Date will retrieve all records with ‘date from’ 700 AD and later, and ‘date to’ 800 AD and earlier.

If you would like to do this kind of search in Basic Search, you will need to use the operators {} and [].  See below, under Searching for a date-range using Basic Search.

Searching for BC dates

Dates BC are recorded as negative numbers, so with a minus sign (a hyphen) in front (e.g. -800). To search for negative numbers using Basic Search, you must put a back-slash \ in front of the minus sign. For example, if you want to search for something recorded with the date from 800 BC and with the date to100 BC, use the search fromdate:\-800 AND todate:\-100.

Searching for a date-range using Basic Search: the operator [ ]

Basic Search can be used to search for all records within a certain range of dates, using the operator [ ] and the word TO. The square brackets [ ] are known as the inclusive range operators because they search for what’s included in the brackets.

See below (under Searching the Dimension Fields) for the exclusive range operators { }, which exclude what’s in the brackets).

For example, you can set the range for the ‘Date From’ field to search for objects from the first millennium AD, by using the search fromdate:[1 TO 499]. Don’t use the date 500, as this will add in sixth-century finds, where the ‘Date From’ field has been entered as 500.

You can search for a date-range using BC years (negative numbers) too, and you do not need the back-slash that you normally need for precise numbers. Use the search fromdate:[-500 TO -400].

Searches for the end date can be done in just the same way; try todate:[420 TO 520] or todate:[-100 TO -1].

Searching the Dimensions fields: the operator { }

You might want to search for objects that are over or under a certain length or weight, etc. To do this, you use the curly brackets { }, the word TO, and the wildcard * to specify the range. For example, to retrieve all objects over 100mm long, search for length:{* TO 100}. To search for all objects with a weight less than 20g, search for weight:{20 TO *}.

The operator { } is known as the exclusive range operator because it specifies which values to exclude. Because you are searching for what you don’t want, rather than what you do want, it is a bit counter-intuitive and can take some getting used to. You might prefer to download an Excel spreadsheet instead, and sort the dimensions in this.

Some other operators: 1 = true, and – = NOT

A general rule of thumb is that tick-box fields (like Find of Note, Treasure etc) use the digit 1 to mean that the box is ticked. Another useful thing to know is that you can use a minus sign (a hyphen) to mean NOT. For example, entering -inscription:* will retrieve all records with the inscription box not filled in, and -weight:* will retrieve all records with nothing in the Weight field. This is particularly useful for finding records that need improvement.

Using your search results

‘The two given tokens do not match’ and similar messages

Ignore this, and simply press the ‘Search’ button again. It’s a bug which has defied efforts to fix it.

Filters

A lot of precise searching can be done by starting with a wider search, and narrowing it down via the filters on the right-hand side of your search results. The filters allow you to see the range of your search results, and allow you to quickly reverse searches that didn’t work out as you hoped.

In order, the filters are: Object type; County of origin (this is the county it was found in, not the county it was recorded in); Broad Period; Institution (the prefix of the office which recorded the find); Ruler/Issuer, Denomination and Mint (for coins only); Material (i.e. Primary Material); Workflow (green, orange or red flag); and Reece Period (for Roman coins only).

Each set of filters only displays the ten most common options. If there are more than ten, there will be a grey button below labelled ‘All options’ which opens a new window from which you can choose an option.

When you have a filter applied, this will be shown at the top of the search results, and in place of the list of filter options, only the one chosen will be shown. Below will be an option for ‘clear this filter’ which allows you to quickly reverse your search and try another.

Search statistics

Above the filters (top right of the search results page) are some search statistics. The number of ‘total results available’ is the number of records found with this search. The ‘total quantity’ is the number of objects within the records; sometimes, particularly with hoards, one record may refer to more than one object.

Ordering your search results

Above the search statistics (top right of the search results page) are some ways to sort and order your results. You can choose between most recently created (the default) or several other methods, and choose between seeing them in ascending or descending order. At the top you can choose how many you see on a single page, and whether to exclude those without images or not.

Excel downloads

To create an Excel spreadsheet from your search results, click on the grey button at the top of your results labelled Export as CSV. If this button is blue and marked CSV disabled, it means that you have too many results to download; the maximum number seems to be around 12,000 records.

All artefacts and coins – a quick and easy solution

If you want to search using just filters, then find the ‘all artefacts and coins’ button in the left-hand menu and then use your filters. This is a very quick method of searching, particularly for an unusual or recently recorded item.

Brooches

Introduction

A brooch is essentially a pin with something (a plate, a frame etc) joining the two ends, effectively keeping the pin from falling out of the costume. It can be used for fastening things together, or just for decoration.

PAS object type to be used

Use BROOCH for all brooches, whether they are bow brooches, plate brooches, penannular or annular brooches, etc.  Also use BROOCH for all components if detached – pins, for example – not BROOCH PIN, as this is a type of pin!

Modern low-status brooches are often called ‘badges’, but this has a particular meaning for portable antiquities (see BADGE for details). If it has a pin, and something joining the two ends, it’s a BROOCH.

PAS classifications and sub-classifications to be used

Because BROOCH is such a huge category, the classification and sub-classification fields are of great importance in searching and analysing the data. Please try to fill in these fields correctly.

Specific guidance will be given below, but as a general rule the common name of the brooch goes in the classification field (e.g. Polden Hill, cruciform, cogwheel) and any specific typological classification goes in the sub-classification field (e.g. Mackreth TR 1.b1, Martin type 3.2.1, Weetch type 15.B).

Terms to use in the description

The terms to be used in the description vary from period to period and in some cases from brooch to brooch, and so there is much more detail below. There are some terms that are used across all brooches, though, and these are described here.

There are two main forms of brooch, the kind with a pin which swivels on a frame, and the kind with a pin which hinges or is sprung behind a solid element. The frame brooches normally divide into annular and penannular brooches, and the others normally divide into bow and plate brooches.

Examples of a gold medieval annular brooch (top left, LVPL-039CF2); a Roman penannular brooch (bottom left, PUBLIC-188FBE); an Iron Age bow brooch (centre, BERK-B2FE61) and a Roman plate brooch (right, NCL-D05155).
Examples of a gold medieval annular brooch (top left, LVPL-039CF2); a Roman penannular brooch (bottom left, PUBLIC-188FBE); an Iron Age bow brooch (centre, BERK-B2FE61) and a Roman plate brooch (right, NCL-D05155). Not to scale.

Annular and penannular brooches have a pin and a frame. The pin has a loop, a shaft and a tip. Annulars may have a pin constriction or pin hole around which the pin is fixed, and a pin rest where the tip of the pin sits. Penannulars have terminals to keep the tip of the pin in place.

The parts of annular and penannular brooches, and their pins. Left; SF-F95D33. Centre; IOW-12F78B (above) and IOW-BD651F (below). Right; YORYM-D1B10C.
The parts of annular and penannular brooches, and their pins. Left; SF-F95D33. Centre; IOW-12F78B (above) and IOW-BD651F (below). Right; YORYM-D1B10C.

Bow brooches have a head and a foot, and the bow is the part in between. The pin runs from a hinge or spring at the head, to the catchplate at the foot. The catchplate is curled over to provide a pin rest. Plate brooches are similar, but generally there is no distinction between the head and the foot. The pin is normally hinged.

Parts of a bow brooch (NARC-A482A4) and a plate brooch (LVPL-2CEBA5).
The parts of a bow brooch (NARC-A482A4) and a plate brooch (LVPL-2CEBA5). Both are of Roman date.

Pins can be made from the same metal as the rest of the brooch, or can be made separately from a different metal. Most Iron Age, Roman and medieval brooches have pins made from the same metal, and these often survive well. Most early-medieval brooches have pins made from iron, which do not survive well.

There are major differences in the pin arrangements used in each period, and these are useful in dating brooches. They are described fully in the period-specific sub-sections below.

How to take dimensions

Length is normally measured parallel to the pin, and width perpendicular to the pin. The thickness is much harder to define; it may include the pin arrangements on the reverse, or not.

Because brooches come in so many shapes and sizes, it is difficult to be consistent. Please explain how you have taken the dimensions of your particular brooch, in the Object Description field.

Early and middle Iron Age brooches

The best source for these is Adams 2013, which can be downloaded free from Ethos (click here for link). A shorter version for quick reference is Adams 2015, which can be downloaded free from the Datasheets page of the Later Prehistoric Finds Group website. Because Adams 2013 is so comprehensive, this part of the guide is an aide-memoire only.

Adams has thoroughly examined and updated Hull and Hawkes’s typology (Hull and Hawkes 1987) and added some extra types (Adams 2013, 45-75).  She covers brooches from their start in the early Iron Age, around 450 BC (e.g. ESS-208DF5) until the end of La Tène II brooches in about 150 BC.

PAS classifications and sub-classifications to be used

You can put the common name in the classification field, e.g. Hallstatt, La Tène I or La Tène II. Note that searches for La Tene will not find La Tène, and vice versa. At the time of writing this guide, La Tène has been spelled six different ways in the classification field; be sure that you spell it the correct way.

La Tène I brooches have a foot which turns up towards the bow, but does not touch it. La Tène II brooches have the foot turned up and and fixed to the bow, either by a collar or by wrapping the end of the foot around the bow. This can form a triangular element at the foot, and La Tène III brooches solidify this arrangement, with the triangle becoming a triangular catchplate. The collar or wrap-around can survive as an ornamental feature or knop. La Tène III brooches are late Iron Age and therefore fall into the next section, with Mackreth 2011 the major source rather than Adams 2013.

Adams uses Hull and Hawkes’s typology (Hull and Hawkes 1987; Adams 2013, 45-75) and this should be followed for PAS records. If you can identify the brooch to Adams type, put this in the sub-classification field in the following format: Adams type 1Aa. As Adams 2013 includes all previous typologies, such as Hull and Hawkes, Stead, Feugère and Hattatt, it is not necessary to add these as well in the sub-classification field; these typologies can be used, if necessary, in the Object Description field.

Bow brooches with a spring

Early and middle Iron Age brooches are most often bow brooches with springs. They are often described as being ‘made in one piece’, but many have a second component, the axis bar. Copper-alloy axis bars can be found on many, such as KENT-797455, DEV-FB5AB5 and SOM-83F13B; other brooches may have had an axis bar originally, but it may have fallen out.

Normally, an early or middle Iron Age brooch will have a spring with an external chord. The chord is the piece of wire that connects the two halves of the coiled spring, and it can either run under the head, within the loop made by the bow and pin (an internal chord) or run over the top of the head, outside this loop (an external chord).

Middle Iron Age brooch of La Tène I type (SOM-83F13B), showing copper-alloy axis bar and external chord
Middle Iron Age brooch of La Tène I type (SOM-83F13B), showing copper-alloy axis bar and external chord. Note that this brooch’s spring has broken on the final coil, and has been repaired with a replacement pin.

Hinged brooches

Several of Adams’s brooch types are more often found with hinges than springs (especially types 2B, 2C and 2L). Many of these are not clearly bow brooches or plate brooches, but are somewhere in between. Examples on the PAS database include NMS-175BD6, HESH-B7DED5, BERK-A659F4, HAMP-2B6848, WILT-8A5D32, BERK-EF4B87SUR-FC7906, HAMP-F773F7 and HAMP-24E208. A search that will pick up all of these (and more) can be found here.

Penannular brooches

Penannular brooches begin in the 3rd century BC, and so can be of middle Iron Age date onwards. The best source for these is Booth 2014, which can be downloaded free from Ethos here

Booth’s Figure 4.1 gives a visual summary of the types, with more detail in Figure 4.42 (Booth 2014, 116 and 197-8). The types are largely based on the forms of the terminals, but it is difficult to find precise descriptions and definitions. Types Aa and B start in the middle Iron Age, but both continue into the first century AD, and the types appear to be revived in small numbers in the early-medieval period too (Booth 2014, 117-128).

Brooches of the late Iron Age and Roman period

The only comprehensive classification of late Iron Age and Roman brooches is Mackreth 2011, which is now out of print and so can only be obtained by borrowing the pdf from an FLO. Other books, such as Bayley and Butcher 2004, and Hattatt’s volumes (including the Visual Catalogue, Hattatt 2000) are useful sources of parallels and common names for brooch types. Plouviez 2008 sets out periods to which brooch types can be allocated, in a similar way to Reece’s coin periods.

Most recorders find a parallel by flicking through the pictures in one of these books, finding a similar brooch, looking it up in the text and using the terminology found there.

As a result, this guide is not a guide to identifying Roman brooches. It is a guide to filling in the Classification and Sub-classification fields, allowing us to record more consistently and so search for brooches more effectively. There are a few hints on the diagnostic features of the commoner brooch types, but this guide is in no way a replacement for a good book.

Acknowledgements

The guide to late Iron Age and Roman brooches owes its origins to much hard work by four volunteers from Birkbeck College, University of London: Carol Bibby, Phyllida Broadway, Lori Rogerson and Cath Farrer. They combed through Mackreth 2011, counting brooches and finding their names, then searched the PAS database for the numbers of different types of brooches, compiling it all into a spreadsheet. Without them this guide would never have been written.

Thanks too to Sally Worrell who contributed the ‘diagnostic features’ section, and Natasha Harlow, Jude Plouviez and several FLOs, who kindly looked at drafts and made many useful comments.

Terms to use in the Description field

It is always useful to quote the number of any Mackreth parallel in the Description field, and to add the plate number where the drawing can be found. If a brooch has no parallel, note this in the Description field and consider ticking ‘Find of Note’.

Mackreth 2011 divided up the corpus of brooches into ‘families’, all of which had an abbreviation that he used in his database. Then each family was divided up into types, which for each family started with 1, 1a, etc. On the PAS database, we use the family names with some modifications in the Classification field, and the abbreviations and type numbers in the Sub-classification field (see below).

If you do not have enough of a brooch to identify it as to family, leave the classification field blank. You can add a more generic name (e.g. Colchester derivative) in the Description field.

There are also common names used for smaller groups than Mackreth’s families, and these can be used in the Description field. As long as we are consistent with what we put in the Classification and Sub-classification fields, any number of alternative names can be added to the Description field.

The parts of a late Iron Age or Roman brooch

Late Iron Age and early Roman brooches are all bow brooches; plate brooches come back into fashion at the end of the first century AD.

Bow brooches can be sprung, or hinged. A spring is made from wire, and has a number of coils, which start to one side of the pin and wind outwards. When the end of the spring has been reached, the wire is taken across the spring to start winding again at the far end, coiling inwards towards the pin. When counting the number of coils, count them from the reverse, and include the final one that continues downwards to form the pin.

A chord can be internal (running across below the spring, inside the space enclosed by bow and pin) or external (running across above the spring, outside the space enclosed by bow and pin).

The different parts of a spring (WAW-2B18CE and SF-94A622)
The different parts of a spring (WAW-2B18CE and SF-94A622)

PAS classifications and sub-classifications to be used

The terms chosen for the classification field largely follow Mackreth 2011’s family names, but with a few changes and additions to retain other common names. The table below gives the names that we use in the Classification field.

Note that the Classification field is case-sensitive, so place-names and German nouns need capital letters, but otherwise we should stick to lower case.

If you can narrow your brooch down to a Mackreth type, add his abbreviation and number to the Sub-classification field. Each of the brooch types has an abbreviation (see table below), and is then sub-divided into numbered (and sometimes also named) sub-types in the format 1.a, 1.b, 1.a1, 1.b2, etc. A Sub-classification field might therefore read Mackreth CD PH 6.a3 or Mackreth Late La T Stead 1.a1.

It is not always easy to work out from Mackreth’s text what any particular brooch type might be called in terms of abbreviation and number. Mackreth numbered each one of his named families from 1, so there are many Mackreth type 1.a brooches,and that’s why we need to add the abbreviation.

It is also not clear in many cases where Mackreth puts his dividing lines. For example, the Stead brooches and Birdlip brooches share a running numbering system, but Stead brooches have the abbreviation Late La T and the number Stead 1.a to Stead 3.x; and Birdlip brooches have the abbreviation Birdlip and a number starting with 4.

The best way round this is to search the Serial List for a particular brooch parallel, using its number, and look at its abbreviation and number there.

The format used for the Sub-classification field is: Mackreth CD PH 6.a5, or Mackreth KNEE Br 1.b1. Remember that the field is case-sensitive.

Recording brooches like this means that we can either search on the common name (in the classification field) or for very specific searches, go for the Mackreth abbreviation and number.

If you do not have enough of a brooch to identify it as to family, leave the Classification field blank. You can add a more generic name (e.g. Colchester derivative) in the Description field.

Where there are “use for” instructions below, this is for the Classification field only. Please add any common name(s) that you would like to use (e.g. Hull T152, Wilsford type, Lamberton Moor type) to the Description field. Plouviez 2008 (downloadable here) contains a useful concordance of common names, Bayley and Butcher 2004’s names, and Hull types. Plouviez 2008 also organised brooch types roughly into periods (similar to Reece periods) and this order is roughly followed in the table below.

This means that we can either search on the common name (in the Classification field) or, for very specific searches, try the Mackreth abbreviation/number in the Sub-classification field.

Summary of what to put in the classification field

What to put in the classification field

Scope notes (i.e. which of Mackreth’s families or other common names to use this classification for)

Mackreth abbreviation

Date (circa)

Plouviez period

late La Tène

use for ‘Stead’ brooches (Stead 1.a to Stead 3.x in the sub-classification field); do not use for Birdlip (use Birdlip instead)

Late La T

Nauheim

Nauheim

50 BC-50 AD

A

Drahtfibel

D

50 BC-50 AD

Drahtfibel derivative

do not use for 7C+ brooches (use ND for these)

DD

0-50 AD

Feugère

use as Mackreth does; for Feugère 5c, 7c, 10b, 11a, 11c and 11d, 12a and 12ax

Feugere

south western La Tène

SW

300-50 BC

military La Tène II

Mil La T II

0-100 AD

Langton Down

use for both Langton Down and proto Langton Down

LD

25-60 AD

B

rosette

use for thistle and keyhole

ROS

20-60 AD

B

lion bow

use for léontomorphe

LEO

25-60 AD

Birdlip

use for beaked bow

Birdlip

30 BC-60 AD

C

Augenfibel

use for eye brooch, Knickfibel

AUGEN

0-50 AD

C

Pannonian

use for kräftig-profilierte

PAN

43-100 AD

C

Colchester

use for Colchester one-piece

C

25-60 AD

D

Nauheim derivative

use for 7C+ brooches

ND

10-100 AD

E

Harlow

use for Colchester two-piece

CD Ha

50-80 AD (Nat)

F

rearhook

use for sprung dolphin

CD RH

40-70 AD (Nat)

G

strip bow

use for Durotrigan

DURO

25-70 AD

Aesica

AESICA

50-75 AD

H

Aucissa

AVCISSA

43-75 AD

H

proto headstud

use for applied hook

proto HDST

50-75 AD

Alesia

use for Alésia

Alesia-Auc

50-20 BC

Bagendon

use for Hod Hill type 12

HOD HILL

10-60 AD

I

Hod Hill

do not use for type 12 (use Bagendon)

HOD HILL

43-70 AD

I

Polden Hill

use for all Polden Hills, including those that Mackreth categorises as CD H/PH but have Polden Hill spring systems

CD PH

(for CD H/PH, use CD H PH)

75-175 AD

K

Colchester derivative hinged

use for T-shape, Wilsford, etc.

use for all Colchester derivative hinged brooches, including those Mackreth categorises as CD H/PH but have hinges

CD H

(for CD H/PH, use CD H PH)

43-120 AD

M

Colchester derivative

use when the brooch cannot be identified further, normally when the head is missing

CD

Trumpet

do not use for Alcester

TR

75-175 AD

N

headstud

use for Thealby Mine, sawfish, double headstud; do not use for proto headstud (use applied hook)

Headstud

75-200 AD

O

Dragonesque

DRAG

50-150 AD

P

Wroxeter

WROX

75-200 AD

S

Wirral

100-200 AD

Alcester

use for Almgren 101

Almgren 101

100-250 AD

R

Continental plate

use for hinge-headed enamelled,

bridge, equal-ended; some of these are in fact bow brooches

PL CONT

25-250 AD

T

U

V

British plate

use for flat disc, ‘early plate’,

use for tutulus,

             umbonate, chatelaine, dished cone, domed boss

use for enamelled flat disc

use for flat disc with applied plate

use for glass centre-boss

Plate

75-200 AD

75-300 AD

80-250 AD

200-350 AD

J

V

W

X

Y

ZB

zoomorphic (horse and rider)

when rider definitely absent, use ‘animal’ instead, and add ‘horse’ to the Description field

Object

250-410 AD

Z

zoomorphic (animal)

use for all land mammals; put species in Description field if identifiable

Object

Z

zoomorphic (bird)

use for all birds; put species in Description field if identifiable

Object

Z

zoomorphic (fish)

use for all fish, and similar sea creatures such as dolphin

Object

100-200 AD

Z

zoomorphic (mythical)

use for mythical creatures, hippocamps, etc

Object

Z

zoomorphic (insect)

use for all insects, with trumpet head or without; put species in Description field if identifiable

Object

160-230 AD

Z

zoomorphic

use if you cannot identify the brooch further, or if it does not fall into one of the above categories; add details to Description

Object

skeuomorphic (shoe sole)

Object

100-230 AD

Z

skeuomorphic (axe)

Object

180-350 AD

Z

skeuomorphic (shield)

Object

Z

skeuomorphic

use for all other objects (e.g. lamp, flagon, phallus, cornucopia); add details to the Description field

Object

Z

Armbrustfibel

use for Free Germany

FG

120-350 AD

knee

use for both British and Continental knee brooches

KNEE Br

KNEE Cont

150-250 AD

ZA

proto crossbow

use for P-shape, divided bow, sheath-footed sprung, etc.; if it has a hinged pin, use crossbow

proto CR

150-250 AD

ZC

crossbow

CR

250-350 AD

ZD

penannular

PEN

Diagnostic features of some common late Iron Age and Roman brooches

These follow in alphabetical order, with hybrids at the end.

Aesica

Aesica brooches, like Colchester derivatives, have four known methods of pin attachment: the rear-facing hook; the Harlow system (lug with two holes);  the Polden Hill system (either rear-facing hook or lug with two holes, together with a pierced plate at either end of the wings); or hinged. Both the bow and the foot tend to flare towards the base. A good example on the PAS database is OXON-06FAE7.

Alcester

The Alcester (pronounced ‘Alster’ or ‘Ulster’) has a trumpet head (see ‘Trumpet’ below), but a thin projecting plate in the centre instead of the knop. A good example on the PAS database is SWYOR-9E86DB.

Armbrustfibel

‘Armbrustfibel’ translates literally into English as ‘crossbow brooch’, but the German term does not apply to what we call crossbow brooches. Bayley and Butcher (2004, 93-4) define the Armbrustfibel as a ‘brooch with no crossbar, the spring held only by a cast loop behind the top of the bow’. By ‘crossbar’ they mean wings, so there are no wings and no real head, the axis bar being passed through a pierced lug at the top of the bow and the spring wrapped around this.

Bayley and Butcher illustrate one example (no. 338) from a context of c. 250-280 AD at Richborough, and there is a good example on the database at WAW-FD7DD8. Mackreth 2011 illustrates several on pls. 133-4, some complete with axis bar and spring.

Aucissa

Aucissa brooches, like Hod Hills, have hinged pins held in a narrow tube formed from rolling the top of the head up and forwards, and cutting a slot for the pin. Many have decoration on the head, some with the stamped name AVCISSA and others with dots or zig-zags. The bow is highly arched and generally has bold longitudinal ridges and grooves. The foot is generally undecorated except for a footknob. A good example on the PAS database is NMS-063E60.

Bagendon

A Bagendon brooch has (in theory) separate iron or copper-alloy bars threaded through the bow to give the appearance of small lugs or knops projecting from either side. Alternatively, and more commonly, it can be cast with copper-alloy knobs down either side in imitation of the separate rods (see, for example, NMS-18FC83).

Mackreth grouped the Bagendon type with the Hod Hills as sub-type 12 (Mackreth 2011, pl. 97-98) but Bayley and Butcher considered them to be sub-types of the Aucissa (Bayley and Butcher 2004, 151).

Birdlip

These brooches can have a variety of pin fixings, either sprung or hinged. Sprung examples have the spring cast in one with the rest of the brooch, and have an internal chord. Hinged examples are generally later. The main diagnostic feature is the turned-up ‘beak’ below a bold transverse moulding on the bow. Good examples on the PAS database are SOM-BA9B27 and LIN-7DFF37.

Colchester

The Colchester brooch always has a forward-facing hook to hold the (external) chord. They are often called ‘Colchester one-piece’ brooches, and most of the brooch was indeed made out of a single piece of metal, but they can have a separate axis bar.

Colchester brooches normally have small rectangular-section undecorated wings, a relatively long hook and a slim, undecorated bow. Early Colchester brooches can have nearly straight bows; late ones can have decoration on the bow and sometimes on the catchplate. Some were made on the Continent and imported; diagnostic features for these include a faceted cross-section to the bow, and a short hook. Colchesters are often so corroded that detail is lost.

Good examples on the PAS database include SOM-C31BB1 and SF-970616. Although the latter is incomplete, it has the stubs of the forward-facing hook and the rod that would become the spring and pin.

Colchester derivatives

These look like Colchester brooches, but have chunkier proportions. The wings are normally curved in cross-section and the bows taper from a thick hump at the top to a pointed foot. They were once called ‘dolphin’ brooches, but are now  divided into several types on the basis of their pin fixings.

Rearhook

A common form of Colchester derivative, the Rearhook is defined as having a spring held in place by a rear-facing hook. This method of holding the spring was flimsy and was often modified, presumably after a break or failure. Solder was often used for repair or reinforcement. Rearhooks are often quite highly decorated.

There are hundreds of these on the PAS database, very few retaining their springs. SF-8F9B42 is a relatively well-preserved and elegant example; SWYOR-171329, NMS-8DAE22 and SF-219E2C are perhaps more representative examples.

NB: Rear-facing hooks can be found on other brooches which are not Colchester derivatives, as well as the rearhook itself. Examples include some Aesicas and some Hod Hills.

Harlow

A common form of Colchester derivative. The wings are semi-cylindrical and open at the reverse. In the centre is a plate (usually called a ‘lug’) pierced with two holes, the upper one to hold the chord and the lower one to hold the axis bar. The lug is usually shaped around the holes, so is sometimes considered as two lugs, one above the other. The line of the lug often continues over the head and down onto the bow as a central crest, reminiscent of the forward-facing hook of the Colchester.

Good examples of Harlow brooches on the PAS database include BUC-401B71 and SUR-E39199.

NB: The lug with two holes can be found onother brooches as well as Colchester derivatives; examples include Aesica brooches.

Polden Hill

A common form of Colchester derivative, the Polden Hill is defined by having the axis bar held at each end. This is normally by means of a pierced circular plate at the outer end of each wing (often called ‘wing caps’), but there is also a group of brooches (Mackreth’s ‘Eastern Group’, CD PH 6), where the wing ends are formed into short cylinders (e.g. SF-9325B6). Fixing the axis bar, spring and pin in this way was more secure than the other Colchester Derivative methods.

There is often also a way of securing the chord; this is normally either held by a pierced lug or crest on the top of the head (like the Harlow), or a rear-facing hook in the centre (like the rearhook). Very occasionally one is found with a forward-facing hook on top of the head (like the Colchester). Both Mackreth (2011, 69) and Bayley and Butcher (2004, 89) define all brooches with pierced plates at the ends of the wings as Polden Hill, whether they have a rear-facing hook in the centre, or a pierced lug in the centre, or no method of holding the chord, and the PAS follows this system. It may turn out that the method of fixing the chord is important, though, so check that you have examined and described it.

Good examples of Polden Hill brooches on the PAS database include BERK-830663 and WAW-AACBD0 (both with central pierced lug), and HESH-6C7EF9 (with rear-facing hook).

Colchester derivative hinged

This is shaped like the other Colchester derivatives, but has tubular wings enclosing an axis bar, with a slot in the centre for the pin. Good examples on the PAS database include SF-A8FA48 and ESS-5EDEE3.

Mackreth’s CD H/PH and CD H/PH 1 brooches

These are to be found in two places: the chapter on Colchester Derivatives (CD H/PH, pls. 67-8, pp. 100 onwards) and the chapter on Headstuds and Others (CD H/PH 1, pls. 77-9, pp. 112 onwards). As you will see from the abbreviations, essentially Mackreth considered them all Colchester Derivatives, and the PAS database does too.

They should be called either ‘Colchester derivative hinged’ or ‘Polden Hill’ in the Classification field, depending on their pin fixings (see above for details). If you can quote Mackreth parallel(s), please do so in the Description field. In the Sub-classification field, please use CD H PH or CD H PH 1 (without the / as our database cannot search for a string including the symbol / ).

Some of these brooches, despite being in different chapters of Mackreth 2011, are stunningly similar to each other. Compare no. 12158 (a CD H PH, chapter 3, pl 67) and no. 5711 (a CD H PH 1, chapter 4, pl 77), which are almost identical.

Crossbow

A crossbow brooch is probably named from having wide wings that form a cross at the top of the bow, because it doesn’t look much like a medieval crossbow. Crossbow brooches also have a highly arched bow, and a fairly long foot which has a narrow catchplate running down its whole length. Crossbows have hinged pins (sprung versions are proto-crossbows) and three knobs, one (the top knob) in the centre of the head and two (the side knobs) at the ends of the wings. Good examples on the PAS database include YORYM-1CA007, SF-CE21C6 and DUR-57B5D5.

Proto-crossbow brooches are classified separately, and are very variable. If you can’t tell whether you are dealing with a crossbow or a proto-crossbow (perhaps because you just have a fragment of foot) then leave the Classification field blank, and give details in the Description field.

Dragonesque

It is unlikely that you will mix up a dragonesque brooch with any other brooch type. They are very distinctive, S-shaped and with the pin looped around one terminal and secured against the other (so with no catchplate). The way of fastening the pin is not like any plate or bow brooch; it is most like a penannular brooch.

Hunter (2011) has looked at the decoration on dragonesque brooches and has proposed a classification based on the presence or absence of enamel, so look closely for evidence of this. Good examples of dragonesque brooches on the PAS database include WAW-3F7030 and SWYOR-B501D6.

Headstud

The stud that names this group is below the wings, and could be described as being at the top of the bow. This is an eclectic group with plenty of variable decoration, and the stud can be replaced by a simple moulded decoration, a crest, a dog, a plain enamelled cell or a double stud.

Headstuds also have a variety of pin arrangements, some sprung and some hinged. The sprung varieties can have the chord held by a forward-facing hook, or a rear-facing hook, or a pierced lug on the top of the head; the axis bar is held by a pierced lug in the centre of the wings. The hinged varieties have an axis bar mounted in a tube fitted behind the wings.

Good examples of headstud brooches on the PAS database include YORYM-366098 and LIN-287352.

Hod Hill

Hod Hills have hinged pins held in a narrow tube formed from rolling the top of the head up and forwards, and cutting a slot for the pin. The axis bar is normally of iron. The bow is divided into an upper and a lower part; the upper bow is often wider, normally vertically ribbed, and can have a pair of side knobs projecting from top, centre or base. The lower bow is usually narrower, flatter and minimally decorated, and with a small footknob. Many (perhaps most originally) have a white-metal coating. Good examples of Hod Hills on the PAS database include SUR-E9B073.

Knee

Knee brooches resemble a bent knee, and as the foot is often bent forwards they can look very like a leg from Georgian or Victorian furniture. They can have rounded heads or semi-cylindrical wings, and the pins can be sprung or hinged. Some have a small headloop, some have enamelled decoration. Good examples of knee brooches on the PAS database include PUBLIC-19016E and SF-21C384.

Langton Down

The classic Langton Down has wings in the form of a thin sheet cylinder with a seam along the reverse and a slot in the centre for the pin. The bow is broad and tapers only slightly; it is usually decorated with wide vertical grooves. The Nertomarus type has distinctive relief decoration on the head (use the word ‘Nertomarus’ in the Description field).

Good examples of Langton Downs on the PAS database include SUR-E3B5D2 and SF-CE2712; search for all Nertomarus brooches using this search.

Lion bow

A lion bow has the upper bow in the shape of a three-dimensional lion. It has the same spring cover as the rosette brooch and can have the central plate that is also found on rosette brooches; in some cases the plate and the lower bow are fixed to the lion by a rivet. Good examples on the PAS database include BERK-F6F4D9 (with the central plate) and SOM-4B09B4.

Nauheim

The classic Nauheim brooch has a long narrow bow with a continuous taper to a pointed foot, and a triangular perforated catchplate. Chords can be internal or external. If the chord is missing, it can be easy to mix up Nauheim brooches with early-medieval strip brooches (Weetch type 31). If the catchplate is missing, it’s often impossible to tell if you are dealing with a Nauheim or a Nauheim derivative. Good examples of Nauheim brooches on the PAS database include HAMP-233206 and PUBLIC-EADF0E.

Nauheim derivative

Nauheim derivatives are very similar to Nauheim brooches, but have solid unperforated catchplates and internal chords. They usually have a four-coil spring, sometimes a three-coil spring. Other than this, there is considerable variation in the shape, side view and cross-section of the bow.

If the chord is missing, it can be easy to mix up Nauheim brooches with early-medieval strip brooches (Weetch type 31). If the catchplate is missing, it’s often impossible to tell if you are dealing with a Nauheim or a Nauheim derivative.

Good examples of Nauheim derivatives on the PAS database include SOM-A9255BSUSS-BF130F, WILT-DF2758 and SOM-84EBEA.

Pannonian

These have a bow with a central ‘knop’ (a bulbous moulding that can run right round the bow or be half-round). The upper bow is strongly curved and flares upwards to a trumpet, behind which are small flat wings and then a spring. The lower bow curves forward a little, sometimes resulting in an S shape in side view. The foot has a knob.

It’s the small wings behind the trumpet head that help to distinguish the Pannonian from a trumpet brooch. They can be seen well on LANCUM-F77C43, IOW-6FD541 and WMID-899210.

Penannular

These are defined as having an open circular frame. The open ends have terminals, which can be hard to describe. A brooch with terminals that are in the ‘same plane’ as the frame will essentially be flat (e.g. LVPL-2F47CD); terminals at right angles to the frame of the brooch will stick up at right angles (e.g. HAMP-711C02).

Proto crossbow

Proto-crossbow brooches are classified separately to crossbow brooches, and are very variable. Good examples on the PAS database include NMS-2F8CCD and NLM-7A2607 (divided bow type), YORYM-4786D1 and BM-1FE204.

Rosette

Rosette brooches have wings in the form of a thin sheet cylinder with a seam along the reverse and a slot in the centre for the pin. They look like Langton Down brooches but have a large plate in the centre, usually circular, sometimes lozengiform. Some early examples have the forward-facing hook of the Colchester. Good examples of the sprung ones on the PAS database include WILT-930A89 and BUC-7027B6.

Some late ones have hinged pins and have become very flat, and are often called ‘keyhole’ brooches (put ‘keyhole’ in the Description field). Good examples of the ‘keyhole’ type on the PAS database include BH-1E88B8.

South western La Tène

This type is really a La Tène II type, with a bent-up foot attached to the bow, or in some cases a cast version of this with the attachment suggested by a collar. They are of middle to late Iron Age date, 300-50 BC, and not a common type; Mackreth illustrates only seven of them.

Strip bow

Strip bow brooches (called ‘Durotrigan’ by Mackreth) have the head rolled down and under to house the axis bar, with a slot cut to accommodate a hinged pin. (If your brooch has a head which is rolled up and forward, it’s likely to be an Aucissa or Hod Hill). The decoration (longitudinal grooves and ridges) shows links to Langton Down and Aucissa brooches. The decoration normally continues right down the bow with no clear dividing line between bow and foot, although there are plenty of exceptions. Good examples on the PAS database include DEV-A56EE6 and WILT-0B1256.

Trumpet

A ‘trumpet head’ (which can be found on many other types of brooch) is solid and in the shape of a concave-sided cone, like the bell of a trumpet (or other brass instrument). They normally flare to an oval shape, but it can also be nearly rectangular or nearly circular. The trumpet heads often have a bordering groove.

This ‘mainstream trumpet’ or ‘standard trumpet’, (Mackreth’s type 1) has a trumpet head with sprung pin. The spring is mounted on a single central vertical lug behind the head, with a wide piercing for the axis bar. The axis bar often continues up to form a headloop with a separate collar, and a little projection at the top centre of the head serves to restrict the movement of the headloop and collar.

The bow of a classic trumpet brooch has a ‘knop’. This typically consists of a single central transverse ridge, with ‘petals’ above and below. Count the petals if you can. Use the term ‘petals’ (or ‘petal knop’ for both petals and central ridge) rather than ‘acanthus’, which is hard to understand. Above and below the petalled knop are further transverse ridges. Check whether the knop mouldings run all the way around the bow (full-round) or just on the front, with a flat reverse (half-round).

The lower bow usually has a central ridge or arris, often with a groove down each side, and tapers before ending in a footknob. Good examples of type 1 trumpet brooches on the PAS database include SUSS-3E1AF2, NLM-DB1CEC and WAW-393AF4.

Alternatively, a classis trumpet brooch can have its spring held by two or three lugs on the reverse (Mackreth’s type 2). The headloop of a type 2 trumpet brooch is often cast in one with the rest of the brooch. Good examples of type 2 trumpet brooches on the PAS database include NLM-7A3CB5 and SWYOR-31525E.

Mackreth’s type 3 does not have the classic knop halfway down the bow; instead, there is an expanded plate in line with the rest of the bow. This plate can be a variety of shapes; circular, lozengiform, rectangular, etc. These brooches usually have the classic trumpet head, with a sprung pin held either by a single central lug or by two lugs, one at either end.

A few type 3 brooches have the standard trumpet foot, tapering to a footknob; but more have a flat expanded triangular foot (often called a ‘fantail’ foot) which gives more space for decoration. Good examples of type 3 trumpet brooches on the PAS database include SF-C7DC54 and NLM-CA6882.

Mackreth’s type 4 is essentially a type 3 with a hinged pin. They are the commonest form of hinged trumpet brooches, but are now quite a long way away from the ‘standard’ trumpet, so are often called ‘trumpet derivatives’. The heads are rectangular rather than oval, and all of those illustrated by Mackreth have expanded triangular (‘fantail’) feet. Good examples of these brooches on the PAS database include SF-5D7F72 and DUR-81CD56.

Mackreth’s trumpet types 5, 6, 7 and x (sic; this is not a misprint!) are more uncommon varieties of trumpet brooches with hinged pins.

Hybrids combining features of two or more brooch types

Sometimes you will have a brooch which does not fit neatly into any one category. Use ‘hybrid’ in the Classification field, and explain in the Description field. You might want to consider ticking Find of Note, if it is very unusual.

Early-medieval brooches

The range of early-medieval brooches depends very much on the sub-period. It is essential to add the sub-periods to records of early-medieval material. This part of the guide is divided by sub-period and then by brooch type.

Early Anglo-Saxon brooches

Although early Anglo-Saxon brooches are almost as complicated as Roman brooches, there is no equivalent to Mackreth 2011 for this period – no single source that covers everything. Instead, specific types have been studied in isolation, and a wide library is needed to cover them all in detail.

An alternative is to try to source a copy of MacGregor and Bolick 1993, the catalogue of the early Anglo-Saxon objects of non-ferrous metal in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Copies are now scarce, but it’s a very useful book. It has summaries of all the relevant research up to 1993, and lots of useful photographs of objects from the Ashmolean’s collection. If you use this book in conjunction with existing PAS records, then you will have most of the information you need to make good new records.

There is also a good overview of research in Lucy 2000, 25-40, which covers both the practical results of work on brooches from graves, and the theoretical perspectives used. This is an essential book for anyone planning their own research on early Anglo-Saxon material.

Another very useful source of Anglo-Saxon objects is West 1998, now available to download free from the East Anglian Archaeology website, although this is more useful as a source of parallels and less useful as a signpost to research.

Whatever books you have, this guide aims to give a quick overview of the commonest types of early Anglo-Saxon brooches, and how they should be recorded on the PAS database. Most early Anglo-Saxon brooches are either ‘long’ brooches (bow brooches) or circular brooches, and these will be looked at in order, starting with the commonest long brooches.

Cruciform brooch

This is the commonest early Anglo-Saxon brooch on the PAS database. Its name is unfortunate, as it is not at all cross-shaped. It can be defined as having a horse-head terminal, although in some rare cases the horse-head is also, or alternatively, a human face. Put ‘cruciform’ in the classification field, and if possible the Martin type (see below; e.g. ‘Martin type 3.1.2’) in the sub-classification field.

The best source for information on cruciform brooches is Martin 2015. This is based on Toby Martin’s PhD thesis (Martin 2011) which is available to  download free from Ethos, but the thesis contains few of the illustrations available in the book.

A cruciform brooch looks daunting to describe, but the trick is to divide it up into three – the head, bow and foot – and take each part individually.

The names of the parts of a cruciform brooch are detailed in the illustration below. PAS terminology largely conforms to Martin 2015, but there are some differences. Martin’s terms worked well for cruciform brooches, but our terms need to be consistent across all early-medieval brooches, and if possible across brooches of all periods.

Parts of the cruciform brooch, showing NCL-248642 to the right and composite drawing of SF3889 and SF6475 to the left.
Parts of the cruciform brooch, showing NCL-248642 to the right and composite drawing of SF3889 and SF6475 to the left.

Head

The head can be divided into headplate and knobs. The headplate often has a slightly raised central panel and slightly thinner wings. The knobs usually consist of a base, a waist and a dome.

The two side knobs were originally functional, with drilled holes in which the ends of the iron pin bar were held. The side knobs were then fixed on to the edges of the headplate via a slot or, less commonly, a tab.

Most cruciform brooches have top and side knobs made to match. They come in two basic shapes, known as full-round and half-round. The general trend is for full-round knobs to be earlier than half-round knobs.

Normally the PAS deplores the use of an imprecise term like ’round’, but here it’s quite helpful, as full-round knobs can be circular or oval in cross-section, and half-round knobs can be semi-circular or semi-oval in cross-section. A full description, as well as the shorthand term, is therefore necessary. The illustration below will give you all the terms you need to describe the knobs fully.

The parts of cruciform brooch knobs. Two separately made side knobs, one half-round with a slot (FAKL-910E67) and the other full-round with a tab (DENO-A9EAE3).
The parts of cruciform brooch knobs. Two separately made side knobs, one half-round with a slot (FAKL-910E67) and the other full-round with a tab (DENO-A9EAE3).

Knobs can also be cast in one with the headplate; it is not unusual for top knobs to be cast in one but the side knobs still to be made separately.

The rest of the head, apart from the knobs, is the headplate. This is usually divided into a thicker raised central panel and flatter wings, but sometimes the headplate is just a simple rectangle.

There are often vertical lines of small stamps or punchmarks down the edges either of the wings or of the central panel – look hard for these, as they can get very worn. You can record these in the Object Description field using the words ‘stamp’ or ‘punch’ (or perhaps both, ‘stamped punchmarks’) but please also use the drop-down ‘Stamped’ in the Surface Treatment field, so that we can guarantee to be able to find all the stamped examples.

On the reverse there is usually a single pin bar lug, occasionally a double lug, and this is always set longitudinally, in line with the pin.

Cruciform brooches with integral knobs (NMS-027251, YORYM-13ED43, NMS-A51D6D and SF-178685)
Cruciform brooches with integral knobs. Left: NMS-027251, with stamps down the edge of the central panel. Centre: NMS-A51D6D (above), YORYM-13ED43 (below). Right: SF-178685, with headplate with no wings.

Bow

The bow is the next element of the cruciform brooch and is the hardest to describe. There is little established terminology and the shapes can be complex.

Typical bows from cruciform brooches. Left to right: SWYOR-E64DF4, NMS-94327D, SF-CA0B51.
Typical bows from cruciform brooches, shown on brooches of very different sizes. Left to right: SWYOR-E64DF4, NMS-94327D, SF-CA0B51.

Above you can see the commonest form of bow found on a cruciform brooch. It has a rectangular-section area to top and bottom, and in between these, the front of the bow is curved or angled from side to side (transversely). If the reverse of the bow is flat, this can be described as D-shaped in cross-section or triangular in cross-section; if the reverse of the bow is hollowed, this area could be described as C-shaped in cross-section, or V-shaped in cross-section.

Bows also obviously curve from top to bottom (longitudinally) and they can vary in how highly they are arched.There is a tendency for designs to get flatter over time (see below).

Decoration down the centre of the bow is common, often grooves or lines of stamped punchmarks. Decoration can wear off in the centre of the bow, so check the top and the bottom carefully for traces.

The word ‘faceted’ should be avoided, as it’s difficult to know which facets are being referred to. In the examples above, the centre of the bow has two facets, but the rectangular-section ends also have little facets where they meet the centre.

Less commonly, bows similar to those on great square-headed and small-long brooches can also be found on cruciforms. These include bows with central ridges or bosses, and very simple bows.

Foot

The foot of a cruciform brooch can be divided into the flat panel at the top and the terminal below this. Lappets can project from the flat panel, and these can carry relief decoration, usually of predatory birds’ heads with eyes, headframes and curling beaks.

The flat panel is often undecorated, but may be divided into two or three parts with transverse grooves and ridges, may have bevelled edges and may have lines of stamped punchmarks.

On the reverse of the flat panel is the catchplate, which has a pin rest which almost always curls the same way. This is described as you view it from the reverse, so it almost always curls to the left. Often the pin rest is missing, but if it is in good condition and uncurled, it generally means that the brooch is unfinished. Unfinished brooches are very interesting, and so it is worth ticking ‘Find of Note’.

The proportions of complete catchplates can be very hard to describe. A ‘deep’ catchplate might run for a long distance down the foot, but not project very far from it; or it might be the other way round. This is the same for other words you might reach for – wide, long, short, narrow, or shallow. Make sure that what you are saying can only be interpreted in one way. This may well mean a longer description.

The terminal is almost always in the shape of a long animal head, thought to be a horse; on occasional late brooches it may develop into a human/animal hybrid or a human face. The horse does not have ears, but has rounded relief eyes, a nose which usually has a curved or angled front, and nostrils. The nostrils can be oval or circular, or sometimes comma-shaped. Between the nostrils there can be a flaring projection, which has been interpreted as the horse’s tongue or long top lip.

A selection of typical terminals from cruciform brooch feet. Above, left to right: narrow cruciform brooch with simple terminal (NMS-F01A8C), simple terminal with prominent nostrils (SF-C802B6), and comma-shaped nostrils (SWYOR-2F29A6). Below, left to right: scrolled nostrils (DUR-12BE53) and a florid terminalwith relief decoration, where the horse-head ends in a human mask (SF-D49056).
A selection of typical terminals from cruciform brooch feet. Above, left to right: narrow cruciform brooch with simple terminal (NMS-F01A8C), simple terminal with prominent nostrils (SF-C802B6), and comma-shaped nostrils (SWYOR-2F29A6). Below, left to right: scrolled nostrils (DUR-12BE53) and a florid terminal with relief decoration, where the horse-head ends in a human mask (SF-D49056).

Classification, chronology and distribution

Several general trends can be observed in the development of the cruciform brooch. They tend to get larger overall, and especially wider and flatter, over time. Knobs start off made separately and are full-round; over time they become half-round and cast in one with the brooch, and then become flatter, to accommodate relief decoration.

Cruciform brooches were the first Anglo-Saxon brooch type to be studied in depth, by Åberg (1926). His classification has proved amazingly resilient and is still used and quoted. It was the basis for other work by Reichstein (1975) and Mortimer (1990), but all these have now been superseded by Martin (2011) and Martin (2015).

Martin divides his brooches up into four Groups and then these are sub-divided into Sub-Groups and then Types. For ease of entering data and searching, we use the word Type for all of these. Use ‘cruciform’ in the classification field, and the Martin type in the sub-classification field, in this format: ‘Martin type 3.1.2’.

It is easier to allocate a type if you have a complete brooch, but you can often get a rough idea even if you only have a fragment. There is a handy summary of dating in Martin 2015, 126-8.

Type 1 brooches are small and narrow, with no or very small wings. They normally have full-round knobs, and often have long catchplates extending down onto the reverse of the terminal. Oval nostrils are most common, but sometimes these are joined to form a single heart-shaped element. Type 1 cruciform brooches are in use from c. 420 to c. 475 AD.

Type 2 brooches are larger, broader examples of the same basic form, but tend to have half-round knobs. Wings are medium-sized and rectangular. Comma-shaped nostrils can be found as well as oval nostrils. Small, simple punchmarks are often found on Type 2 brooches, but there are no lappets or large projections at the end of the foot. Type 2 cruciform brooches are in use from c. 475 to c. 550 AD, but were probably commoner in the earlier part of this date-range.

Type 3 is the commonest type, and is again a bit larger and a bit more elaborately decorated. Wings are larger and can flare to a trapezoidal shape. Feet often have lappets at the top and projections at the bottom. Punchmarks are common. Type 3 cruciform brooches are in use from some time after c. 475 (perhaps around 480) to c. 550 AD.

Finally, Type 4 are the ‘florid’ brooches, with relief Style I ornament. They come into use at the same time as Style I, whose start date is still not fixed absolutely. The earliest ones were perhaps in use by 480 AD and the fashion continued until c. 570 AD; to narrow down this long date-range, you will need to be able to identify the sub-type of the brooch concerned.

Examples of Martin's Types, showing how they increase in size over time. From left: type 1 (NCL-EF51D5), type 2 (LIN-D481A6), type 3 (DUR-FF0ED2) and type 4 (FAKL-BD5E61).
Examples of Martin’s different types, showing how cruciform brooches increase in size over time. From left: type 1 (NCL-EF51D5), type 2 (LIN-D481A6), type 3 (DUR-FF0ED2) and type 4 (FAKL-BD5E61).

The distribution map of PAS records of cruciform brooches shows that they are commonest north and east of a line drawn between Felixstowe and Derby, then northwards along the Pennines. This area is sometimes thought of as the area of ‘Anglian’ culture in England (as opposed to ‘Saxon’). There is also a separate group of cruciform brooches in Kent.

There is then a lighter scatter of finds across all of southern England east of a line drawn southwards from Derby to the New Forest. A very few in the West Midlands are outliers to the main distribution.

Great square-headed brooch

Again, the traditional name of this brooch type is inaccurate, as the head is very rarely square; it is more often rectangular. Hines 1997 is by far the best source of information, but it is out of print and not cheap or easy to find second-hand. Alternatively, there are now nearly 300 records of great square-headed brooches on the PAS database which can be used to help set your particular brooch in context. Put ‘great square headed’ in the classification field, and the Hines type if possible (see below; e.g. ‘Hines group XVI’) in the sub-classification field.

The names of the parts of a great square-headed brooch are detailed in the illustration below (adapted from Hines 1997, 5, fig. 1). PAS terminology follows that in Hines 1997.

Parts of the great square-headed brooch, from Hines (1997, fig. 1)
Parts of the great square-headed brooch, from Hines (1997, fig. 1). The headplate second panel (b) may not be present. On the reverse there will be a pin bar lug (either single or double) and a catchplate.

Great square-headed brooches are quite large and heavy, usually about 100-150mm long when complete. They are usually made from copper alloy, but about 1 in 20 are made from silver. The most common surface treatment is gilding (about half seem to be gilded), but silvering or tinning is also known. A thin white-metal coating is usually tinning, but sometimes they were decorated with soldered-on silver plates. These rarely survive well in the ploughsoil, but you can sometimes see the patches of solder, as here on FAKL-0F4D67. Because the silver plates don’t survive well in the ploughsoil, they are not a proper component and so should not normally result in the brooch being considered as Treasure.

Some of the complete great square-headed brooches recorded on the PAS database. From left: BM-11BCC0, LIN-7AC173, NARC-F91726, FAKL-0F4D67 and LIN-79D38D.
Some of the complete great square-headed brooches recorded on the PAS database. From left: BM-11BCC0, LIN-7AC173, NARC-F91726, FAKL-0F4D67 and LIN-79D38D. Note the silver plates on LIN-79D38 and the solder that was used to attach them on FAKL-0F4D67.

One of the reasons that we have so many records of great square-headed brooches may be that, like the cruciform brooches, they tend to break up very easily into lots of fairly recognisable, highly decorated fragments. Here are some hints on how to recognise fragments.

Head

The headplates of great square-headed brooches can be recognised by their concentric zones of relief decoration, divided by flat-topped ridges which are often undecorated.  The corners are usually emphasised in some way. There can be inlays of garnet or, more rarely, enamel. The relief decoration can include Style I animals and simple human masks (see FAKL-4E7F95, pictured below with a group of bows, for an example of a mask on a headplate).

Examples of headplates from great square-headed brooches (NMS-74D8BB and WAW-602D36)
Examples of headplates from great square-headed brooches (NMS-74D8BB and WAW-602D36).

On the reverse, there can be one or two lugs to hold the pin bar, always set vertically (parallel to the bow).

Bow

The bows of great square-headed brooches also tend to have relief decoration. Two bands of decoration are common, sometimes separated by a raised strip down the centre. These can be deep longitudinal grooves, or panels of Style I.  Roundels on the bow are found more rarely, and can occasionally develop into separately made discs fixed to the bow with a rivet (e.g. YORYM-F0C9C7). These discs can be hard to recognise when detached.

Examples of bows from great square-headed brooches (FAKL-BD0AB1, FAKL-4E7F95 and NMS-74D8BB)
Examples of relief decoration on bows from great square-headed brooches From left, FAKL-BD0AB1 has two deep longitudinal grooves; FAKL-4E7F95 has panels of Style I on the small stub of bow that survives; and NMS-74D8BB has a roundel filled with four spirals in a cross or swastika shape.

Foot

The feet of great square-headed brooches are basically lozenge-shaped, often with the corners emphasised or enlarged so that the foot is almost cross-shaped. The upper edges of the lozenge have profile animals above, with wide-open jaws springing from the top of the footplate and curling around to fill the space above the lozenge.

Many feet have a vertical ridge down the centre, and some have an openwork triangle to either side. On the reverse there will be a catchplate, set close to the top of the foot. These are normally integrally cast, but can occasionally be made separately and soldered on.

NMS-Feet from great square-headed brooches NMS-CD5994 and SUSS-8BA5B1
Feet from great square-headed brooches NMS-CD5994 and SUSS-8BA5B1.

Chronology, classification and distribution

Hines 1997 has proved a very robust and useful classification. The groups are defined by shared similar elements, and if enough of the brooch survives, it is usually quite straightforward to allocate a Hines group. If you do not have Hines, it is perfectly acceptable to simply describe the brooch well, paying particular attention to the decoration. The Hines group can always be added at a later stage.

Great square-headed brooches were dated by Hines to c. 500-570 AD (1997, 229-30) and this date-range still seems to be valid today.

They occur in the same parts of the country as the main concentration of cruciform brooches; east of the Pennines, and north of a line roughly between Felixstowe and Derby.

Small square-headed brooch

The smaller variants of the square-headed form are called small square-headed brooches. Like the great square-heads, they are usually made from copper alloy, but there many more silver examples among the small square-heads (about 1 in 6 of the PAS examples are silver). They are again usually gilded, and relief-decorated. They are normally less than half the size of most great square-headed brooches, with the commonest size of PAS-recorded examples perhaps 40mm long. Put ‘small square headed’ in the classification field.

There should not normally be a problem in distinguishing great square-headed brooches (with Hines types) from their small square-headed relatives.

There is no useful, up-to-date study of small square-headed brooches. Leigh 1980 is the only comprehensive source, an unpublished PhD which can be downloaded free from Ethos (link here). Leigh divided his material – about a hundred brooches – into three classes, I, II and III. Class I were “the finest and largest silver brooches”; Class II were “also of silver, but generally of smaller size and lesser quality”. Class III were all the copper-alloy brooches, about a third of the total (Leigh 1980, 3, 11 and 110). Leigh’s work is perhaps a little too broad-brush and it is not necessary to add Leigh classes to the sub-classification field.

Other research on small square-headed brooches can be found in two cemetery reports. The ten small square-headed brooches from the Kent cemetery of Mill Hill, Deal, were discussed by Birte Brugmann in a useful short study (Parfitt and Brugmann 1997, 35-39). Brugmann distinguished two types among the Mill Hill material, which she called ‘Kentish-continental’ and ‘Jutish-Kentish’. The ‘Jutish-Kentish’ type is rare; it is larger and better-made, with more individualistic designs. The ‘Kentish-continental’ type is far more common; it is less than 60mm long, and with simple, stereotyped relief decoration. Both types occur in both silver and copper alloy.

Twelve small square-headed brooches from the 1994 excavations at Buckland, Dover, are discussed by Brugmann (in Parfitt and Anderson 2012, 78-80) where (unfortunately) the larger ones are termed ‘great’ square-headed brooches.

In contrast to Leigh’s broad-brush work, Brugmann’s individual studies are perhaps too detailed for us to apply more widely. In the absence of anything in between, it is not necessary to add anything to the sub-classification field.

The terminology for these brooches follows that of the cruciforms and great square-heads. Again, of course the headplates are usually not square but rectangular, and they usually have relief decoration set in concentric zones, often with a raised, fairly plain (but not necessarily undecorated) band separating them. The relief decoration can include Style I animals, or can be simple geometric shapes.

Bows often have relief decoration too, generally in two long narrow panels. Feet generally have a lozenge- or cross-shaped design, often with shapes derived from profile animals in the spaces above, showing their relationship to the great square-headed brooches. The pin bar lug is normally single, and thecatchplate can be located anywhere from right below the bow to the centre of the foot. Silver examples often have inlaid niello, and exceptionally can have inlaid glass or garnets.

Some near-complete small square-headed brooches. Left to right: KENT-24332D, SUSS-BAE856, SF-4E5CC6, NCL-8E7D13.
Some near-complete small square-headed brooches. Left to right: KENT-24332D, SUSS-BAE856, SF-4E5CC6, NCL-8E7D13.

Leigh’s thesis is entitled The Square-Headed Brooches of Sixth-Century Kent, because he believed that they were all made in Kent; his hundred examples were concentrated in Kent and, to a lesser extent, the Isle of Wight. Because of this, the brooch type is also occasionally called the Kentish square-headed brooch. The PAS database avoids this term in the classification field, using ‘small square headed’ instead.

PAS records show that in addition to the traditional concentrations in Kent and the Isle of Wight, they were also commonly used (albeit in lower numbers) across the area south and east of Oxford, and there are occasional examples over much of the rest of Anglo-Saxon England.

Distribution map of small square-headed brooches
The distribution of small square-headed brooches recorded on the PAS database (retrieved 30th August 2018).

Leigh dated small square-headed brooches to c. 500-570 AD (Leigh 1980, 474-83). This dating has since been thoroughly tested and confirmed by Brugmann (in Parfitt and Anderson 2012, quoting Brugmann 1999, table 3.2; absolute chronology can be found in table 3.3).

Small-long brooch

The small-long brooch is essentially a kind of small imitation of a cruciform and/or a great square-headed brooch. This probably explains the rather enigmatic name – if cruciforms and great square-heads are ‘long’ brooches, then these are the small variants of the long brooch. Put ‘small long’ in the classification field.

Fragments of small-long brooch can be distinguished relatively easily from fragments of square-headed brooch, both large and small, because small-longs never have any relief decoration. Decoration is confined to incised lines or simple ridges, and stamped motifs. But distinguishing a fragment of  large, well-made small-long from a bit of a small cruciform brooch can be difficult. Here are some tips.

Generally cruciforms will be larger and better made. The headplates of cruciforms normally have central panels and wings; small-longs tend to have headplates designed with a single rectangular area. The bows of cruciforms are more standard than small-longs (see below for the variety of small-long bows), and the same generally holds true for the flat panel at the upper part of the foot. Of course cruciforms are defined by their horse-head terminals, so there won’t be any problem if the only part surviving is the terminal.

There will always be difficult cases where you cannot be sure of which type of brooch you are dealing with. If you cannnot decide, add both possibilities to the classification field – enter ‘small long or cruciform’.

No classification of small-long brooches has yet been successfully carried out, although the challenges are no greater than for any other early Anglo-Saxon brooch. MacGregor and Bolick (1991, 124-147) illustrate the range, and comment on scholarship up to 1991. Since then, small-longs have been included in the chronological work of Penn and Brugmann (2007) who concur with MacGregor and Bolick (1991) in allocating a date-range of c. 450-550 AD.

Penn and Brugmann (2007, 24-5, 70-2) then divide small-longs into three types (sm1, sm2 and sm3) based on head shape and lappets. The presence of lappets puts a brooch into type sm3, which is dated to c. 480-550 AD. If you want to cite Penn and Brugmann’s types, please do, but beware of the non-standard terminology used in the descriptions of the types on p. 25.

Small-long brooches are found across most of England west and south of the Pennines. As with cruciform brooches, there is a higher concentration in the traditionally ‘Anglian’ areas of England (yellow dots below), with smaller concentrations in Kent, the Isle of Wight and Hampshire.

The distribution of small-long brooches recorded on the PAS database
The distribution of small-long brooches recorded on the PAS database (retrieved 20th August 2018). Most are concentrated in ‘Anglian’ areas, but there are other hotspots in Kent, the Isle of Wight and Hampshire.

As with the other ‘long’ brooches, small-longs can be considered in three parts: head, bow and foot. There is some evidence that this is the way that the early Anglo-Saxons conceived their brooches, so it isn’t an entirely artificial exercise.

Head

The basic shape of a small-long headplate is square or rectangular. This is often embellished, most commonly with U-shaped cut-outs or with flat projections. Cut-outs and projections can merge into one another, and it can be hard to know whether it’s best to describe the parts that have been removed or the areas that are still left. The answer is to do what’s clearest and easiest for the individual brooch and don’t strive for consistency at the expense of clarity. There is no standard terminology for these brooches yet, and simply describing the headplate as (for example) trefoil, or cross potent, will not capture the complexity adequately. Put all the detail in as well as the shorthand words.

Headplates of small-long brooches, from simple rectangular examples to complicated ones with cut-outs and/or flat knobs. Left, top to bottom: BUC-15A755, SF-4F1203, WAW-B6614A (with stamped decoration). Right, SF-FDBF8A (above), SF-77C364 (below).
Headplates of small-long brooches, from simple rectangular examples to complicated ones with cut-outs and/or flat knobs. Left, top to bottom: BUC-15A755, SF-4F1203, WAW-B6614A (with stamped decoration). Right, SF-FDBF8A (above), SF-77C364 (below).

Bow

See above, under ‘Cruciform brooch’ and ‘Bow‘, for how to describe a bow.

The bows on small-long brooches are more variable than those on cruciform brooches. In addition to the common type found on cruciforms, with a rectangular-section flat panel at top and bottom and a V-shaped cross-section in the centre, there are three other common forms. One has a triangular facet at top and bottom, and a long trapezoidal facet on each side; another is V-shaped in cross-section throughout, with a long facet on either side which continues to a point at either end; and finally there is a very simple bow, oval or perhaps semi-oval in cross-section. There will always be oddities and minor variants, but these four types are by far the most common.

The four most common types of bow found on small-long brooches. Left: BERK-59B2F7 (above) and NLM-86A1E2 (below). Right: KENT4742 (above) and BERK-0732F1 (below).
The four most common types of bow found on small-long brooches. Left: BERK-59B2F7 (above) and NLM-86A1E2 (below). Right: KENT4742 (above) and BERK-0732F1 (below).

Foot

Feet come in two main types. The commoner type has a narrow flat panel at the top and a flared terminal; the other, much less commmon, is broadly lozenge-shaped but can end in a flared or circular terminal.

Flared feet can have a straight or curved edge at the bottom, and later examples can occasionally have simple lappets projecting from the flat panel. The presence of lappets is used by Penn and Brugmann to define their type sm3, which is their latest type, dated to c. 480-550 AD (2007, 24-5, 71-2).

Examples of feet from small-long brooches. Left: feet with flared terminals (top to bottom, ESS-8A8771, BH-18543A, YORYM-F70D22). Centre: lozenge-shaped feet (top to bottom, BERK-4AE6C5, WILT-DA9EF7, DENO-AADAF4). Right: feet with lappets (top to bottom, SF-1D0E85, NLM-FDFB3A, SWYOR-B8E3A7).
Examples of feet from small-long brooches. Left: feet with flared terminals (top to bottom, ESS-8A8771, BH-18543A, YORYM-F70D22). Centre: lozenge-shaped feet (top to bottom, BERK-4AE6C5, WILT-DA9EF7, DENO-AADAF4). Right: feet with lappets (top to bottom, SF-1D0E85, NLM-FDFB3A, SWYOR-B8E3A7).

Whether the foot is flared or lozengiform, the catchplate will be at the top, just below the bow. When a break has removed the catchplate, and you only have the terminal, the fragment can be difficult to identify as part of a brooch. We have far fewer small-long foot fragments recorded on the database than we should, so keep an eye out for difficult examples.

Terminals from small-long feet (SF-0C9A26, NLM-439C48, NLM-FE193D, NMS-4965FE)
Terminals from small-long feet broken off below the catchplate (SF-0C9A26, NLM-439C48, NLM-FE193D, NMS-4965FE). These can be difficult to identify with certainty and are probably being under-recorded.

How the elements are combined

The pictures above include some more-or-less complete examples, but here are some more combining head, bow and foot. While the flared foot is often combined with a trefoil or cross-shaped head, and the lozengiform foot normally has a rectangular head, there are no hard and fast rules about how the elements are combined.

Some complete or nearly-complete small-long brooches. Top left, NLM-7FF813 which has lost its terminal but retains its iron pin. Bottom left, LIN-93123A. Centre above, CAM-2CA569; centre below, LEIC-C09B56. Right, two brooches with lozenge-shaped feet, WAW-F176D2 above and BH-617A21 below.
Some complete or nearly-complete small-long brooches. Top left, NLM-7FF813 which has lost its terminal but retains its iron pin. Bottom left, LIN-93123A. Centre above, CAM-2CA569; centre below, LEIC-C09B56. Right, two brooches with lozenge-shaped feet, WAW-F176D2 above and BH-617A21 below. Note the stamped decoration on LIN-93123A, CAM-2CA569 and LEIC-C09B56.

More unusual shapes can be unusual combinations of standard elements, or can have heads, bows and feet that are unusual in themselves. You won’t come across many of these, but here are a few oddities to illustrate the range.

Some unusual small-long brooches. Top row, left to right: NMS-B27BE9, SOMDOR-DEA564, NLM-694867, SUSS-EF9934. Bottom row, left to right: KENT-0FF983, PUBLIC-D52688, SF-C3875F, BUC-6C19E3.
Some unusual small-long brooches. Top row, left to right: NMS-B27BE9, SOMDOR-DEA564, NLM-694867, and SUSS-EF9934 (with, very unusually, relief decoration on the foot). Bottom row, left to right: KENT-0FF983, PUBLIC-D52688, SF-C3875F, BUC-6C19E3.

Radiate-headed brooch

Radiate-headed brooches are small brooches with semi-circular headplates and decorative knobs that radiate from the headplate. Their feet can be of various shapes and they normally have relief decoration. They are usually made from copper alloy, but 1 in 6 on the PAS database are made from silver. They are often gilded. Put ‘radiate headed’ in the classification field.

There are a surprising number of radiate-headed brooches recorded on the PAS database, given how few have been found in excavations of early Anglo-Saxon graves. Because they are rare in graves, they lack the good contexts that help us understand them, and English finds haven’t received much study so far. A welcome exception is Brugmann in Parfitt and Anderson 2012, 80-2.

Radiate-headed brooches are much more common in graves in Continental Europe, mainly in France but with variants all across Europe. The commonest French type normally has five integrally cast knobs around the head, and a parallel-sided bow and foot decorated together with hardly any break between the two. Examples can be found in museums which include collections of Continental material, such as the Ashmolean (AN1909.646) or the British Museum (try this search for the BM’s collection of over a hundred radiate-headed brooches).

The Frankish type is not common on the PAS database. A few examples are pictured below. The heads are easy to recognise, but the bows and feet are harder.

Radiate-headed brooches with five knobs and a parallel-sided foot. Left: DENO-6D3516 (silver). Top row: NMS-8FD211 (silver), WAW-B11F93. Bottom row: LIN-9738C0, SF-75B422, KENT-F97E52.
Radiate-headed brooches with five knobs and a parallel-sided foot. Left: DENO-6D3516 (silver, with silver pin surviving). Top row: NMS-8FD211 (silver), WAW-B11F93. Bottom row: LIN-9738C0, SF-75B422, KENT-F97E52.

The type of radiate-headed brooch most often recorded on the PAS database has three knobs. The heads are again generally semi-circular (sometimes triangular or oval) and the knobs are again cast in one piece with the headplate; sometimes they are so small as to be vestigial. The feet are usually triangular or lozengiform. Sometimes these are called ‘miniature bow brooches’, but as they resemble the Frankish type of radiate-headed brooch so closely, we should stick with this name and put ‘radiate headed’ in the classification field.

Radiate-headed brooches. Left to right: IOW-B3C471, KENT-7882DB, IOW-E9CC91, HAMP-30F0CC, NMS-C5EBB3.
Radiate-headed brooches. Left to right: IOW-B3C471, KENT-7882DB, IOW-E9CC91, HAMP-30F0CC, NMS-C5EBB3.

The distribution map of radiate-headed brooches shows that they are found thinly spread over most of Anglo-Saxon England, with a slightly higher density in East Anglia, Kent and Hampshire.

Distribution map of radiate-headed brooches recorded on the PAS database.
Distribution map of radiate-headed brooches recorded on the PAS database.

The only readily-available discussion of the three-knob variety appears to be by Brugmann, who discusses one from grave 102 at Mill Hill (Parfitt and Brugmann 1995, 39, fig. 54.d) and one from grave 408 at Buckland Dover (Brugmann in Parfitt and Anderson 2012, 80, fig. 10.57). Mill Hill grave 102 is dated to Brugmann’s Kentish Phase III (in Parfitt and Anderson 2012, 80) which is allocated the calendar dates of 530-570 AD (Brugmann 1999, 51, table 3.3).

Equal-arm brooch

Brooches with identical head and foot are found from the Roman to the late early-medieval periods, and the shapes and terminology differ slightly from period to period. In the early Anglo-Saxon world, equal-arm brooches have triangular heads and feet, and three different variants have been identified so far.

Wide

This type is large and heavy, with a wide triangular head and foot tapering towards the bow. They are the best-studied type, having been looked at by Dot Bruns, now Dot Boughton (Bruns 2003), and before that by Vera Evison (1977). The wide equal-arm brooches are also found on the Continent, and the art on them is sometimes called the Saxon Relief Style.

There are not very many records of wide equal-arm brooches on the PAS database. Bruns 2003 identifies several separate types, and these can be added to the sub-classification field if desired. In order to leave the sub-classification free, please add ‘wide equal arm’ to the classification field rather than simply ‘equal arm’.

Wide equal-arm brooches. Above, left to right: SF-F10E65, SF-770321. Below, left to right: NMS-647B60, FASW-948D00, PUBLIC-2E9A21.
Wide equal-arm brooches with relief decoration. Above, left to right: SF-F10E65, SF-770321. Below, left to right: NMS-647B60, FASW-948D00, PUBLIC-2E9A21.

The terminals of the wide equal-arm brooches are not always identical – there are sometimes small differences in size and/or design.

There is also a version of the wide equal-arm brooch which doesn’t have relief ornament – the surfaces are flat instead, with ring-and-dot or stamped designs.

Wide equal-arm brooches with simple decoration. Left to right: NMS-82BE20, SUR-E536A3 and SF-43AEC1.
Wide equal-arm brooches with simple decoration. Left to right: NMS-82BE20, SUR-E536A3 and SF-43AEC1. Note the copper-alloy spring and pin on NMS-82BE20. It is possible that SUR-E536A3 has been photographed upside down.

Wide equal-arm brooches can have idiosyncratic pins and pin fixings. The pin bar lugs are usually double and widely spaced, to support a sturdy spring and pin holding a large and heavy brooch, but oddly there are also some which have far weaker separately made and soldered-on pin fixings. NMS-82BE20 has, exceptionally, a copper-alloy spring and pin.

Anglian

The Anglian equal-arm brooch is not commonly recorded on the PAS database, but it is occasionally found in graves and is briefly discussed by Hines (1984, 253-9). It is normally undecorated. Its name comes from its distribution, which is restricted at present to ‘Anglian’ areas of England. In the unlikely event that you record one, use ‘Anglian equal arm’ in the classification field. They date to c. 500-570 AD.

Anglian equal-arm brooches from the PAS database. LANCUM-2322A4 (left), SF3876 (centre), NMS-511A83 (above right), NMS-BC1122 (below right).
Anglian equal-arm brooches from the PAS database. LANCUM-2322A4 (left), SF3876 (centre), NMS-511A83 (above right), NMS-BC1122 (below right).

Long

Another type of equal-arm brooch is rarely found in graves, so before the PAS began recording them they were almost completely unknown. They are now much more common on the PAS database than any other sort of equal-arm brooch.

These brooches are generally substantially longer than they are wide, and the terminals taper the opposite way to those on the other two types – they taper away from the bow. Until now they have not had a precise name, but ‘long’ would seem to fit well as a contrast to ‘wide’. Therefore, please add ‘long equal arm’ to the classification field.

As with the wide equal-arm brooches, the terminals of long equal-arms are not always identical – there are sometimes small differences in size and/or design. In particular, the foot is often slightly longer than the head.

Long equal-arm brooches: Left: IOW-08DCB1. Top row: HAMP-5F30D6, BH-825EB9, HAMP-2BABC7. Bottom row: IOW-A1F47D, GLO-4E0EBD, KENT-028FFE.
Long equal-arm brooches: Left: IOW-08DCB1. Top row: HAMP-5F30D6, BH-825EB9, HAMP-2BABC7. Bottom row: IOW-A1F47D, GLO-4E0EBD, KENT-028FFE.

We now have so many recorded on the PAS database that English design and manufacture is suspected. The unpierced pin bar lug on IOW-A1F47D (pictured above) appears to confirm this.

As the range shown above indicates, long equal-arm brooches can be made from silver (KENT-028FFE) or copper alloy, and can have gilded relief decoration. They are quite small, usually about 40mm long. Much of their inspiration seems to come from the footplates of small-long or small square-headed brooches, and Barry Ager has suggested that they may be the result of casting two footplates together with a bow (in Annable and Eagles 2010, 27). Consequently, detached foot fragments can be difficult or impossible to identify with certainty. The knobs on HAMP-5F30D6, however, show that elements of cruciform brooches were also being used.

There is some scope for confusion with ansate brooches, which also have identical  or near-identical terminals. Diagnostic features can include the pin fixings; both the pin bar lug and the catchplate are always in line with the pin on long equal-arms, and the pin bar lug is normally single. Ansate brooches can have the pin fixings set transversely, and often have double lugs. Other things to look out for on long equal-arm brooches include stamped or relief decoration in early Anglo-Saxon style.

A useful excavated parallel to PAS finds comes from grave 26 at Blacknall Field, Pewsey, and is discussed by Barry Ager (in Annable and Eagles 2010, 27-28) who lists other excavated examples from Alfriston 29, Lyminge 24, Stapenhill, and East Shefford grave 18. One from Frilford, now in the British Museum, could be added to this list (1867,0204.8).

Other equal-arm brooches

There are a very few equal-arm brooches which appear to be made by casting two headplate elements together, one either side of a bow. We have one which appears to combine two small-long headplates (NMS-192D40) and one which appears to combine two radiate-head headplates (WILT-BA0E35). Detached headplates from this type of brooch would be difficult or impossible to identify. In the unlikely event that you record one, simply add ‘equal arm’ to the classification field, and be sure to tick Find of Note.

Supporting arm brooch

This is one of the earliest Anglo-Saxon brooches, and is clearly a development from Roman brooches. The type was first defined in Germany, and the name ‘supporting arm’ is a direct translation from the German Stützarmfibel. Put ‘supporting arm’ in the classification field.

The ‘supporting arm’ is in fact wings, each with a perforated lug on the reverse to hold the pin bar, around which the spring is wrapped. There can be a third or even a fourth perforated lug in the centre. The foot is normally short and slightly flared, with transverse grooves and bevelled edges.

In 1993 these were described as ‘comparative rarities in England’ (MacGregor and Bolick 1993, 150), but the PAS has now recorded over 50 supporting-arm brooches.

Evison (1977, 127-130) defines the two main sub-types first isolated by Bӧhme (1974); the wider Mahndorf type, with head width of 25-30mm, and the narrower Perlberg type, with head width of 12-22mm. Many PAS examples fall into one of these two categories, and the sub-type can be put in the sub-classification field if so; but a surprising number fall between the two types, and are between 22mm and 25mm wide.

There is also a small group of more ornate, relief-decorated versions (e.g. NMS-D013E4 and ESS-999D76, with a good parallel from Eastry in Kent published in Ager 1989 (pdf here)).

Supporting-arm brooches. Left, the wider Mahndorf type (above, WILT-D50E12 and the narrower Perlberg type (below, BH-9F9533). Centre, two brooches which fall between the two types (above NMS-478896, below SUSS-FFC705). Right, two unusual brooches (above NMS-532664, below NMS-D013E4)
Supporting-arm brooches. Left: the wider Mahndorf type (above, WILT-D50E12) and the narrower Perlberg type (below, BH-9F9533). Centre: two brooches which fall between the two types (NMS-478896 above, SUSS-FFC705 below). Right: two unusual brooches (NMS-D013E4 above, NMS-532664 below).

This brooch type is clearly derived from Roman brooches, with a catchplate at or towards the bottom of the brooch. But it also has many Germanic features, with a foot which is reminiscent of the flat panel at the top of the foot of most cruciform brooches, many small-longs and some equal-arms.

Because the foot can look so like the top of a cruciform foot, it is important to note whether it is complete, or whether it may originally have had a terminal which is now missing.

MacGregor and Bolick (1993, 150) summarises the current state of research. A date-range of c. 400-c. 450 should be approximately correct.

Annular brooch

An annular brooch has a closed frame or ring (always circular in the early Anglo-Saxon period) and a pin. These brooches are not particularly easy to use, as the layers of fabric have to be pushed through the frame before the pin can go through them. Straightening the fabric pulls the pin back against the frame to secure it. Put ‘annular’ in the classification field.

Annular brooches are another type of early Anglo-Saxon brooch that suffers from a lack of scholarly attention. Brief studies have been carried out by Leeds (1945, 46-49; clarified by Ager 1985, 1-2), Hines (1984, 260-269) and Penn and Brugmann (2007, 25). Although Leeds’s overview used the letters (a) to (g) for various forms, and Hines gives an ‘outline of the range’, neither of these is a formal typology, and Hines concluded by stating that ‘The sources and history of the annular brooch in Anglian England remain largely obscure’.

The situation has not changed much since, and it is often difficult to date an annular brooch within the early Anglo-Saxon period, or even to distinguish an early-medieval brooch from a later medieval brooch. There is a great deal of scope for more research.

At the time Hines wrote, there was no clear evidence for the use of annular brooches in graves before c. 475 AD (Hines 1984, 262) and this impression was confirmed by Penn and Brugmann (2007, 25).

Many annular brooches are not particularly well made or skilfully decorated. Because fragments can be very hard to recognise, we think that early Anglo-Saxon annular brooches may be under-recorded on the PAS database.

A good range of annular brooches is illustrated in MacGregor and Bolick (1993, 82-93). Many are from graves, so are definitely early-medieval rather than medieval.

When recording an early-medieval annular brooch, you will of course describe the outline and the shape in cross-section, but please also remember to record the width of the frame from exterior to interior (this can be called the ‘band’ if necessary), any gloss present (see below), and the material of the pin (if it survives). As you will notice, there is no standard way up to photograph an annular brooch.

The sub-headings below are an attempt to make it easier to find information on the particular type of annular brooch you have to record. They do not constitute a typology. Leeds’s types can be put in the sub-classification field when they fit well to your particular brooch, but they are not necessary.

Flat annular brooches (Leeds type g)

The most common early Anglo-Saxon annular brooch has a flat circular frame, usually between about 35mm and 65mm in diameter. The frame is nearly always of copper alloy; the pin is usually of iron, but can occasionally be of copper alloy. There is usually a constriction or a hole to hold the pin; sometimes the hole is long, and so is better called a slot. Penn and Brugmann (2007, 25) see pin slots as being earlier than circular pin holes, although an absolute chronological date for this change is not obvious.

The frame is generally flat and wide, often with a low D-shaped cross-section. Sometimes they can instead have a wedge-shaped cross-section, with the point of the wedge always towards the inside of the brooch. This feature can be difficult to show in a photograph and needs careful description.

Decoration of stamps and transverse grooves are common, and can help to identify a fragment; but many annular brooches are undecorated. Penn and Brugmann examined the designs on brooches from four Norfolk cemeteries, and could not find any obvious patterning in terms of chronology or group identity (Penn and Brugmann 2007, 25). Some have a curious gloss to their surface, which has presumably been caused by polishing against clothing, but does not appear on other early Anglo-Saxon brooch types.

Annular brooches with pin constrictions (NCL-A29D44 above, LIN-92AFFA below), a pin hole blocked with iron corrosion (SF-74C243) and a pin slot (SF-F95D33).
Annular brooches of late 5th- to late 6th-century date, with pin constrictions (NCL-A29D44 above, LIN-92AFFA below), a pin hole blocked with iron corrosion (SF-74C243) and a pin slot (SF-F95D33). Note the gloss on NCL-A29D44.

They can be made either from a closed frame, as shown above, or an open band with overlapping ends which each have a hole and are riveted together to close the frame. Occasionally the holes in the ends are simply kept together by the pin passing through them, as below on CAM-0B11E1.

Left: annular brooch made from strip with overlapping ends, closed by the copper-alloy pin within its pin hole (CAM-0B11E1). The other brooches in this picture all have stamped and engraved decoration (above, FAKL-9635F8 and BUC-08DE33; below, LIN-91032E and NCL-882DE8).
Left: annular brooch made from strip with overlapping ends, closed by the copper-alloy pin within its pin hole (CAM-0B11E1). The other brooches in this picture all have stamped and engraved decoration (above, FAKL-9635F8 and BUC-08DE33; below, LIN-91032E and NCL-882DE8).

The flat brooches with groove and stamp decoration appear to go out of use at the end of the Migration Period, perhaps c. 570 AD, so they have a life of about a century.

Broad-framed annular brooches (Leeds type e)

Occasionally a small annular brooch with a wider frame was used in the early Anglo-Saxon world. We do not have many on the PAS database, but examples include SF-965DBD and BERK-D25D70, both with copper-alloy pins, as well as several from the Ashmolean Museum such as MacGregor and Bolick 1993, nos. 10.2-10.4, 10.7, 10.11.

Chunkier annular brooches with ribbed decoration (Leeds type f)

A less common type of early Anglo-Saxon annular brooch has a chunkier oval or D-shaped cross-section, and cast decoration, with transverse ridges. It is hard to find a complete, unambiguous example of this on the PAS database, but some incomplete examples are shown below, and there is a complete example from Icklingham shown in West 1998 (fig. 56a no. 5). These are not easy to date within the early Anglo-Saxon period and a broad range of c. 475-c. 700 AD may be appropriate. The exception is when the grooves and ridges alternate with undecorated areas; this decoration appears to be confined to the late 6th and 7th centuries (see below).

Annular brooches with D-shaped or oval cross-section and ribbed decoration. Left to right: DENO-6CBC25, YORYM-7B4EB1 and NMS-F72267.
Annular brooches with D-shaped or oval cross-section and ribbed decoration. Left to right: DENO-6CBC25, YORYM-7B4EB1 and NMS-F72267. These are not easy to date within the early Anglo-Saxon period, although those with groups of transverse lines (left and right above) are likely to be late 6th or 7th century.

Late 6th- and early 7th-century annular brooches

At some point in the late 6th century, the broad flat brooches (Leeds’s type g) go out of use, but the thicker ribbed brooches (Leeds’s type f) continue in use. During the late 6th and 7th centuries, annular brooches start to show a trend to smaller sizes, although larger examples still exist (up to about 42mm external diameter). Cross-sections remain relatively thick and narrow, either circular, rectangular or D-shaped.

Many are undecorated (and so hard to recognise and date) but occasionally they can have characteristic late 6th- and 7th-century decoration such as Style II animal heads and groups of transverse lines. Some examples and discussion of annular brooches in late 6th- and 7th-century graves can be found in Geake 1997, 52-54.

YORYM-84D7D3, YORYM-507065, SWYOR-2E5F08, SWYOR-9F6907 and SWYOR-F9ECE2
Annular brooches of the late 6th and 7th centuries. Left, YORYM-84D7D3 (above) and YORYM-507065 (below). Centre: SWYOR-2E5F08. Right: SWYOR-9F6907 (above) and SWYOR-F9ECE2 (below).

Unusually for a 7th-century fashion, these annular brooches are concentrated in East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, with only very occasional examples found elsewhere.

Quoit brooches

The quoit brooch is a particular kind of annular brooch. It has a closed frame, but a notch in the inner edge of the frame through which the pin can pass, and a ridge or boss on either side to stop the pin falling back out through the notch. This makes it easier to fasten than an ordinary annular brooch, because the pin can be pushed through the fabric without bunching it up, and then passed through the notch and secured.

It works more like a penannular brooch, but Ager (1985, 5) argues persuasively that the quoit brooch is a development from the annular brooch, and is not related to the penannulars. Because they are really a sub-type of annular brooches, we record them with ‘annular’ in the classification field, and use the word ‘quoit’ in the sub-classification field.

Quoit brooches from the PAS database. Left, top to bottom: BH-8E9C92, BH-780DA1, FAJN-03B792. Right, top to bottom: NARC-63CBFD, NARC-63FA58.
Quoit brooches from the PAS database. Left, top to bottom: BH-8E9C92, BH-780DA1, FAJN-03B792. Right, top to bottom: NARC-63CBFD, NARC-63FA58.

Leeds (1945, 46-49) and Hines (1984, 260-269) both included quoit brooches in their studies of annular brooches. Leeds’s observations were summarised and illustrated in Ager (1985) who carried out further study on the smaller, less elaborate types. Ager divided quoit brooches into two types, one with a shorter pin which could pass through the notch (type D) and one with a longer pin which could not, and so must have been used in the same way as normal annular brooches (type E). This division does not work for us, as we so rarely have pins surviving, and although his article is fascinating, it is not necessary to use Ager’s types in the sub-classification field.

Ager also examined the dating of these small, simple quoit brooches (Ager 1985, 16-17). They appear to have come into use in the 5th century (Ager suggests the middle of the century) and a single example (Castle Bytham) is known from the early 7th century, with Style II decoration and cabochon-cut garnets. A date-range of c. 420 to c. 620 AD would seem sensible.

We have very few quoit brooches on the PAS database, but the group is homogeneous, with circular pin holes and concentric rings of stamps. Fragments of these quoit brooches would look very much like any other fragment of annular brooch. The stops are made either from bent-up parts of the frame, or from thicker ridges.

PAS examples are concentrated in the Midlands, with examples from Leicestershire to Gloucestershire. There are eleven more in the Ashmolean catalogue, from Oxfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire (MacGregor and Bolick 1993, nos. 10.1, 10.5, 10.6, 10.8-10, 10.14-16, 10.20).

The more elaborate silver quoit brooches are few in number and come mainly from Kent and Sussex; there is only one example on the PAS database, IOW-0F3813. The art on these has given the Quoit Brooch Style (QBS) its name, but QBS is now known from more belt fittings than brooches (Suzuki 2000, 8-11).

Penannular brooch

A penannular brooch has an open or discontinuous frame, ‘penannular’ meaning ‘almost annular’. There is a tendency on penannular brooches for the pin to slip round the ends of the frame and fall through the gap, so the penannular brooch has a terminal at either end, which act as stops and prevent this happening. Put ‘penannular’ in the classification field.

Very unusually for an early-medieval brooch type, penannular brooches are also found (and are in fact more common) in the Iron Age and Roman periods. Perhaps because of this, they have been neglected for decades until Anna Booth’s recent PhD (Booth 2014) which can be downloaded free from Ethos here. Booth’s work covers penannular brooches of all dates up to 700 AD. Her early-medieval work is based on Fowler 1960 and Fowler 1963, but with significant changes, and so Booth types rather than Fowler types should be added to the sub-classification field.

Booth’s Figure 4.1 gives a visual summary of the types, with more detail in Figure 4.42 (Booth 2014, 116 and 197-8). The types are largely based on the forms of the terminals, but it is difficult to find precise descriptions and definitions. Types Aa-D are mainly Iron Age and Roman in date; Types E, I, J, L, M and O are mainly Roman in date. Information on these types can be found in the sections on early and middle Iron Age brooches, and late Iron Age and Roman brooches.

The two commonest early-medieval types are Type F and Type G. Type F has zoomorphic terminals, and is large (between c. 55 and 75mm in diameter; Booth 2014, 83, fig. 3.8). It can be difficult to decode the animal detail on the terminals, and in particular to work out which way the heads are facing; YORYM-7713B8 is exceptionally clear and shows that the frame emerges from the animal’s mouth (rather than being its neck).

Type G is the most numerous type in post-Roman contexts. It has solid cuboidal terminals, often with corners cut off to form lozenge-shaped faces, which can be decorated with dots. It is smaller than Type F, at between 15 and 40mm diameter (Booth 2014, 83, fig. 3.8), and is usually chunky with a ribbed frame.

Penannular brooches. Top row, Type F: SWYOR-4A2BC7, YORYM-F1BE89, YORYM-7713B8 and LIN-0C0594. Bottom two rows, Type G: IOW-4ECBF1 and LIN-35B2BE (left), LANCUM-0AF673 and SWYOR-213050 (centre), YORYM-554033 and SWYOR-6EA057 (right).
Penannular brooches of Types F and G. Top row, Type F: SWYOR-4A2BC7, YORYM-F1BE89, YORYM-7713B8 and LIN-0C0594. Bottom two rows, Type G: IOW-4ECBF1 and LIN-35B2BE (left), LANCUM-0AF673 and SWYOR-213050 (centre), YORYM-554033 and SWYOR-6EA057 (right).

Type H is a less common type with large expanded flat triangular terminals. It comes in a wide range of sizes, but we have recorded very few on the PAS database. WILT-5682E4LVPL2035YORYM-06B5C2 and GAT-9271F5 are rare exceptions.

Unusually, pins from penannular brooches are occasionally recognisable even when detached. These later brooches have straight pins, in contrast to the bent shafts of earlier examples; they have tubular loops with grooved decoration. Examples include HAMP-2773FB.

Type H penannular brooch (LVPL2035) and a detached pin from a penannular brooch (HAMP-2773FB)
Type H penannular brooch (LVPL2035) and a detached pin from a penannular brooch (HAMP-2773FB). The terminals of LVPL2035 are so close together that it is difficult to see how it could have functioned as a penannular brooch.

The chronology of penannular brooches is extremely peculiar and complicated (Booth 2014, 195). Types F, G and H are of post-Roman manufacture, although Type G is also known from late Roman contexts. Types A-E seem to be mainly Iron Age and/or Roman, but are occasionally found in early Anglo-Saxon graves; some of these brooches may have been old when buried, but probably not all.

There seems to be little dating evidence for Types F and H, but they are currently given a tentative range of c. 400-700 AD (Booth 2014, 195, fig. 4.40). Type G seems to have been made over a very long period of time (c. 100-700 AD), but the type is most common in the 6th century AD (Booth 2014, 195, fig. 4.40).

There is a small number of penannular brooches found in Conversion-period graves, which includes several small examples of Type C (with rolled-up terminals) decorated with transverse grooves, similar to BERK-EE2C16 and BH-7D0F30; there is also a penannular variant of the type with paired Style II birds’ heads (Geake 1997, 52-54, fig. 4.13).

Early-medieval penannular brooches are found across most of the country, not just in traditionally Anglo-Saxon areas.

Incidentally, there are two broken penannular brooches on the database (SUR-3D35C5 and DOR-91E293) which show that solid items like these do not have to be cast, but can be made by folding and hammering strips of metal together. This occasionally also happens with middle Anglo-Saxon pins (e.g. SF4659, BERK-435E07 and SWYOR-0E81D8), which break in an L-shaped pattern showing that the shaft was made by doubling a thin strip and hammering. (and any strap-ends?).

Penannular brooches do outlast the 7th century, but are only made in Irish, PIctish and perhaps Welsh styles. See below, under Middle and Late Anglo-Saxon Brooches, for details.

Disc brooch

Although the term ‘disc brooch’ is often loosely used for any flat circular brooch, the early Anglo-Saxon disc brooch is a very specific form. It is normally a sturdy, quite thick disc, flat or very slightly convex, with a limited range of decorative motifs. Put ‘disc’ in the classification field.

Decoration may consist of any or all of the following: concentric circles, central dots which may pierce the brooch, ring-and-dot motifs, stamps, and indentations around the edge. They often have a white-metal coating on the front, and when this has been analysed, it is generally of tin. Some appear to have been completely undecorated.

Disc brooches have not received much study. Tania Dickinson carried out some work in the 1970s, partly in her unpublished thesis (Dickinson 1976, 118-34; downloadable free from Oxford University’s Research Archive here) and partly in an article which is now difficult to get hold of (Dickinson 1979).

Dickinson (1976, 120-1) has pointed out that all of these decorative motifs can be found among late Romano-British metalwork, and both Leeds (1945, 49) and Dickinson have stressed the similarity of this simple decoration on disc brooches to that on annular brooches.

Early Anglo-Saxon disc brooches from the PAS database. Left, top to bottom: BUC-1541AE, DUR-8F4A7E, KENT-3D208B. Centre: IOW-AA0E06. Right, top to bottom: SF-E14483, BERK-66C1FC.
Early Anglo-Saxon disc brooches from the PAS database. Left, top to bottom: BUC-1541AE (with stamps), DUR-8F4A7E (with white-metal coating, central hole, ring-and-dot motifs and concentric grooves), KENT-3D208B (with white-metal coating and concentric grooves). Centre: IOW-AA0E06 (with notched edge and central hole). Right, top to bottom: SF-E14483 (with dots arranged in a cross, and ring-and-dot motifs) and BERK-66C1FC (undecorated).

Dickinson (1976, 123-134) gave a classification for disc brooches, with seven Groups (and several sub-groups) all based on decoration. It is not necessary to add the Dickinson group to the sub-classification field, although it might in future become a good way of dividing up a larger dataset.

Dickinson (1976, 118 and fig. 7a) noted that the size of the Upper Thames examples was very consistent, with most between 32 and 42mm in diameter. PAS data is rather different, with two peaks, one centring on 26mm and the other on 36mm. This difference is probably due to the wider geographic origins of the PAS dataset; in particular, it seems possible that the disc brooches of the Isle of Wight are smaller than others.

Diameters of PAS-recorded disc brooches compared to diameters of Dickinson's 1976 sample.
Diameters of PAS-recorded disc brooches compared to diameters of Dickinson’s 1976 sample.

The distribution of early Anglo-Saxon disc brooches on the PAS database is very different to that noted by Leeds (1945, fig. 30) and Dickinson (1976, 1979). Leeds’s distribution covered central-southern England only, stopping abruptly at a line between the Severn and the Wash and along what is now the M4; there were none in Norfolk or East Suffolk either, and few from Kent.  The biggest concentration was in the Upper Thames, around Oxford; the major concentration among PAS material is in Hampshire, Sussex and the Isel of Wight, which are almost blank on Leeds’s map.

Distribution of early Anglo-Saxon disc brooches recorded on the PAS database.
Distribution of early Anglo-Saxon disc brooches recorded on the PAS database.

There are a few potential pitfalls when recording an early Anglo-Saxon disc brooch. Firstly, undecorated disc brooches can be difficult to date securely, and there is a possibility that some brooches currently dated to the early-medieval period may in fact be Roman. There are similar disc brooches recorded on the database as Roman (compare WILT-9EF290, WAW-6BA33F, ESS-7B349A, LANCUM-58DE68, LANCUM-DD6F67, YORYM-F65A88, SWYOR-896690, LEIC-D4B1B1); conversely, some of those currently recorded as early early-medieval have double lugs and copper-alloy pins and generally have a rather Roman tinge to them (e.g. YORYM-E60C83 and LANCUM-8E2BB6, both found in unusual places for an early Anglo-Saxon brooch). Dickinson (1979, 49-51) lists the then-known Roman precursors to disc brooches, and this work could profitably be repeated using Mackreth 2011 to see if we are conflating Roman and Anglo-Saxon examples.

Secondly, it can be difficult to distinguish the cast backplate of an applied saucer brooch (see below) from a corroded disc brooch (see, for example, IOW-0CA342 and NARC-F2BE75). It is worth looking hard at corrosion to see if it is different on the front and on the back, and whether it might be corrosion product from solder rather than just the tinned surface or the copper alloy of the brooch.

Disc brooches are generally dated to the century 450-550 AD (Dickinson 1979, 42).

Openwork disc brooch

This is a less common variant of the disc brooch. They tend to be large (most around 45-50mm in diameter), and are often decorated with ring-and-dot motifs or stamps. Their most obvious feature is their cut-outs, often of T, L or V shape, making a reserved cross or swastika. There are fewer than a dozen of these on the PAS database, but it is still worth distinguishing them; put ‘openwork disc’ in the classification field.

Openwork disc brooches on the PAS database. Left, top to bottom: YORYM-285423 and NARC-C95B71. Right, top to bottom: LANCUM-AE3751 and NMS-04C8E5.
Openwork disc brooches on the PAS database. Left, top to bottom: YORYM-285423 and NARC-C95B71. Right, top to bottom: LANCUM-AE3751 and NMS-04C8E5.

Leeds’s distribution map (Leeds 1945, fig. 31) showed a restricted midlands distribution around the Cambridgeshire Ouse, the Nene and the Warwickshire Avon, but PAS examples fill in gaps in East Anglia, Yorkshire and, unusually, Lancashire. They appear to be of much the same date-range as other disc brooches, say 450-550 AD.

Button brooch

Button brooches are small cast circular brooches, generally about 20mm in diameter, which nearly always have the same decoration of a relief human face looking out at the observer. This is normally set within an upturned rim, or at least a bold groove around the edge giving the effect of an upturned rim. Because they are small and chunky, they are tough, and tend to survive in reasonably good condition, but the rim often erodes away in the ploughsoil. Put ‘button’ in the classification field.

Button brooches are always made from copper alloy, and are usually gilded. Although two lead versions are known, these are thought to be models used in the casting process.

There are two studies of button brooches. Avent and Evison 1982 is reliable and easy to use; it was revised and updated by Suzuki 2008, which is complicated and not always easy to use, but includes some PAS data.

Suzuki’s classification, based on Avent and Evison’s, divides the standard type of button brooches into classes A to L.

The face has several elements: helmet (or hair), eyebrows, eyes, eyerings, nose, moustache (normally combined with the upper lip), lower lip, and cheeks (Suzuki 2008, 3 and 13-28). The brooch can be embellished with stamped punchmarks, using the same repertoire of stamps as other early Anglo-Saxon brooches (see above, under Cruciform brooches, for how to record these).

Button broocheButton brooches from the PAS database. Right: KENT-AC16E8 (above) and HAMP-F4CAD3 (below). Centre: BERK-3E22D3 (above) and IOW-BDF9A5 (below). Right: HAMP-006CE5 (above) and IOW-AABE51 (below). All show facing human masks except for IOW-AABE51, which shows a profile mask facing right.s from the PAS database (KENT-AC16E8-HAMP-F4CAD3-BERK-3E22D3-IOW-BDF9A5-HAMP-006CE5-IOW-AABE51)
A selection of button brooches from the PAS database. Right: KENT-AC16E8 (above) and HAMP-F4CAD3 (below). Centre: BERK-3E22D3 (above) and IOW-BDF9A5 (below). Right: HAMP-006CE5 (above) and IOW-AABE51 (below). All show facing human masks, except for IOW-AABE51 which shows a profile mask facing right.

When photographing a button brooch, you will obviously show the mask on the front the right way up. When you turn it over to photograph the reverse, be careful to keep the orientation the same, to show how the pin fixings relate to the decoration. You can describe the locations of these in the same way as measuring the die axis of a coin; with the decoration on the front the right way up, hold the brooch at the top and bottom (12 o’clock and 6 o’clock) and swivel it round to see the reverse. Then describe the locations of the pin bar lug and catchplate using o’clocks.

Button brooches showing a variety of pin orientations. Left to right: BERK-9B8C0D, CAM-3E8A56, PUBLIC-61770D.
Button brooches showing a variety of pin orientations. Left to right: BERK-9B8C0D, CAM-3E8A56, PUBLIC-61770D. PUBLIC-61770D is also decorated with stamped annulet punchmarks.

Suzuki’s distribution maps (Suzuki 2008, 5-7) give the traditional distribution; concentrated in the south-eastern corner of England, with a scattering further north as far as south Norfolk. There are also 23 examples known from France; it is unusual for influences to spread south, rather than north, across the channel. The PAS distribution extends this; while confirming the concentration in south-eastern England, it adds rare examples from the Somerset Levels, south Wales, north Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.

Suzuki gives a date of c. 480 to c. 550 AD for button brooches (Suzuki 2008, 319).

There is a theoretical risk of mis-identifying small saucer brooches as button brooches. The two are distinguished by their decoration. Button brooches are defined as including a design based on a single human face (Suzuki 2008, xxv). If the design does not include a single human face, then it is a saucer brooch, even if rather a small one.

Cast saucer brooch

Traditionally there have been two types of saucer brooch, one made from several elements of sheet metal (the ‘applied saucer’ brooch) and one cast in one piece (the ‘cast saucer’ brooch). Recently some brooches have been recorded on the PAS database that suggest an intermediate type (see below, under ‘Applied saucer brooch’). Put ‘cast saucer’ in the classification field.

Cast saucer brooches are similar to button brooches, with the upturned rim that gives them their name, but they are larger and with more varied decoration. They were worn in pairs, so in graves it is normal to find two very similar, but not mould-identical, brooches together.

Tania Dickinson is the doyenne of saucer brooch studies, with three major articles on different aspects. Dickinson 1991 covers those with running spiral decoration, and Dickinson 1993 is a general preliminary overview; neither are easy to get hold of. Dickinson 2002 is an article on Style I as shown on saucer brooches, and is ideal for understanding Style I in general. A pdf of this article can be downloaded here.

Cast saucer brooches are generally bigger than button brooches, most recorded on the PAS database being from about 25mm to 50mm in diameter. A few really large ones can get up to 80mm in diameter. It seems that the ones that look later are often larger, but this needs to be established more firmly by detailed analysis. There are smaller examples (such as ) but unless they have a single human face in their design, even brooches as small as these are defined as saucer brooches.

They have a restricted set of designs, often in chip-carved style. Chip-carving is a term derived from woodworking, and does not mean that the design was carved into the metal, but rather that it is made up of V-shaped grooves and ridges.

No convenient typology has yet been developed, but we can use key words in the sub-classification field, based on the names used by Dickinson (1993). These are summarised, with dates, in the table below.

Decorative motifs found on cast saucer brooches, with date-ranges
Decorative motifs found on cast saucer brooches, with date-ranges.

Many of the designs on cast saucer brooches are based on Late Antique geometric motifs (Dickinson 2010, 181). The commonest design is the running spiral, so called because each of the spirals is linked to the next and they run around the brooch, normally with a pellet in the centre. The commonest number of spirals is five or six, but there are occasionally more; HAMP-D30EE2 has twelve.

Cast saucer brooches with running spiral decoration. Top, five spirals (BH-DA0FEC); centre, six spirals (WILT-7ED520); bottom, seven spirals (HAMP-005BE3).
Cast saucer brooches with running spiral decoration. Top, five spirals (BH-DA0FEC); centre, six spirals (WILT-7ED520); bottom, seven spirals (HAMP-005BE3).

Dickinson divided the five-spiral brooches into several Series for the purposes of looking at their design relationships. If you want to try to allocate a Series,  the easiest way is to use Dickinson’s illustrations (Dickinson 1991, figs. 13-16), and the relevant series can be added to the description field.

Other designs include the star, which can be five point or six point. Four point stars are also known, and can be difficult to distinguish from the variety of designs based on crosses. The floriate cross is very standardised, but other cross designs are quite variable. The most complex motifs are the Style I designs, which can be simplified to become sets of lines at right angles to each other, known as ‘basketwork’.

Cast saucer brooches, showing a range of sizes and motifs. Left: five-point and six-point stars (WMID-CE6945, SUR-FF9815, SF-EB7350). Centre: simple cross (KENT-30F985) and floriate cross (SOMDOR-EB4897). Right: two Style I designs (SUR-1C82C9 and WILT-52B85F) and 'basketwork' (SUR-FE99C1).
Cast saucer brooches, showing a range of sizes and motifs. Left: five-point and six-point stars (WMID-CE6945, SUR-FF9815, SF-EB7350). Centre: simple cross (KENT-30F985) and floriate cross (SOMDOR-EB4897). Right: two Style I designs (SUR-1C82C9 and WILT-52B85F) and ‘basketwork’ (SUR-FE99C1).

There is also a small group of saucer brooches which have got imitation jewelled inlays. These tend to be large and with wide rims, and are clearly influenced by keystone garnet brooches (see below). LEIC-6554A7 is a good example.

Saucer brooches are mainly found in central southern England, what’s thought of as the ‘Saxon’ culture-province. Dickinson 2010 looked at the change in distributions over time, and found that later finds tended to confirm this distribution. In late 2018 the distribution map of PAS-recorded saucer brooches looked much the same.

Applied saucer brooch

Applied saucer brooches would have looked very similar to cast saucers. They are circular and concave with relief decoration, but they are made up of several different parts, some or all of flimsy sheet metal. They are called ‘applied’ because the decoration is separately applied rather than cast, but a better name would be ‘composite’ saucer brooches because they are made up of many separate components. For now, however, put ‘applied saucer’ in the classification field.

Applied saucer brooches were developed in the earlier 5th century in Germany and the Netherlands (Dickinson 2010, 181) and seem to have inspired the development of the cast saucer brooch in England. We give them a broad date-range of 400-550 AD.

Evison (1978) is the best source of information on applied saucer brooches. This paper appeared as two articles in the same volume of the Antiquaries Journal; part I is pp. 88-102, and concentrates on the Continental brooches, and part II is pp. 260-278, and concentrates on the English examples. There is also a good summary in MacGregor and Bolick 1991, 32.

Because the components are fragile, applied saucer brooches do not survive  well in ploughsoil. Fragments are also hard to recognise, particularly when the applied decoration is missing. We do not have many applied saucer brooches recorded on the PAS database, and several of these are uncertain examples.

The basic form should have a backplate, often of sheet metal with slots cut for the insertion of pin lug and catchplate. A strip is bent around the edge of this to form the rim of the saucer, and this is probably attached with solder and/or rivets. More solder is used on top of the backplate to attach an applied decorative element. This is normally made from stamped foil (the Pressblech technique) but Dickinson (2010, 181) also refers to cast decorative plates being used on applied saucer brooches, and we may have one recorded at CAM-1DFBE1. The decorative foil can have any of the designs of the cast saucer brooches.

The PAS database has very few examples of the backplate with slots; the best is NCL-08F6E7. It contains several possible examples of a cast backplate, the most persuasive being LIN-A6943E, which has an elegantly concave shape, and WAW-F41664.

One foil has been recorded, at BERK-B4ED99, and remarkably what appears to be a die for producing similar foils has been recorded at BERK-27A491.

Applied saucer brooches, a die and a stamped foil. Left: NCL-08F6E7. Centre: WAW-F41664 and LIN-A6943E. Right: BERK-27A491 and BERK-B4ED99.
Applied saucer brooches, a die and a stamped foil. Left: NCL-08F6E7. Centre: WAW-F41664 (above) and LIN-A6943E. Right: a reconstruction of the fragment of die BERK-27A491, and foil BERK-B4ED99.

It is possible to mistake the backplate of an applied saucer brooch for an undecorated disc brooch. Look for a large amount of decayed white metal on the front, which could be solder from a missing applied plate.

Another complication in identifying incomplete applied saucer brooches is that disc brooches are also known with a composite construction (MacGregor and Bolick 1993, 68, nos. 4.64-4.66; there is a clearer drawing and discussion of the Berinsfield example in Boyle et al 1995, 77 and 193). It is hard to know how one might distinguish the cast backplate of applied saucer and disc brooches apart, unless possibly the former might be concave and the latter flat. It is therefore important to  photograph your brooch from the side, as well as the front and the reverse.

Jewelled disc brooches

This category yokes together three related but distinct types, the keystone, the plated and the composite brooches. All are occasionally known as ‘Kentish’ disc brooches, especially by those working in Kent, but this term is not helpful and should not be used in the classification field. The jewelled disc brooches include some of the most beautiful works of art ever created, and therefore must not be confused with the plain disc brooches.

What needs to in the classification field depends on the type. Put ‘keystone’, or ‘plated’, or ‘composite’ in the classification field, or use ‘jewelled disc’ if you are unsure of the type. The best source for them is still Avent 1975, and if you can establish the Avent class, put this in the sub-classification field.

Quite a lot of keystone brooches found outside Kent do not fit well into Avent’s classification, and more work is needed to establish a classification and chronology for these. If you are having trouble deciding on what to put in the classification field, make sure to tick Find of Note as well.

Avent’s dating (Avent 1975, 62) has been re-worked by Brugmann (in Parfitt and Anderson 2012, fig. 8.16, 8.17 and 8.19) and Hines and Bayliss (2013, 221-2, 460, 570). The arguments are very complicated, particularly for keystone brooches. Taken together they suggest a date for Class 1 and 2 keystone brooches in the middle of the 6th century (perhaps c. 525-575 AD), Classes 3 to 7 a little later (c. 550 to 600 AD), plated brooches later still (perhaps c. 580-620 AD), then composite brooches with gold cloisonné (c. 600-650 AD). Composite brooches with copper-alloy cloisonné, usually with slightly inferior workmanship, are the latest of all, dating to the middle of the 7th century, perhaps 640 to 670 AD.

The keystone brooch is cast in one piece and includes garnet (or occasionally glass) settings alternating with panels of relief decoration, sometimes recognisable as Style I animal elements such as heads, legs and bodies. We record roughly equal numbers of copper-alloy and silver examples, usually gilded.

Keystone disc brooches. Left, KENT4837 (above) and WILT-6F2B84 (below). Centre, HAMP-9B6151 (above) and WILT-F561A1 (below). Right, LON-915B21 (above) and BERK-6DD561 (below).
Keystone disc brooches. Left, KENT4837 (above) and WILT-6F2B84 (below). Centre, HAMP-9B6151 (above) and WILT-F561A1 (below). Right, LON-915B21 (above) and BERK-6DD561 (below).

The plated brooch is made from a circular silver backplate with a raised rim, and a central circular setting is soldered on to this.  A gold frontplate then is fixed to the front, with a circular hole through which the central setting fits. The frontplate has decoration of filigree and cloisonné settings. We do not have many plated brooches on the PAS database, and most that we do have are from Kent. They date to the late 6th and early 7th centuries, perhaps 580 to 620 AD.

A complete plated disc brooch, and two fragments. Left, KENT4546; centre, KENT-E11753; right, WMID-C2E8C8.
A complete plated disc brooch, and two fragments. Left, KENT4546 (above) and KENT-E11753 (below); right, WMID-C2E8C8.

The composite brooch is a remarkable work of art, although we are hampered in our knowledge of exactly how it was made, because of an understandable reluctance to take complete examples apart. They seem to be made from three plates, a backplate, middle plate and front plate, all held together by rivets which pass through the central setting and the four subsidiary settings. Composite brooches are quite thick, because there is a layer of plaster-like filler between the middle and front plates. The plates can be of gold, silver or copper alloy. For more detail, see Avent 1975, 19-21, or Scull 2009, 80-7, 88-91.

Generally the earlier composite brooches (dating to c. 600-650 AD) have cloisons (cell walls) made from gold, and the later examples (dating to c. 640-670 AD) have cloisons made from copper alloy. We have very few recorded on the PAS database, mostly as parts of grave assemblages; complete examples from LON-BAF907 and BERK-545C74 and fragments from YORYM-48DACA and BERK-EABAD8.

There are a few other jewelled disc brooches that do not fit into any of these types; they are not clearly of keystone, or plated, or composite type. At one extreme, where the jewelled settings are replaced by skeuomorphs in metal (e.g. BERK-D0201B, below left) these brooches can shade into saucer brooches such as LEIC-6554A7. At the other extreme, they may have been influenced by circular harness mounts with Style II decoration, such as BUC-B1B9A6 and YORYM-7186F7; Avent 1975 includes one of this type, from Winnall in Hampshire (Avent 1975, 55, no. 186).

For these brooches, it is difficult to give hard and fast rules about what to enter in the classification field. It is important to tick the Find of Note box.

Unusual jewelled disc brooches which don't fit into any of the normal types. Left, BERK-D0201B (above) and WAW-F604A2 (below). Right, BERK-9AE538 (above) and BERK-C89FDA (below).Examples of unusual brooches which do not fit into any of the normal types of jewelled disc brooch. Left, BERK-D0201B (above) and WAW-F604A2 (below). Right, BERK-9AE538 (above) and BERK-C89FDA (below).

Brooches of other shapes (bird, S-shaped etc)

Other shapes of brooches, not long bow brooches and not circular, are rare in the early Anglo-Saxon period. The main ones are bird brooches and S-shaped brooches; put ‘bird’ and ‘S shaped’ respectively in the classification field.

The eleven then-known S-shaped brooches from England were discussed in Briscoe 1968; over a dozen more are now recorded on the PAS database. Most are in fact of reversed-S shape; some tend towards a figure-of-eight shape (e.g. NLM-908608). One (KENT-344345) is of silver, but more often they are made from copper alloy, sometimes gilded or tinned. They are often decorated with predatory bird-head terminals with curved beaks, or heads with wide-open jaws or beaks which may be birds or may be other animals.

S-shaped brooches. Left to right, IOW-40D077, NLM-908608, KENT-D90FBC.
S-shaped brooches. Left to right, IOW-40D077, NLM-908608, KENT-D90FBC.

Combining the distribution maps of Briscoe 1968 and PAS examples, it is clear that S-shaped brooches are found thinly spread across the whole of early Anglo-Saxon England, from Harrogate to the Isle of Wight and all areas to the east. They are more common on the Continent, particularly in Frankish and Lombardic areas (Briscoe 1968, 47). In England they cannot be dated any more closely than to the fifth or sixth centuries, probably c. 450-550 AD.

Bird brooches are more common on the Continent, and the English finds have received little study. Some useful information on German and French examples can be found in MacGregor (1997, 86 and 144-7). 

Those recorded on the PAS database are all in profile looking to the right. They come in two main forms, one where the body is horizontal and one where the body is vertical. The vertical type all seem to be predatory birds, with curved beaks, but the horizontal type are different; they have been suggested as ducks and doves, and may have been intended as a variety of species.

Both types can have relief decoration or flat surfaces ornamented with stamps, and both types have the pin lug is on the reverse of the tail and the catchplate on the reverse of the head. 

Brooches in the shape of predatory birds, with vertical bodies and curved beaks. Left, HAMP-0ABB4E (above) and NMS-B913D5 (below). Centre, IOW-055A79 (above) and SUSS-C234F1 (below). Right, SF-14851A (above) and SF-E28B03 (below).
Brooches in the shape of predatory birds, with vertical bodies and curved beaks. Left, HAMP-0ABB4E (above) and NMS-B913D5 (below). Centre, IOW-055A79 (above) and SUSS-C234F1 (below). Right, SF-14851A (above) and SF-E28B03 (below).

All of the Continental examples in the Ashmolean Museum have vertical bodies and raptors’ beaks (MacGregor 1997, 86 and 144-7) and it has been suggested that the horizontal birds are of English manufacture (Arnold 1980, 57).

Brooches in the shape of other birds, perhaps ducks or doves. Left to right: BERK-9B6095, KENT-C0D077, BUC-0EC715.
Brooches in the shape of other birds, perhaps ducks or doves. Left to right: BERK-9B6095, KENT-C0D077, BUC-0EC715.

The distribution of PAS-recorded examples covers south-eastern England, from south Norfolk to Berkshire to the Isle of Wight. The vertical raptor types are probably to be dated to the first half of the sixth century AD; the horizontal bird brooches cannot be dated more closely than to the Migration Period, c. 420-570 AD.

Early Anglo-Saxon brooches made from lead

The PAS database has several fragments of early Anglo-Saxon brooches made from lead. They are normally small, due to the softness and fragility of lead. They are thought to be models, used in the process of casting a copper-alloy brooch, rather than brooches in their own right. To confirm this, when recording a brooch, be careful to look at the pin bar lug and catchplate to check whether they have been finished for use as a brooch (pierced and bent over respectively) or not.

The fragments include button brooches, small square-headed brooches and especially cruciform brooches, including Martin Group 4s (the florid cruciforms).

Summary of chronology and classification for early Anglo-Saxon brooches

Most early Anglo-Saxon brooches are dated from their occurrence in graves. We can assume that all the objects in a single grave were in use together. Over the life of an object type, it will occur in graves with earlier types at first, and later types towards the end. With enough object types, a relative sequence can be worked out, showing which types are earlier and which later. This dating technique is known as seriation.

It is harder to add absolute calendar dates to the sequence. From Roman times onwards, calendar dates usually come from coins, but there are no coins in regular use in the early Anglo-Saxon world. Several different strategies have been used to overcome this problem, with varying results. There are some coin dates on the Continent, and attempts have been made to fit the English sequences to Continental evidence. Correspondence analysis (a statistical method)  has been used to improve the precision and reliability of seriation (Penn and Brugmann 2007). Advances in radiocarbon dating have been used in conjunction with Bayesian statistics (Hines and Bayliss 2013). None of these techniques have proved completely reliable, or easy to use, and so there are still arguments over calendar dates.

One major change in artefact types during the early Anglo-Saxon period comes when most brooch types suddenly go out of use. This occurs at the end of the Migration Period (broadly 5th and 6th centuries) and the start of the Conversion Period (broadly 7th century). A convenient date of c. 600 AD used to be quoted for this transition, but this now seems to be too late; c. 570 AD is the currently used date, but it may change again in the future.

Another major change comes at the end of the early Anglo-Saxon period, when grave-goods stop being put in graves. Again, the absolute calendar date of this change is disputed. Hines and Bayliss have recently suggested a date in the 670s or 680s (2013, 471-2). At this point we do have a few coins in graves, and established numismatic chronologies across Europe suggest a date for the last coins in graves (B series sceattas) as c. 700 AD (Archibald in Hines and Bayliss 2013, 505-6). Given that the discrepancy here is only about twenty years, it seems sensible to quote the latest possible date for an item known from graves as rounded to c. 700 AD.

Below is a list of common types, with what to put in the classification and sub-classification fields for each one. It is divided into bow brooches, circular brooches, and other shapes. The database prefers no hyphens in the classification and sub-classification fields (so use equal arm, small long) but the use of hyphens for clarity is fine in the description field (so equal-arm, small-long can be used here).

NEW VERSION NEEDED OF THIS

Details of what to put in the classification and sub-classification fields for the commonest early Anglo-Saxon brooches, together with a summary of chronology.
Details of what to put in the classification and sub-classification fields for the commonest early Anglo-Saxon brooches, together with a summary of chronology.

Middle and Late Anglo-Saxon brooches

Rosie Weetch’s PhD thesis, Weetch 2013, covers all of the non-Scandinavian brooches found in England from the 8th to 11th centuries. It therefore includes some Continental and a very few Irish brooches. For Scandinavian and Anglo-Scandinavian brooches of early-medieval date, see below.

Weetch 2013 is very easy and quick to use to find types, parallels and dating evidence. This guide simply aims to give a quick overview and reminder of the commonest types of middle and late Anglo-Saxon brooches, and what to put in the classification field; always put the Weetch type (if there is one) in the sub-classification field.

Middle and late early-medieval brooches can have a variety of pin arrangements on the reverse, which may indicate the place of manufacture. Please remember to describe the pin fixings on the reverse in detail.

Safety-pin brooches and Strip brooches (Weetch type 31)

Safety-pin brooches are a rare and flimsy type of 7th-century brooch designed to lie flat, like modern safety-pins, with the pin to one side and the bow to the other. The bow is generally slightly widened and can be minimally decorated. See Speake (1989, 46-9) and Geake (1997, 54-5) for examples. Put ‘safety pin’ in the classification field.

At the start of the 8th century these develop into strip brooches, with wider bows in the conventional place in front of, not next to, the pin. Strip brooches are Weetch’s type 31, and can be made in one of two ways. Either the brooch is in one piece, with one end extended into a spring and pin and the other bent into a catchplate; or the plate has a separate riveted-on spring, pin and catchplate. It is possible that some of the rivet holes on strip brooches may be repairs, but most appear to be original features.

Strip brooches (Weetch type 31). Top row, left to right: DENO-3FD883, WILT-BF6D98, BH-9470B8. Bottom row, left to right: HAMP-CEBED7, BUC-4D849D, SUR-47F8A7.
Strip brooches (Weetch type 31). Top row, left to right: DENO-3FD883, WILT-BF6D98, BH-9470B8. Bottom row, left to right: HAMP-CEBED7, BUC-4D849D, SUR-47F8A7.

Strip brooches can have narrow bows with little decoration, or wide lozengiform bows with relief decoration.

Strip brooches with riveted construction are made in the same way as the more artistically complex circular brooches allocated by Weetch to her types 10-12 and 16 (see below, under Circular Brooches). Most of these also have pin gear riveted on (e.g. BUC-ABA063, BH-685AA3).

The one-piece construction is also found on occasional cross-shaped brooches (e.g. WMID-BDAA38) or circular brooches (e.g. CAM-C37AC3). These do not fit well into Weetch’s typology, but can be grouped by adding ‘one piece’ to the classification field. Because it is useful to keep the classification field for this, don’t add ‘strip’ to the classification field – the Weetch type will be enough to retrieve them all together.

One-piece brooches WMID-BDAA38 (left) and CAM-C37AC3 (right)
One-piece brooches WMID-BDAA38 (left) and CAM-C37AC3 (right)

Note that WMID-BDAA38, here called ‘cross-shaped’, could alternatively be seen as circular with four oval perforations. This is also true for Elmsett-type brooches, Weetch type 16, of which there are several on the PAS database including NMS-22D466 (with one-piece construction) and BH-685AA3 (with riveted-on pin gear). See below for more on circular brooches.

Ansate (bow) brooches

Weetch 2013 follows Hübener 1972 and Thörle 2001 in dividing ansate brooches into 12 basic types, numbered I-XII, with an additional Type XIII covering those that do not fit into any other category. A summary of these types is given below. All of the ansate brooches should have ‘ansate’ added to the classification field, and the Weetch type added to the sub-classification field in the following format: Weetch type II.Aiii

Quick visual guide to the types of ansate brooch.
Quick visual guide to the types of ansate brooch.

80% of the ansate brooches catalogued in Weetch 2013 fall into one of just four types: Type II, Type X, Type XI and Type XII.

Ansate brooches of Weetch's type II. Left to right, top to bottom: HAMP-38F4A4 (type II.Ai), SF-E2C237 (type II.Aii), NMS-51CE2D (type II.Aiii), NMS-2F75FB (type II.B), SF-92EE26 (type II.C).
Ansate brooches of Weetch’s type II, with ‘discoidal’ terminals. Top left: HAMP-38F4A4 (Type II.Ai, narrow bow and undecorated terminals). Bottom left: SF-E2C237 (type II.Aii, narrow bow and ring-and-dot decoration). Centre left: NMS-51CE2D (type II.Aiii,narrow bow and geometric decoration). Centre right: NMS-2F75FB (type II.B, disc on bow). Right: SF-92EE26 (type II.C, wide rectangular-section bow).

Ansate brooches of Weetch's type X. Left to right: SF-42D433 (type X.Ai, with parallel sides and undecorated), KENT-918A91, (type X.Aii, with parallel sides and transverse ribs) LIN-DFE605 (type X.B, with animal head decoration), SF-77B7A1 (type X.C, with bulging sides and transverse ribs).
Ansate brooches of Weetch’s type X, parallel-sided and D-shaped in cross-section. Left to right: SF-42D433 (type X.Ai, undecorated), KENT-918A91, (type X.Aii, with transverse ribs), LIN-DFE605 (type X.B, with animal head decoration) and SF-77B7A1 (type X.C, with bulging sides and transverse ribs).

Ansate brooches of Weetch's type XI (top row) and type XII (bottom row). Above, left to right: SF-DE72C4 (type XI.A), SUSS-040CE0 (type XI.B), SF9447 (type XI.D). Below, left to right: NMS-CC8531 (type XII.Ai), NMS-DC2A2E (type XII.Aii) and NMS-DD1ACE (type XII.Aiii).
Ansate brooches of Weetch’s type XI (top row) and type XII (bottom row). Above, left to right: SF-DE72C4 (type XI.A), SUSS-040CE0 (type XI.B), SF9447 (type XI.D). Below, left to right: NMS-CC8531 (type XII.Ai), NMS-DC2A2E (type XII.Aii) and NMS-DD1ACE (type XII.Aiii).

Circular brooches (non-enamelled)

Weetch 2013 divides non-enamelled circular brooches into 17 types, some of which have common names. The common name, if any, should be added to the classification field. The Weetch type should be added to the sub-classification field in the following format: Weetch type 15.B

Summary of Weetch types for circular non-enamelled brooches
Quick visual guide to circular non-enamelled brooches.

85% of the circular brooches catalogued in Weetch 2013 belong to one of six types: type 1, type 2, type 4, type 5, type 13 and type 15.

London types

There are four types of 11th-century brooch (Weetch types 23-26 inclusive), which are mainly found in London. All are made from lead or lead alloy. A few Type 25s (lobed) have been recorded on the PAS database from outside London (see list of search results here) and also some Type 26s (shield) (see list of search results here). The other London types do not yet appear on the PAS database.

Penannular brooches

Penannular brooches are rare after the 7th century AD, but Irish, Pictish and possibly Welsh examples do occur during the 8th and 9th centuries. The latest penannular brooch on the PAS database is currently LVPL-368972, the date for which extends into the early 10th century AD. Youngs 1989 is a good source for parallels.

Enamelled circular brooches

Several of Weetch’s types have enamelled decoration: type 8, and types 18-22. Only three are common, type 18, type 19 and type 20.

Quick visual guide to circular enamelled brooches
Quick visual guide to circular enamelled brooches. Put the common name (if there is one) in the classification field, and the Weetch type in the sub-classification field.

Type 18 have cross designs and are almost all made in champlevé. Type 19 are decorated with facing human busts; the presence of a halo or nimbus around the head has given these the common name of ‘saint’ brooches. Both champlevé and cloisonné techniques are used for saint brooches.

Weetch type 18 and type 19 brooches. Left: Weetch type 18.Ai, with the most common motif (NMS-DBA5E8). Centre: Weetch type 18.Aiv, with a more complex cross (BM 1984,0103.16). Right: Weetch type 19, a champlevé saint brooch (SF-27F435).
Weetch type 18 and type 19 brooches. Left: Weetch type 18.Ai, with the most common motif (NMS-DBA5E8). Centre: Weetch type 18.Aiv, with a more complex cross (BM 1984,0103.16). Right: Weetch type 19, a champlevé saint brooch (SF-27F435).

Type 20 have designs of stars, flowers or other geometric motifs, and are always made in cloisonné enamel. There are three main variants. Type 20.A has projecting lobes around the circumference which, when complete, have glass settings on them. Type 20.B does not have lobes, but has a beaded collar. These are both normally circular, but other shapes are known (e.g. ESS-BD2421, which is an oval type 20.B, and KENT-C63F33, which is a sub-triangular type 20.A). The third type is not numbered by Weetch, but called ‘hybrid’.

All are made with a separate central cloisonné disc. Type 20.A is then given a backplate with lobes to make a type 20.A; type 20.B is given a narrow collar (normally beaded) and sometimes a backplate, and the hybrid type is given a wide flat collar, often decorated with glass settings and sometimes with lobes as well.  All the surfaces are gilded. 

Weetch type 20 enamelled brooches. Left, Weetch type 20.A. Top to bottom: ESS-0A8B65, BUC-7A64C3, SF-32FF77, ESS-6C30D8. Right, Weetch type 20.B. Top to bottom, HAMP-C7100B, SUR-8C91E4, NMS-197839, SUR-8C91E4, NMS-197839, Right, Weetch 'hybrid' type. Top to bottom: SUR-AB3160, SF-210C3F, SF-16D477.
Weetch type 20 enamelled brooches. Left, Weetch type 20.A. Top to bottom: ESS-0A8B65(with cross), BUC-7A64C3 (with star), SF-32FF77 (with flower), ESS-6C30D8 (backplate only). Right, Weetch type 20.B. Top to bottom, HAMP-C7100B (with cross), SUR-8C91E4 (with stepped cross), NMS-197839 (with flower). Right, Weetch ‘hybrid’ type. Top to bottom: SUR-AB3160 (with bust) SF-210C3F (indistinct), SF-16D477 (with stepped cross).

Two techniques of enamelling are used on these brooches, both with French names: champlevé and cloisonné. Champlevé means ‘raised field’, and the technique normally involves casting shallow sunken cells into the thickness of the metal, ready to be filled with enamel. Cloisonné means ‘partitioned’, and here the cells are made by soldering vertical cell walls to a backplate.

Objects decorated with champlevé enamel are generally cheaper, simpler objects; objects decorated with cloisonné enamel can be of the highest craftsmanship and, like the Alfred Jewel, perhaps commissioned by those of the highest social class.

NB: if you are searching on champlevé or cloisonné, be aware that the PAS database will not find any record which uses the words champleve or cloisonne (without the accents on the final e). It is probably safest to search using champlev* and cloisonn*, which will pick up both spellings.

Brooches of other shapes

Weetch 2013 allocates four types to brooches of other shapes, three of which are fairly common.

Quick visual guide to middle and later Anglo-Saxon brooches of other shapes
Quick visual guide to middle and later Anglo-Saxon brooches of other shapes

English bird brooches come in two types, both with the bird seen in profile.

Type 30.B is of middle Anglo-Saxon date. It is in the shape of a dove, with curved breast and small drooping beak, and has a cross above its back which normally touches the back of the head. Type 30.B brooches appear in graves in France and Germany, and from these they are dated from the years around 800 AD (Pedersen 2001, 64;  Weetch 2013, 206); a date-range of c. 750-850 AD seems sensible for English finds. They come both in high-status (gilded silver and inlaid with niello) or simple copper-alloy versions.

Type 30.A is considerably later, perhaps 11th century. It has a three-pronged crest and a triangular tail separated from the body by a ridge. All known examples are facing right; they have their left wing (away from the viewer) raised above the body, and their right wing (towards the viewer) folded along the body. All are made from copper alloy, and have engraved decoration. These birds may be intended as cockerels, peacocks, or  lapwings. They are dated by their similarity to bird brooches without crests, found in 11th- to 12th-century contexts in Denmark (see below under Scandinavian brooches).

There are other middle and later early-medieval bird brooches, apparently of Anglo-Saxon rather than Anglo-Scandinavian inspiration, which do not fit into either category and so must be given a broad date-range. These are grouped together as Weetch type 30.C. There is a group of four brooches within Weetch’s type 30.C which have very similar characteristics; DENO-484737 (illustrated below), NLM4341, YORYM-55D1F7 and a pre-PAS find from Ealand, Lincs (Kershaw 2010, no. 503).

Bird-shaped brooches. Top left: Weetch type 30.A (SF-1A4104). Bottom left: Weetch type 30.B (BH-9F86A6) Right: Weetch type 30.C (DENO-484737).
Bird-shaped brooches. Top left: Weetch type 30.A (SF-1A4104). Bottom left: Weetch type 30.B (BH-9F86A6) Right: Weetch type 30.C (DENO-484737).

It can be difficult to separate bird brooches of Anglo-Saxon inspiration from those of Scandinavian inspiration, and so the whole group is considered further below, at the end of the Scandinavian brooches.

Scandinavian and Anglo-Scandinavian brooches

These brooches are broadly defined as being decorated with Scandinavian-derived art. The best published source is Kershaw 2013. This is the published version of Jane Kershaw’s doctoral thesis, with an on-line catalogue available via the ADS here. The earlier unpublished version, Kershaw 2010, is difficult to get hold of, but the catalogue is fuller and easier to use. Note that there are differences in the type names used in the unpublished and published versions; where there have been changes, we use the later published names.

This guide aims to give a quick overview of the commonest types of Scandinavian and Anglo-Scandinavian brooches, again divided into circular brooches and brooches of other shapes.

Circular brooches

There are several types of circular brooches with Scandinavian art. They can be broadly divided into Anglo-Scandinavian (slightly larger and flatter, with pin lugs set parallel to the edge of the brooch) and more purely Scandinavian (smaller, domed and with a double pin lug, sometimes with a suspension loop as well). Pin arrangements, however, do not always follow the rules and must be carefully described.

There are four main types of circular brooch (below), most of which have variants. Several have Jansson classifications, from Jansson’s study of the brooches from Birka in Sweden (Jansson in Arwidsson 1984). Those with Borre-style animal heads are Jansson type II, and those with Jelling-style animals are Jansson type I. The Terslev-style brooches and the East Anglian series complete the group of circular Scandinavian or Anglo-Scandinavian brooches.

Quick visual guide to circular Scandinavian and Anglo-Scandinavian brooches
Quick visual guide to circular Scandinavian and Anglo-Scandinavian brooches

By far the commonest Scandinavian or Anglo-Scandinavian brooches – of any shape – are the East Anglian Series. These are flat and circular, and vary between 26 and 32mm in diameter. All are decorated with a highly standardised motif of a relief concave-sided lozenge, with sunken circle at its centre, each corner extending outwards into a double-strand ribbon which loops around itself in a loose knot and then ends in a rounded dot. The knots give a whirling clockwise effect to the ornament.

Much of the time, though, this ornament is very worn and difficult to see clearly. The wear may be hiding minor differences, so be sure to describe anything you can see in full. Although the motif is highly standardised, the pin and catchplate arrangements on the reverse can vary, so again a full description is needed. Put ‘East Anglian series’ in the classification field.

Over 60% of the brooches of the East Anglian series recorded on the PAS database were found in Norfolk. Their distribution seems to be restricted to East Anglia, the East Midlands and eastern Yorkshire. Because of their flat shape, and because their pin lugs are normally parallel to the edge of the brooch, they are thought of as Anglo-Scandinavian.

Brooches of Kershaw's East Anglian series. Left: SF-EF2ACD with pin lug and catchplate parallel to the edge of the brooch. Right: NMS-4DBC05, with pin lug parallel and catchplate perpendicular to the edge of the brooch.
Brooches of Kershaw’s East Anglian series. Left: SF-EF2ACD, with pin lug and catchplate parallel to the edge of the brooch. Right: NMS-4DBC05, with pin lug parallel and catchplate perpendicular to the edge of the brooch.

The next most common circular brooch is Jansson type II. This type is small, domed and often has Scandinavian-style pin arrangements. The decoration on the main type, Jansson type II A, consists of three Borre-style animal heads which look out at the viewer. They have large rounded ears and noses, and are often thought of as cat-like, or resembling teddy-bears. The animal heads are separated by three rounded loops bound by transverse bands.

Two brooches of Jansson type II A. Left: NMS-E84328, with English-style pin fixings. Right: NMS-CC7155, with Scandinavian-style pin fixings.
Two brooches of Jansson type II A. Left: NMS-E84328, with English-style pin fixings. Right: NMS-CC7155, with Scandinavian-style pin fixings.

There are also some uncommon variants of Jansson’s type II. Type II C has four animal heads, type II D again three, and both are combined with geometric decoration. If you record one of these, as a bare minimum put ‘Jansson Type II’ in the classification field. If you can get further than this using Kershaw 2013, 52-56, then add the precise code, e.g. ‘Jansson type II C’.

Terslev-style brooches are decorated in a highly geometric version of the Borre style. The patterns generally include three or four C-scrolls (called ‘volutes’ by Kershaw) which can have their curved backs towards the centre or the edge of the brooch. The scrolls are bound together by circles or squares. Put ‘Terslev style’ in the classification field.

Most Terslev-style brooches will fit into one of Kershaw’s motif types (2013, 70-8) but not all, and it is not always possible to read a worn design. So if you can, add the motif type to the sub-classification (in the form ‘Kershaw type II’), but don’t worry if you can’t.

Terslev-style brooches. Top row, left to right: SWYOR-4243E2 (motif type I) and SUR-72EC56 (motif type III). Bottom, left to right: SWYOR-D58AE0 (motif type IV) SF-8EE7E2 (motif type VI) and BH-2337E2 (motif type VII).
Terslev-style brooches. Top row, left to right: SWYOR-4243E2 (motif type I) and SUR-72EC56 (motif type III). Bottom, left to right: SWYOR-D58AE0 (motif type IV) SF-8EE7E2 (motif type VI) and BH-2337E2 (motif type VII).

Lastly there is a group of circular brooches with Jelling-style decoration, known as Jansson Type I brooches. The animal art on these can be difficult to decode; it often helps to colour in the identifiable elements, either in Photoshop or with a felt-tip pen on paper. Here are some examples.

Brooches with Jelling-style animal art picked out in colour. Left to right, SWYOR-114BB0 (Jansson type I A), SF7482 (Jansson type I D) and LIN-F00E1B (Jansson type I E).
Brooches with Jelling-style animal art picked out in colour. Left to right, SWYOR-114BB0 (Jansson type I A), SF7482 (Jansson type I D) and LIN-F00E1B (Jansson type I E).

For all of these, put the Jansson type in the classification field.

Jansson type I A brooches have a single animal with a narrow looping body and spiral joints; the rear foot grips the foreleg. There is an oval element around the head which tends to be interpreted as a ‘lappet’, which in Viking-age art is a kind of curl or tendril behind the ear.

Jansson type I D brooches have a single animal in profile, looking to the left, with the body forming a reversed S shape. The tongue comes out of the mouth and goes over the body and under the rear leg. The feet are hooked, and the body has transverse ribbing across it.

Jansson type I E brooches have two identical S-shaped animals. An element between their jaws is either a tongue or a tail; the feet grip the legs and necks.

Brooches of other shapes

Scandinavian and Anglo-Scandinavian brooches come in several other shapes, but only three are common on the PAS database: trefoil, openwork lozenge, and bird.

Quick visual guide to Scandinavian and Anglo-Scandinavian brooches of other shapes
Quick visual guide to Scandinavian and Anglo-Scandinavian brooches of other shapes

Trefoil brooches

Trefoil brooches are the commonest non-circular Anglo-Scandinavian brooch type, but this may partly be because they are prone to breaking into several easily recognisable pieces. Their ultimate inspiration was 9th-century Carolingian harness mounts and strap distributors, decorated with symmetrical plant ornament based around the acanthus leaf motif; compare NMS-10A1E1, SF-93D943, PUBLIC-B801A4, NMS-1E32C1, etc. The brooches can use this type of geometric or plant ornament, or one of the classic Viking-age art styles. Put ‘trefoil’ in the classification field.

The terms used for the parts of a trefoil brooch do not appear to have been standardised yet. Kershaw uses both ‘arm’ and ‘lobe’ for the three divisions of the brooch; ‘arm’ is most commonly used on the PAS database and seems acceptable.

It is not immediately obvious how to take the dimensions of a complete trefoil brooch, nor how best to record the dimensions of fragments so that they are comparable to complete examples. Firstly, please state how you have taken the dimensions, so that the photograph can be checked against the scale (e.g. on DENO-E9A0F5 it is explained that the dimensions were taken with the lobe with the catchplate at the top). Secondly, please record the width of the upper arm as well as the overall length and width, so that complete brooches can be compared with fragments.

Trefoil brooches from Scandinavia have been classified on the basis of their decoration by Maixner 2005, and this typology was then used by Kershaw in her study of the English examples (2010, 212-233; 2013, 79-91). If you can, put the Maixner type in the sub-classification field in the following format: ‘Maixner type G 1.3’.

The commonest type is type G, with geometric decoration; specifically, Maixner type G 1.3. The arms of this type have a motif consisting of V-shaped ridges, sometimes described as fir-tree or herringbone ornament but really a stylised acanthus motif. In the centre is a triangular panel which can have decoration or can be left blank.

Trefoil brooches of Maixner type G 1.3, with different pin fixings on the reverse. Left: LIN-56D731 (with pin lug and catchplate both perpendicular to the line of the pin). Right: DENO-E9A0F5 (with double pin lug, and catchplate perpendicular to the line of the pin). The pin fixings of LIN-56D731 are thought of more as an Anglo-Saxon arrangement and the pin fixings of DENO-E9A0F5 are thought of as more Scandinavian.
Trefoil brooches of Maixner type G 1.3, with different pin fixings on the reverse. Left: LIN-56D731 (with pin lug and catchplate both perpendicular to the line of the pin). Right: DENO-E9A0F5 (with double pin lug, and catchplate perpendicular to the line of the pin). The pin fixings of LIN-56D731 are perhaps Anglo-Saxon, and the pin fixings of DENO-E9A0F5 are perhaps more Scandinavian.

Maixner type P brooches have plant ornament, often interpreted either as acanthus leaves in the Carolingian style, or as a vine scroll; the two are not always clearly distinguishable. There are no complete brooches of Maixner type P on the PAS database, only fragments.

Maixner type E brooches have Borre-style interlace ornament; there is only one complete type E on the PAS database, NMS-56E967.

Trefoil brooches of Maixner type P (left: NMS-612AF4) and Maixner type E (right: NMS-56E967).
Trefoil brooches of Maixner type P (left: NMS-612AF4) and Maixner type E (right: NMS-56E967). Note the three elements on the reverse of NMS-56E967; the double pin lug and the third loop are Scandinavian characteristics.

Maixner type F brooches combine interlace with animal ornament; there are several good examples on the PAS database, including SF-EB5262 and WMID-308D55.

Trefoil brooches of Maixner type F. Left: WMID-308D55. Right: SF-EB5262.
Trefoil brooches of Maixner type F. Left: WMID-308D55. Right: SF-EB5262. Although SF-EB5262 is dirty and the detail is difficult to see, there is an excellent drawing on the record which gives far more detail.

Maixner type Z omits the interlace, so has purely zoomorphic ornament, as on BERK-CD5492 and WILT-9A5AE7. In most cases the animals will be in the Borre style, but on NLM5243 there is a mix of Borre and Jelling styles.

Trefoil brooches of Maixner type Z. Left: BERK-CD5492. Right: WILT-9A5AE7.
Trefoil brooches of Maixner type Z. Left: BERK-CD5492. Right: WILT-9A5AE7. Note the patches of solder on the reverse of WILT-9A5AE7; pin fixings are not always cast in one with the rest of the brooch.

Kershaw has added a further type to Maixner’s typology, type D (Kershaw 2013, 90-1). Note that although Kershaw’s sub-types I and III do indeed seem to be trefoil brooches, her sub-type II is now thought to be the tip of an Aspatria-type strap-end of Thomas Class E. See NMS-5AB1A7 for an example, initially thought to be a brooch fragment and catalogued by Kershaw as her no. 420; and YORYM-FDF9D2 for a complete example of a strap-end with the same decoration. There are as yet no examples of type D trefoil brooches on the PAS database.

Distinguishing fragments of trefoil brooch from fragments of Thomas Class E strap-ends can occasionally pose a problem, as with the Type Ds in the preceding paragraph. As Class E strap-ends are much more common than trefoil brooches, the likelihood is that any tricky fragment will be from a strap-end. So if you can find a parallel within trefoil brooches, excellent; but if you cannot, then your fragment is more likely to be part of a strap-end.

Openwork lozenge brooches

Openwork lozenge brooches are made up of four little Borre-style animal heads, looking outwards, with slender necks which meet to form a cross in the centre. The best-made examples (such as CAM-69EB68) have double-strand circles with which the necks interlace to form the kind of closed knots characteristic of the Borre style. There have been attempts to divide the openwork lozenge brooch into two types, Type I with beading along the necks and Type II with double ridges, but as most of our examples are very worn, it will not be possible to identify the type.

Openwork lozenge brooches. Left, top to bottom: CAM-69EB68 (type II) and NMS-5A6FD9 (type I). Right, top to bottom: NMS-9A5FA8 (with Scandinavian-style pin fixings) and NMS-E2D782 (with English-type pin fixings).
Openwork lozenge brooches. Left, top to bottom: CAM-69EB68 (type II) and NMS-5A6FD9 (type I). Right, top to bottom: NMS-9A5FA8 (with Scandinavian-style pin fixings including loop) and NMS-E2D782 (with English-type pin fixings).

A note on bird brooches of middle and late early-medieval date

It is difficult to distinguish Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian inspiration on bird brooches, and so it is worth considering all middle and late early-medieval bird brooches together. They fall into a few easily definable types, and there is a small group of other forms.

Weetch 2013 defined two main types, 30.A (with engraved decoration and crest) and 30.B (with cross above). Weetch’s third type, 30.C, covered  a disparate group of ‘other forms’, out of which one other definable group can be extracted; this consists of four examples, NLM4341, YORYM-55D1F7, DENO-484737 and one pre-PAS find illustrated in Kershaw 2010 (no. 503). See above, section 7.2.5, for details on these brooches.

Kershaw (2010, 168-70; 2013, 122-5, nos. 498-504) divided her seven bird brooches into three groups: Urnes/Ringerike-style, semi-realistic, and stylised. The Urnes/Ringerike group is exemplified by a brooch from Stoke Holy Cross, Norfolk (Margeson 1988; Kershaw 2013, 123-4, fig. 3.74, cat. no. 500). It has both Ringerike-style elements (an engraved spiral marking the shoulder) and Urnes-style elements (a closed beak with a tendril-like curl projecting above). The Ringerike style is otherwise rarely found on brooches.

Similar brooches recorded on the PAS database include LIN-39FB8D and NLM5638. Two more, SF-6E8BFE and NMS-556A43, have patches of corrosion on the reverse, presumably where the pin fixings were soldered on, and another with this characteristic from Harworth, Notts., is recorded by Kershaw (2010, cat. no. 502).

The semi-realistic group includes one idiosyncratic bird brooch (DENO-0604D2), and the example from Harworth, Notts. (Kershaw 2010, cat. no. 502), which is very close to the Ringerike/Urnes group. The stylised group is the same as the group of four similar brooches in Weetch type 30.C (NLM4341, YORYM-55D1F7, DENO-484737, etc).

For all of these, put ‘bird’ in the classification field. If there is a Weetch type, add this in the sub-classification field.

Bird brooches of middle and late early-medieval date, whether Anglo-Saxon, Continental or Scandinavian in inspiration. Left,top to bottom: SF-1A4104 (Weetch type 30.A) and BH-9F86A6 (Weetch type 30.B). Centre: DENO-484737 (Weetch type 30.C). Right, top to bottom: NMS-556A43 and LIN-39FB8D.
Bird brooches of middle and late early-medieval date, whether Anglo-Saxon, Continental or Scandinavian in inspiration. Left, top to bottom: SF-1A4104 (Weetch type 30.A) and BH-9F86A6 (Weetch type 30.B). Centre: DENO-484737 (Weetch type 30.C). Right, top to bottom: NMS-556A43 (with patches of solder on reverse) and LIN-39FB8D.

The classic Scandinavian study of these brooches is Pedersen 2001, with figure captions and a comprehensive summary in English. Pedersen illustrates many Danish finds, among which prototypes can be found for several of the English types. Weetch type 30.A brooches are similar to Pedersen’s fig. 9a from Glim, and Kershaw’s Ringerike/Urnes brooches are similar to the six illustrated in Pedersen’s fig. 6. Both the Weetch type 30.A brooches and the Ringerike/Urnes style brooches are therefore best seen as Anglo-Scandinavian, as Weetch suggests (2013, 337). Pedersen dates all of these to the 11th century, possibly extending into the early 12th (Pedersen 2001, 63).

Pedersen discusses the inspiration behind these bird brooches, and as a result covers Weetch type 30.B brooches, which are not found in Denmark. They are found in Germany and France in datable contexts of c. 800 (perhaps best quoted as c. 750-850 AD; Pedersen 2001, 64).

A single Weetch type 30.C brooch, NLM4341, was included in Pedersen’s catalogue (2001, 57, no. 78) but with no discussion. The status of this group is very uncertain; there is no dating evidence for it yet, and whether it should be grouped with the earlier English/Continental series or with the later Scandinavian-style brooches is uncertain.

A note on the distributions of middle and later early-medieval brooches, and their possible meanings

Kershaw pointed out that the distribution of both Scandinavian-style and Anglo-Scandinavian brooches was in general limited to the Danelaw, with a particular concentration in Norfolk (Kershaw 2013, 184-6). This was interpreted as showing the presence of significant numbers of Scandinavian women in the Danelaw, and a desire among the local inhabitants to appropriate a Scandinavian appearance (Kershaw 2013, 216) or to actively construct a Scandinavian identity (Kershaw 2010, 442).

This view has now become established in the literature, with John Blair writing that “Kershaw shows that in the eastern zones of England, jewellery was employed for the enthusiastic display of Scandinavian identity from the late ninth century through to the early eleventh” (Blair 2018, 306).

Kershaw, however, was writing before Weetch’s PhD was finished, and although she could compare the proportions of Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon brooches in Norfolk, Suffolk and Lincolnshire (Kershaw 2013, 236-41), the full distributions of non-Scandinavian brooch types were not available to her.

When these distributions are examined, there is some variety (Weetch 2013, vol. 2, 216-251). Type 20, for example, is found across much of England. But most of Weetch’s types are also found primarily in the Danelaw, again with a particular concentration in Norfolk (Weetch 2013, vol. 1, fig. 6.13). The most notable examples are the circular types 1 (back-turned animal) and 15 (cogwheel and openwork cross) and the ansate types XI and XII.  Moreover, hints of this distribution can be found before the establishment of the Danelaw boundary, even in the 8th century, with a tendency even for the largely 8th-century type 31 (the strip brooches) to cluster in the east of England.

Weetch has argued that this long-lived pattern shows that brooch-wearing was a way of showing an east-of-England identity (whether Anglo-Saxon or Scandinavian) rather than showing a specifically Scandinavian identity. It seems that the practice of brooch-wearing was significant in itself, and the motif or form of the brooch was secondary (Weetch 2013, vol. 1, 299).

Looking more closely at the examples of Scandinavian brooch types with Anglo-Saxon pin fittings shows some interesting clusters, hinting that the true picture may be very locally specific and potentially very informative in terms of social identity (Weetch 2013, vol. 1, 299-301).

So that should encourage you to fully describe and photograph the pin arrangements on the reverse – this data really is essential!

Medieval brooches

12th century

In the 12th century the circular brooches which had been common in the preceding centuries came to be superseded by annular brooches, which had not been common since the early-medieval period (see above). They were used to fasten slits at the necks of gowns as well as to fasten cloaks. By contrast with later annular brooches it seems that early examples within the medieval period were both relatively small and relatively plain (Egan in Griffiths et al. 2007, 140).  As such, they are not sufficiently diagnostic to be attributed solely to the 12th century, but should have a range starting within it.

13th century

The 13th century seems to have been the high point for medieval annular brooches. A range of decoration, which is hard to find before the 13th century, exploded across annular brooches, which need not be circular, but encompassed lozengiform and multifoil frames: the assemblage from Meols, the largest in England, naturally shows this range well (Egan in Griffiths et al. 2007, 138-151). Many brooches datable to the 13th century could run into the 14th century. There are few hoards which help with dating, but a group from Coventry dating to the very end of the 13th century contains brooches with evidence of niello inlay, punched annulets and twisted (cabled) frames (Hinton 2005, 207; fig. 7.1), while a contemporary hoard from Canobie, Dumfreesshire, contains brooches with applied quatrefoils, and engraved inscriptions (Hinton 2005, 208; fig. 7.2). Cabled decoration is attested archaeologically in the mid 13th century, for example in London (Egan and Pritchard 2002, 249; no. 1310), and an engraved religious inscription from a context of the same phase (Egan and Pritchard 2002, 254-255; no. 1336).

Medieval annular brooch with cabled (twisted) decoration (BH-D9F2C8). Note that only half of the brooch has been decorated in this way.
Medieval annular brooch with cabled (twisted) decoration (BH-D9F2C8). Note that only half of the brooch has been decorated in this way. Copyright: St. Albans District Council; CC-BY licence)
Medieval annular brooch with engraved inscription (IOW-B09925). Note the use of Lombardic script.
Medieval annular brooch with engraved inscription (IOW-B09925). Note the use of Lombardic script. Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme; CC-BY licence)

A further major group which seems to really develop in the 13th century are annular brooches with gem or glass settings, often raised and called ‘collets’ (for examples dated to the 13th century in precious metals see Alexander and Binski 1987, 484-485). On many examples the setting has been lost and a white fixative can be seen. Other forms of annular brooches characteristic of the 13th century are those formed of either animals or people (Alexander and Binski 1987, 483). A final form to note are those with projecting hands. These often feature characteristic noted on other brooches of the period, which extend into the 14th century: inscriptions, applied decoration, gem-set collets.

Medieval annular brooch with two collets (BUC-41A793). Note the fixative visible due to the missing settings.
Medieval annular brooch with two collets (BUC-41A793). Note the fixative visible due to the missing settings. Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme; CC-BY licence)

Other eminently datable brooches include those formed of contemporary coins. Some formed of pennies dating from the turn of the 13th century were turned into annular forms by removing the centre of the coin. However, most coin-brooches from the middle and end of the 13th century tend to be disc brooches, converted by the application of pin fittings to the coin’s obverse. Coins used could be of varying module, from smaller pennies or demi-gros, to larger groats and gros tournois, the latter being more common on PAS. On such disc brooches the obverse was often gilded. Many early jettons of the late 13th and early 14th century, often large module like the coins, were similarly converted into jewellery items, though few with brooch fittings specifically (Bliss 2017); many groats or continental equivalents also had hooks rather than brooch fittings (Kelleher 2012, 220-222).

Medieval coin-brooch formed of a gros tournois of Louis IX issued between 1265 and 1270 (NMS-FEC503)
Medieval coin-brooch formed of a gros tournois of Louis IX issued between 1265 and 1270 (NMS-FEC503). Copyright: Norfolk County Council; CC-BY licence)

14th century

Trends noted in the annular brooches of the 13th century continue into the start of the 14th century, and many brooches will have date ranges encompassing both, with the general exception of figurative and zoomorphic examples, and also coin-brooches. It has been noted that collets, high in the 13th century, as a rule were lower in the 14th (Lightbown 1992, 148). By the second half of the century, however, closer fitting garments, fastened instead by buttons and lace tags meant that brooches were used in far fewer numbers (Egan and Pritchard 2002, 272).

15th century

By the 15th century most garments which would have been fastened by brooches were now being fastened with buttons, although the obsolescence of brooches may have occurred faster in urban areas (Egan and Forsyth 1997, 220).

Post-medieval brooches

How to Record a Coin

Introduction

The main difference between recording a coin (or jetton, token etc) and any other object is that for a coin there is an extra form to complete, in addition to the standard finds form, findspot form, and so on. Coins are standard, mass-produced objects, and the numismatic forms are set up to capture this standard information in a standard way so that it can be easily searched.

This summary Guide will ultimately cover the main points common to the recording of all coins.

Period-specific numismatic guides, with detail on each period’s denominations, mints, rulers and so on, can be found using this link (select the correct period from the left-hand menu).

How to take a die axis measurement

  1. Hold your coin so that the design on one face is the right way up (the less clear one is best).
  2. Put your finger and thumb, or arms of calipers, at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock (top and bottom).
  3. The top of the less clear face will be at 12 o’clock.
  4. Rotate the coin about the vertical axis you have created, and look at the other face.
  5. Where is the top of the design on the other face? This is what you record as the die axis measurement. So if it is upside down, the top will be at 6 o’clock.
  6. If you want to check you are doing it right, look at a modern coin. Modern UK coins have a die axis measurement of 12 o’clock. Modern US coins have a die axis measurement of 6 o’clock.

Iron Age and Roman coins – top tips from Sam and Andrew

Sam Moorhead and Andrew Brown, the Iron Age and Roman Coin Advisers, issued a revision sheet to FLOs in June 2018 to complement the Iron Age and Roman coin training. Attending a training day is vital for both FLOs and volunteers, and copious notes are provided on the day.

Detailed help on denominations, rulers, mints and so on can also be found in the on-line coin guides: https://finds.org.uk/ironagecoins and https://finds.org.uk/romancoins.

Some key points from Sam and Andrew’s revision sheet are given below.

It is important that the database records are consistent, so that our data is accessible and can be searched or edited as easily as possible. It is much better and far less time-consuming to have good records from the outset.

Which fields to use, and which to avoid

Find form

Don’t use ‘Classification’, ‘Sub-classification’ or ‘Inscription’ – these are only for non-numismatic objects. Put this kind of information in the fields in the numismatic form.

Periods – use ‘Roman’ for Roman Republican coins. Use ‘Greek and Roman Provincial’ for Greek coins (see below for these, and https://finds.org.uk/greekromancoins).

Don’t bother with the ‘Sub-period from/to’ drop-downs for Iron Age and Roman coins.

Notes – this is only for information that doesn’t fit in anywhere else. Sam or Andrew may add some text in the Notes box.

Find of Note – do use this if the coin is unusual

Measurements – you only need to give diameter and weight, not thickness unless this is unusual. Weight should be recorded to a hundredth of a gram (two decimal places).

Method of manufacture – this will normally be ‘struck or hammered’, but look out for cast coins.

Secondary identifier – please add Sam or Andrew if they have seen the coin, or an image of it.

Workflow – even if you can, please don’t publish a record to green-flag level; leave it at yellow.

Numismatic form

For Iron Age coins, try to select Geographic Area, Tribe, Ruler as best as possible, although this is often difficult. We hope to improve this with a revised version of the database.

For late Roman coins, use broad ranges for uncertain types (e.g. Radiate, Uncertain Ruler 260-296).

If you are uncertain of the Mint, leave this blank. (Remember, usually CON = Arles/Constantia, not Constantinople.)

Do use the qualifiers ‘Probably’ and ‘Possibly’ – they are your friends! ‘Probably’ means over 50% certain, ‘Possibly’ less than 50% certain.

Don’t use abbreviations in the obverse and reverse description fields.

Do use [ ] for the missing parts of an inscription. We are recording what remains, not what would have been on the coin when it was struck.

If the inscription is unreadable, enter ‘Illegible’. If there never was an inscription, leave the field blank.

For Roman mintmarks, follow the basic guidelines here: https://finds.org.uk/romancoins/articles/page/slug/fourth-century-mints. If mintmarks are missing, enter [ ] (e.g. []//[] or -//TR[P]). If there never was a mintmark, enter  -//-

NB. S C in the exergue on early Roman coinage is not a mintmark. It is part of the reverse inscription, and so should be described with it (e.g. PAX AVG, S C)

Depending on your coin, try to fill in the following fields so that we get the best possible record at the outset: BMC (Hobbs) and/or ABC number; RIC or RRC number; Reece period; 4th-century reverse type; Republican moneyer; regular, contemporary copy, clipped, etc;

If possible, add the die axis measurement (this cannot always be established from an image).

For Iron Age coins, don’t use the ‘Celtic Coin Index number’ or the ‘Coin hoards of Iron Age Britain number’ fields.

Uncertain identifications and difficult coins

If you are uncertain, it is far better to state this uncertainty than have a guess at precise dates, emperors etc. If in doubt, ask – don’t be shy! The Coins Advisers are here to help. It is far quicker to ask them than to post a coin on the Forum – the Forum is not the right place to get a coin identified.

If you are uncertain about any aspect of a coin, please try and complete as much of the database record as you can and add an image (see below). Send this to both Sam and Andrew, for identification or editing. Your record will need at minimum an image, diameter, and weight, but if you think there are parts of legends or types you can see, especially those that don’t reproduce well on the photo, add these to the record so that we can see how you reached your ID.

You will also, of course, have to add all the information about find circumstances – finder’s name, findspot, date of discovery and so on. There will be a lot of information that only you can provide, so add all of this before sending to Sam and Andrew.

Use of abbreviations

Don’t abbreviate anywhere within the coin records – not in the Object Description field, nor in any of the numismatic form’s fields. Abbreviations of numismatic data are often hard to understand and are extremely difficult to search for. (You can use the normal ones, such as mm for millimetres, g for grams, p. for page, fig. for figure, pl. for plate and no. for number).

Images

All records should have images added, so that the Finds Advisers can check, edit and publish them. Coin images are orientated in a different way to non-numismatic objects – the designs on both obverse and reverse are shown the correct way up, and the relationship between the two is recorded through the die axis measurement.

References

Please do remember to add a coin reference (e.g. an RIC number) to a record, if you have it.

Editing a finished record

Please don’t edit records that have been green-flagged by a Coins Adviser, unless this is to add or correct things other than the identification (such as measurements, finders’ names, findspot, etc). If there is a problem with the identification of a green-flagged record, please alert Sam or Andrew. This is because a green-flagged record has been checked by Sam or Andrew, and editing it may introduce errors.

Descriptions for Iron Age coins

The Object Description field is the only field which appears in the search results, so it is very important. Put all information about that particular coin in the Object Description box.

Be consistent in your descriptions. Each record of an Iron Age coin should contain the following information in the Description field (where possible):

  • Metal
  • Denomination
  • Region or ‘tribal’ affinity
  • Date of issue
  • ABC type
  • Obverse type
  • Reverse type
  • Reference (e.g. ABC, Hobbs)

Examples:

A gold Iron Age stater of the North Eastern region / Corieltavi, dating to the period c.50-20 BC, South Ferriby type. Obverse: Wreath, cloak, and crescents. Reverse: Lunate horse left, star below, ‘anchor’ face above, pellet rosette beneath the head, and single forelegs. As ABC, p. 92, no. 1743; BMC (Hobbs) nos. 3148-3178 (cf. no. 3162 for the obverse).

A cast copper-alloy Iron Age potin of the Kent Region / Cantiaci, c.150-100 BC, ‘Thurrock Chicken Head’ type. Obverse: Bird-like head of Apollo left with open mouth. Reverse: Degraded bull left. As ABC p. 33, no. 126.

An Iron Age silver unit of the East Anglian region / Iceni, attributed to Antedios, c.AD 10-30, ‘Antedios Antd D-Bar’ type. Obverse: Two opposed crescents crossed by five alternating plain and pellet lines. Reverse: [AN]TÐ, Horse right with large oval head and pellet eye, S below head, two pellets below tail, pellet ring above horse, pellet triangle and a diagonal row of three pellets above the monogram. As ABC, p. 87, no. 1645; BMC nos. 3856-3959.

A gold Iron Age uninscribed stater, Gallo-Belgic import of the Ambiani, dating to the period c. 60-50 BC, ‘Gallic War Uniface’ type. Obverse: plain. Reverse: Sinuous horse facing right, single pellet below, pellets above. As ABC, p.28, no.16.

Remember to include if a coin is incomplete:

A base and incomplete silver stater of the South Western region / Durotriges, dating to the period c.60-20 BC, probably Cranborne Chase type. Obverse: Wreath, cloak, and crescents. Reverse: Disjointed horse left, body of crescents, four vertical legs, pellet below, many pellets above. Cf. ABC p. 111, no. 2169.

Or if it is a contemporary copy or modified:

A plated contemporary copy of an Iron Age silver unit of the East Anglian region / Iceni, dating to c.AD 10-43, probably ‘Ecen Corn Ear’ or related type. Obverse: Double opposed crescents on vertical wreath. Reverse: Horse right with pelletal sun above, S below head, three pellets below. Cf. ABC p. 89, no. 1657.

Descriptions for Roman coins

The Object Description field is the only field which appears in the search results, so it is very important. Put all information about that particular coin in the Object Description box.

Be consistent in your descriptions. Each record of a Roman coin should contain the following information in the Description field (where possible):

  • Metal
  • Denomination
  • Ruler (and their dates)
  • Date of issue
  • Reece period
  • Reverse type
  • Mint
  • Reference (e.g. RIC, LRBC, etc)

If any aspect is not clear enough to read, please use ‘unclear’ (e.g. ‘Mint unclear’ or ‘Unclear mint’) rather than ‘Uncertain’, as ‘uncertain’ implies that not enough research has been done to identify a mint or a reverse type, rather than that you simply can’t read this particular one.

Examples:

A copper-alloy Roman nummus of Valens (AD 364-375), dating to the period AD 364-367 (Reece period 19). SECVRITAS REI PVBLICAE reverse type depicting Victory advancing left holding wreath and palm. Mint of Arles. As RIC IX, p. 64, no. 9b.

A gold Roman aureus of Augustus (27 BC-AD 14), dating to the period c.9-8 BC (Reece period 1). C L CAESARES (in exergue), AVGVSTI F COS DESIG PRINC IVVENT reverse type depicting Gaius and Lucius Caesar standing resting hand on shield, spear behind each shield, above a simpulum to left and lituus to right. Mint of Lyon. As RIC I (2nd ed.), p. 55, no. 206.

A copper-alloy Roman radiate of Gallienus (AD 253-268), sole reign, dating to the period AD 260-268 (Reece period 13). FORTVNA REDVX reverse type depicting Fortuna standing left holding rudder and cornucopiae. Mint of Rome. As Cunetio, p. 116, no. 1215.

Remember, you might not be able to see everything on a coin, or the coin might be incomplete. In this case it is perfectly fine to demonstrate uncertainty (e.g. by using ‘possibly’, ‘probably’) but give as much detail as possible (and a photo!):

An incomplete silver Roman denarius of Hadrian (AD 117-138), dating to the period AD 117-138 (Reece period 6). Illegible legend, unclear reverse type depicting an unclear standing figure left. Possibly mint of Rome.

A copper-alloy Roman coin, possibly an as or dupondius of uncertain 1st to 3rd century AD ruler, dating to the period c.AD 41-260. Illegible reverse type. Mint unclear.

Also remember to include whether the coin is a contemporary copy:

A copper-alloy Roman barbarous radiate, probably copying a coin of Victorinus (AD 269-271), dating to the period AD 275-285 (Reece period 14). [PAX AVG] reverse type depicting Pax standing left holding branch and transverse sceptre. Prototype mint: Gaul mint I. Cf. Normanby, p. 206, no. 1907.

A copper-alloy Roman nummus, contemporary copy of the House of Constantine, dating to the period AD 355-361 (Reece period 18). [FEL TEMP REPARATIO] reverse type depicting a Soldier spearing a fallen horseman. Unclear mint.

Or if it is modified:

A clipped silver Roman siliqua of the House of Valentinian, dating to the period AD 364-378 (Reece period 19). [VRBS ROMA] reverse type depicting Roma seated left on a cuirass holding spear and Victory on a globe. Possibly mint of Trier.

Standard references for Iron Age coins

ABC – E. Cottam, P. de Jersey, C. Rudd and J. Sills, Ancient British Coins (Aylsham, 2010).

Hobbs – R. Hobbs, British Iron Age Coins in the British Museum (London, 1996).

Standard references for Roman coins

RRC -M.H. Crawford, Roman Republican Coinage, 2 vols (Cambridge, 1974).

RICThe Roman Imperial Coinage, 10 vols (London, 1923–2007).

Cunetio – E. Besly and R. Bland, The Cunetio Treasure. Roman Coinage of the Third Century AD (London, 1983).

Normanby – R. Bland and A.M. Burnett, The Normanby Hoard and other Roman Coin Hoards, CHRB VIII (London, 1988).

LRBC – R.A.G. Carson, P.V. Hill, and J.P.C. Kent, Late Roman Bronze Coinage (London, 1960).

It is also very helpful to have copies of:

R. Reece and S. James, Identifying Roman Coins (Seaby, 1986)

S. Moorhead, A History of Roman Coinage in Britain (Greenlight, 2013)

D. Sear, Roman Coins and Their Values (Spink).

On-line resources

BM Republican coins: https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/publications/online_research_catalogues/rrc/roman_republican_coins.aspx

BM Collections: https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/search.aspx

OCRE (On-line Coins of the Roman Empire): http://numismatics.org/ocre/

Anepigraphic nummi – a special case

Between the 26th of July 325 and the 25th of July 326, Constantine I celebrated his vicennalia, twenty years since his accession to power. To mark this event a series of dynastic coins were struck in gold, silver, and bronze around the Empire that commemorate Constantine I and his family. These issues are distinctive in that they carry no obverse inscription, instead naming Constantine or one of the Caesars (Constantine II, Constantius II, or Crispus) on the reverse.

Although rare, we currently have 50 examples of these ‘anepigraphic’ nummi on the PAS database. Because they need to have their reverse inscription recorded in three lines (e.g. CONSTAN/TINVS/CAESAR) we cannot at present search for them, as the database will not allow the forward stroke / to be used in a search. Because of this, they need to be recorded in a specific way.

When recording these types:

  • Do not leave the obverse legend box blank, or enter ‘No legend’, ‘None’, or similar. This works for other issues, such as reverses of commemorative VRBS ROMA or CONSTANTINOPOLIS nummi, which we can search for in other ways, but does not work for this type.
  • Do enter ‘Anepigraphic’ in the obverse inscription field, and remember to select the correct 4th-century dropdown for the reverse type.
  • Also use ‘Anepigraphic’ in the Object Description field.
  • It is essential to add good photographs (both obverse and reverse) to the record.
  • Give an RIC number if you can (see below for hints)

If you come across any on the database which do not include the word ‘anepigraphic’, please alert Coins Adviser Andrew Brown ().

With one possible exception, all our examples are from the mints of Rome and Trier. There is much variation in the recorded examples, some are poorly struck or from poor quality dies, and it is likely that many are contemporary copies.

They will largely all fall into RIC as follows:

(C I = Constantine I; C II = Constantine II; Cr = Crispus; Cs II=Constantius II)

Trier (RIC VII, pp. 209-210)

-//PTR, AD 326

RIC no. Ruler Bust Reverse  Mintmark
485 C I Laureate head right CONSTAN/TINVS/AVG, legend in three lines, a wreath above  P S
486 C I Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right CONSTAN/TINVS/AVG, legend in three lines, a wreath above  P
487 C II Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust left CONSTAN/TINVS/AVG, legend in three lines, a star above P
488 Cr Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust left CRISPVS/CAESAR, legend in two lines, a star above  P S
489 C II Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust left CONSTAN/TINVS/CAESAR, legend in three lines, star above  P S
490 Cs II Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust left CONSTAN/TIVS/CAESAR, legend in three lines, star above  P S
491 Cs II Laureate and cuirassed bust right CONSTAN/TIVS/CAESAR, legend in three lines, star above  P

 

Rome (RIC VII, p. 329)

Wreath//SMRP, AD 326

RIC no. Ruler Bust Reverse Mintmark
281 C I Rosette diademed, draped, and cuirassed bust right CONSTAN/TINVS/AVG, legend in three lines P S
282 C II Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust left CONSTAN/TINVS/IVN NOB C, legend in three lines T
283 C II Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust left CONSTA/NTINVS/IVN NOB C, legend in three lines T
284 Cs II Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust left CONSTAN/TIVS/NOB CAES, legend in three lines Q

 

*//SMRP, AD 326

RIC no. Ruler Bust Reverse Mintmark
285 C II Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust left CONSTAN/TINVS/CAESAR, legend in three lines S
286 Cs II Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust left CONSTAN/TIVS/CAESAR, legend in three lines P Q

Greek and Roman Provincial coins

At the moment, coins from Mediterranean city-states of c. 500 BC-300 AD are recorded with a Broad Period, Period From and Period To as ‘Greek and Roman Provincial’ (although this may change at the next database re-vamp).

The detailed on-line guide to these coins can be found here: https://finds.org.uk/greekromancoins

Fill out as much of the database record as you can, add the images, then forward to Sam or Andrew for checking, editing and publishing.

How to Identify Fabulous and Mythical Beasts

Fabulous beasts are found on many types of object. They are not common in the early-medieval world, but develop in the medieval period when they are also found in bestiaries (books with descriptions and pictures of real and mythical beasts). They also occur in Greek and Roman myths, and are much used in heraldry.

Here is a list of the most common fabulous and mythical beasts that you are likely to come across, together with some hybrids and grotesques. At the top are the well-defined types. The taxonomy of these is not exact – people have disagreed since medieval times about the precise definitions – but as long as we use the same terms, we’ll be able to retrieve all the examples that the PAS has recorded.

At the bottom is a list of some names for the more poorly-defined or unusual animals, and also a list of some real animals that you may find on medieval objects.

It is essential to describe the animal as well as naming it. So if your object has a dragon on it, go on to say that it has four legs and two wings (or that only two of the four legs can be seen, etc). Otherwise you will find that what you felt was a harpy has been interpreted by someone else as a seraph.

Dragon

A dragon is normally defined as a reptile-like creature with four legs and two wings. For two-legged dragons, see Wyvern (below). For something with four legs and two wings that is not reptile-like (especially if it has long ears) see Griffin (below).

Roman dragons

The Latin word draco (from the Greek drakon) meant any great serpent, and so the term ‘dragon’ is used loosely by Romanists; neither legs nor wings are necessary to identify a monster as a dragon. Dragonesque brooches are supposed to have terminals in the shape of a stylised dragon’s head.

Roman dragons (HAMP-AF8352 and DUR-1CF3D2)
Roman dragons on a coin with ‘elephant trampling dragon’ motif (HAMP-AF8352) and a dragonesque brooch (DUR-1CF3D2)

Early-medieval dragons

Although dragons existed in Anglo-Saxon and Viking-age mythology (notably in Beowulf, where the words used include draca and wyrm), they do not appear to be recognisably depicted as such in early-medieval art. Fabulous beasts do not appear to have been classified in as rigorous a way as they were later in the medieval period, and on the PAS database we simply describe the animal we can see.

Medieval dragons

The dragon is the commonest mythical creature in the medieval world. It is normally shown as a reptile-like creature with four legs and two wings. The tail is often curled right over into a loop

Dragons often appear in medieval stories as the foe of St George or St Michael. These two saints can usually be told apart because St Michael has wings and a halo (he is an angel) but St George does not. St George is often shown riding a horse.

Another common story involving a dragon is that of Margaret of Antioch. This unpleasant tale has many variants, but essentially Margaret escaped after having been swallowed by a dragon. She is generally shown with a cross.

The dragons shown with saints often do not have the standard features (four legs, two wings, reptile-like), but you can identify them as dragons because they are with their saints.

St Michael and St Margaret (SOM-66F03F and NMS-725FA8)
St Michael and St Margaret with their dragons (SOM-66F03F and NMS-725FA8)

Wyvern

A wyvern looks like a dragon (i.e. reptilian), but it has only two legs. With two legs and two wings, they can look rather like birds, but their long tails, often curled into a circle like dragons’ tails, can give them away. They also should have reptilian heads, with jaws instead of a beak. Many animals currently recorded as ‘dragon’ on the PAS database are in fact wyverns.

Wyverns (WILT-D09287, SWYOR-5C94D1, SF10663)
Medieval wyverns on buckle plates (WILT-D09287, SWYOR-5C94D1, SF10663)

Griffin

A hybrid of a lion and eagle. It normally has the body, tail, and back legs of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle; and an eagle’s talons as its front feet. It can also have long ears, and the ears are how you recognise a griffin from its head only.

Griffin has two alternative spellings that you may see elsewhere, ‘griffon’ and ‘gryphon’. We only use ‘griffin’ on the PAS database, to allow easy searches.

Roman griffins

The commonest place to find a Roman griffin is on a razor handle. Note the long ears projecting from the top of the head, which distinguish the griffin’s head from a bird’s head.

Roman razors (PUBLIC-889594 and NLM-D150A3)
Griffin heads on Roman razors (PUBLIC-889594 and NLM-D150A3)

Occasionally griffins can be found elsewhere….

Griffin from the Crosby Garrett helmet (LANCUM-E48D73)
Griffin from the Crosby Garrett helmet (LANCUM-E48D73)

Medieval griffins

It can be hard to distinguish griffins from dragons, as both have four legs and wings. The griffin has a lion’s body and eagle’s head, and the dragon has a reptile’s head and body, but the details need to be clearly shown to be certain which one you are looking at. Long legs and long ears probably indicate a griffin. If in doubt, use both words.

Some medieval griffins (YORYM-066D9E, SWYOR-2BF7A1 and YORYM-2D1EE6)
Some medieval griffins (YORYM-066D9E, SWYOR-2BF7A1 and YORYM-2D1EE6)

Lion

You may not think that a lion belongs in the category of fantastic and mythical beasts, but this was not necessarily clear in medieval England. Lions in medieval art, unsurprisingly, do not look very realistic, but they do have certain identifying features: the tail ends in a tuft, and the neck is decorated to represent a mane. Contrast these with the more naturalistic lions produced in the Roman world.

Roman lions: mount (SF-434D85) and key handle (SF-6038E8). Lion on an 11th-century stirrup-strap mount (SOM-AB8488). Lion on a medieval buckle plate (NMS-EA1F40).
Roman lions: mount (SF-434D85) and key handle (SF-6038E8). Medieval lions: 11th-century stirrup-strap mount (SOM-AB8488) and buckle plate (NMS-EA1F40).

Heraldic lions are a little different in that they do not always have a mane. You can often identify them by their distinctive posture (e.g. rampant, passant guardant, sejant, etc). See How to Describe Objects with Heraldic Decoration for more details.

You may find a heraldic lion passant guardant referred to as a ‘leopard’, but this usage is now outdated and should not be followed.

Heraldic lion badges IOW-C796F1 and HAMP-A18340
Heraldic lion badges. Left: lion rampant with mane and tufted tail (IOW-C796F1). Right: lion passant guardant with minimal mane and tufts in the centre and at the end of the tail (HAMP-A18340)

Sphinx

Technically a sphinx has the body of a lion and the head of a human, and sometimes wings. Although the Egyptian sphinx has taken over our imagination, most sphinxes do not have its characteristic pose. The sphinx is not used much in medieval art, so most of our examples will be Roman (especially on coins) or modern.

Sphinxes (BH-5A9878, SWYOR-174FC1, NLM-EB59B7)
Sphinx on an Iron Age coin (BH-5A9878). Possible sphinx on a Roman amulet, with lion’s paw, woman’s head and body, and wings (SWYOR-174FC1). Egyptian sphinx on a modern regimental badge (NLM-EB59B7).

Harpy

A harpy is a bird (normally an eagle) with a human neck and head. They are almost always female. The plural is harpies.

Centaur

A centaur is a human-animal hybrid with the upper body of a man and the lower body (with all four legs) of a horse.

Mermaid

A mermaid is a human/animal hybrid with the upper body of a woman and the lower body and tail of a fish. The male equivalent (not often found) is a merman.

Centaur on a buckle plate (NMS-B8B005) and mermaid on a seal matrix (SWYOR-48F8B2)
Centaur on a buckle plate (NMS-B8B005 – albeit with lion’s body rather than horse’s body) and mermaid on a seal matrix (SWYOR-48F8B2)

Other hybrids

There are many other forms of human-animal hybrids, not all of which have names. Using the word ‘hybrid’ will help in searching. The term ‘gryllus’ is often used for a monster with a human face and an animal’s body. It can be a useful word, but remember that a gryllus comes in many forms and must be clearly described.

Other mythical beasts: yale, centicore, manticore, basilisk and others

There is no agreed definition for these and many other fabulous and fantastic beasts. You can use the words, but do be careful to explain what you mean by them and to describe the animal or hybrid precisely.

Real beasts commonly found in medieval art

Other animals you might find on medieval objects include hares and hounds, monkeys or apes, and squirrels.

Candle Snuffers and Wick Trimmers

Introduction

When complete, wick-trimmers are shaped like a pair of scissors with the base and sides of a box attached to one blade, and a flat cover for the box attached to the other. The scissors are to trim a candle’s wick, and the box is for collecting the remains (the ‘snuff’).

If a candle’s wick gets too long, the charred end impedes burning, making the flame dim and smoky. The self-trimming plaited wick was invented in 1825 by Joseph Cambacères. It curls over into the hottest part of the flame and burns away.

Candle-extinguishers are also known, domed or conical in shape, but are rarely recorded, perhaps because they appear to be late post-medieval or modern in date.

PAS object type to be used

The only object type possible is CANDLE SNUFFER, as ‘wick trimmer’ does not exist in the mda thesaurus. The mda’s scope note states that a candle snuffer is ‘an object used to stop a candle burning’, but wick-trimmers were certainly known as candle-snuffers before the mid 19th century.

If you are interested in the etymology, an earlier use of the verb ‘to snuff’ was ‘to cut or pinch off the burned part of a candle wick’. It comes from the Middle English noun snoffe, ‘burned part of a candle wick’.

PAS object classifications and sub-classifications to be used

Put ‘wick trimmer’ in the classification field, or ‘extinguisher’, as appropriate.

Wick-trimmers

Terms to use in the description

The commonest part of a wick-trimmer to be found is a side-plate from the box.

Side plate from a candle-snuffer
Side plate from a wick-trimmer, with a solder scar showing the outline of the box (LIN-F6A115)

Occasionally a more complete example can be found, showing the detail of  construction.

One of the most complete candle-snuffers on the database (HAMP-917D56)
One of the more complete candle-snuffers on the database (HAMP-917D56)

HAMP-917D56 has the whole box surviving. Four elements are present: the base and bent-up sides, one of which has a notch to accommodate the blade to which the cover is attached; the soldered-on side plate; the blade soldered on to the box; and the blade and flat cover, which are made in one piece. The pin forming the hinge also survives, but the loop handles are  missing. The fragility of this soldered construction probably accounts for the few relatively complete examples.

Date

Two of the type of copper-alloy wick-trimmer usually recorded on the PAS database have been found in archaeological contexts, both from a post-medieval pit within Tenement 180 in Southampton’s French Quarter (SOU1382, nos. 106 and 114). The precise date of the pit within the post-medieval period does not appear to have been published yet.

Hume (1969, 98) describes what sounds like a very similar type of wick-trimmer from colonial America, and suggests that they were in use by at least 1600. The decoration can include rocker-arm, which might suggest that they began to be used even earlier, perhaps in the 16th century.

The decline of the copper-alloy wick-trimmer is due to several factors. Firstly candles became less ubiquitous from the late 18th century, as reliable domestic oil lamps arrived, then paraffin and (in urban areas) gas lighting by the middle of the 19th century.  Secondly, although candles continued to be used as small, convenient portable light sources until the introduction of electricity in the first few decades of the 20th century, wick-trimmers became far less necessary after the invention of the self-trimming wick in 1825. Lastly, wick-trimmers from the late 18th century onwards were probably made from iron, as they are still today, although they now have a small open saucer to catch the snuff.

The type of copper-alloy wick-trimmer normally recorded on the PAS database, with a separate side-plate decorated with pierced trefoil terminals, therefore seems to be confined to c. 1550-c. 1750.

Occasionally a slight variation in shape or construction can be found (e.g. SUR-3D1C1E, LANCUM-E52223) and there seem to be slight indications that these may be later in date, perhaps 19th century.

Candle extinguishers

There are several records on the PAS database of conical objects with small handles or prongs at the sides, sometimes with machine-pressed decoration. These may have been used to extinguish candles. Examples include IOW-75E83C and YORYM-19CA39.

Candle extinguishers YORYM-19CA39 and IOW-75E83C
Candle extinguishers YORYM-19CA39 and IOW-75E83C

Rings

Introduction

A ring is a circular loop which may have had a variety of uses.

PAS object type to be used

RING should be used for rings that do not fall into any other object type. FINGER RING or EAR RING should be used for those particular object types. Sword-rings of early Anglo-Saxon date should be recorded under SWORD.

Bronze Age rings

Rings with thick frames are often suggested as Bronze Age. Cross-sections vary, with oval, circular, lozenge-shaped and other polygonal shapes all recorded. Rings of these proportions have been found in Bronze Age hoards [citation needed] and sites (e.g. Flag Fen, Pryor 2001). A number of functions have been suggested: horse harness fittings, cauldron handles or cauldron suspension chains.

Possible Bronze Age rings (LVPL49DC54, WILT-091140, NMS-EAF666)
Possible Bronze Age rings (LVPL49DC54, WILT-091140, NMS-EAF666)

Do not use RING for similar penannular rings (formerly known as ring-money). Use PENANNULAR RING for these.

Medieval rings

RING is used for cast copper-alloy rings of 2-3cm diameter and narrow frame. Medieval rings of this type often have faceted cross-sections, sometimes neatly hexagonal, more often irregular. Filemarks are often visible. Look for wear (interior or exterior) that might help to narrow down how the ring was used.

Medieval or early post-medieval ring (SWYOR-9F7F7E)
Medieval or early post-medieval ring (SWYOR-9F7F7E)

These are very common finds and may have had a variety of uses. They may have been part of horse-harness, or used for suspension of vessels, or as curtain-rings, and so on. Sometimes the rings have pins attached and so are clearly buckles (so should be recorded as BUCKLE). It is not possible to assign a function to rings on their own, so avoid the use of terms such as HARNESS RING or CURTAIN FITTING.

Medieval circular buckle frame (SUR-A91E13).
Medieval circular buckle frame (SUR-A91E13). If it lost its pin, it would not be identifiable as a buckle and would have to be recorded as RING.

These rings are not easy to date. Although they often have the filemarks that appear to be characteristic of the medieval period, they may continue in use into the early post-medieval period.

Late post-medieval rings

There is a group of silver wire rings, with a spiral or knotted bezel, that have in the past been hard to distinguish from early-medieval silver wire rings. After a lot of work by Barry Ager, it now seems that we can be certain that rings of two or more strands, and/or made of wire of square cross-section, are fairly modern in date and were used as finger-rings. They are discussed in FINGER RING, under ‘Rings with a spiral or knotted bezel’.

Modern finger-rings (DENO-470362 and DENO-A15253)
Modern finger-rings of silver (DENO-470362) and copper alloy (DENO-A15253)

Rings of uncertain date

Most rings will have to be put down as broad period UNKNOWN. Even if you think that a ring has a date-range of Bronze Age to Roman, don’t give it BRONZE AGE as a broad period, as this will clog up the Bronze Age with a lot of false positives.

Harness Pendants and related fittings (2001 guide)

Please note that this guide has not been fundamentally changed from the original print version of the Finds Recording Guide (Geake 2001), written when the database contained just 8,800 non-numismatic records.

Introduction

Harness pendants (or horse-harness pendants) are decorative items hung from the harness of horses, primarily from the breast band. They were mainly used in the Roman, early-medieval and medieval periods and usually have no function other than as decoration.

A few post-medieval horse brasses or swingers from fly terrets have also been recorded on the PAS database, but these are too recent for routine inclusion.

PAS object type to be used

Use HARNESS PENDANT for pendants that hang from a suspension mount; the type term can also be used for ‘banners’ (see below, medieval), and for sets of components including either pendants or banners.

Harness pendants are suspended from harness pendant suspension mounts, which should be recorded as HARNESS MOUNT; components relating to banners should also be recorded as such (in the absence of the banner itself).

PAS object classifications and sub-classifications to be used

These have only been established only for medieval harness pendants (see below).

Terms to be used in descriptions

The joint between the pendant and the suspension mount should be called a hinge, not a swivel.

If it is a two-part pendant (including a post-medieval fly terret), the two parts are the frame, and the inner pendant.

Roman harness pendants

There is a huge variety of Roman horse-harness pendants, but they are surprisingly rarely found by detectorists.  Bishop (1988) gives a complicated typology which it is not worth following in detail, but has useful illustrations showing that the pendants swung either from a loop or a hook; Nicolay (2007; pls 85-93) provide further useful illustrations.

Although there is some doubt as to whether all of the types illustrated by Bishop were really confined to horse-harness, it is a convenient place to put them all until further information is forthcoming.  The Roman horse, whether military or civilian, clearly wore large quantities of metalwork, but until greater quantities are found by detectorists it won’t be worth discussing them here.

See DOR-81300E and HAMP3503 for Roman pendants complete with suspension mounts.

It is not always easy to distinguish between Roman and medieval horse-harness pendants. See NMS-E0A066, NMS-6CB366 and NMS-163154.

Early-medieval harness pendants

Early Anglo-Saxon harness pendants

There are a small number of early Anglo-Saxon horse-harnesses known, which have allowed us to identify the characteristic decorative fittings. Useful research on these includes Fern 2005 (a general overview) and the work on the Mound 17 harness at Sutton Hoo published in Carver 2005. The fittings comprise mounts and pendants, and a search for PAS examples is here.

Late Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-Scandinavian harness pendants

These are not common. There is one group which is lozengiform, and has Ringerike-style engraving; examples include PUBLIC-839738, YORYM-01B933 and DENO-D73301. Another group is more or less circular, with openwork decoration. Follow this link for a search for all late early-medieval harness pendants.

Medieval harness pendants

There is an enormous variety of medieval horse-harness pendants. Griffiths (1986) gives a useful summary, as does Cherry in Saunders (ed) 1991. Ashley (2002) has looked at a group from Norfolk with heraldic decoration and set them in their wider context, but there is otherwise little detailed research available. The PAS database is probably the best source of parallels.

The essential identifying feature of a medieval horse-harness pendant is the suspension loop, which is set at 90 degrees and pierced from side to side (similar suspension loops are found on post-medieval pendants from fly terrets; see below).

PAS object classifications and sub-classifications to be used

Harness pendants often have coats of arms (heraldry) on them; put heraldic in the classification field.

If you record a pendant with suspension mount still attached, put set in the sub-classification field. If you suspect that an object is part of a set that is more complicated than the usual pendant and suspension mount, put elaborate set in the sub-classification field; a series of related items  swivel on an upright post and are normally decorated on both sides. These are often called ‘banners’; add banner to the sub-classification for separate examples.

Date

There are few harness pendants from well-dated archaeological contexts.

Ashley has suggested a group of pendants that may be early in the series of medieval pendants, perhaps c. 1125-1225 AD (Ashley 2002, 5-7; note that Ashley now believes fig. 5, no. 5 to be Roman; see NMS-6CB366 and NMS-163154). This early group has engraved and punched decoration and, although quite large, they are often thinner than later pendants. These pendants often have rivets or holes for rivets. Good examples on the PAS database include IOW-8141E8, NMS-32D5E8, ESS-042D46, SF-1D92DF, etc.

Suspension mount for a horse-harness pendant, c. 1150-c. 1300
Suspension mount for a horse-harness pendant, c. 1150-c. 1300 (NMS-236F25) (Copyright Norfolk County Council, CC-BY SA)

A second group of pendants consists of smaller, thicker objects, mainly square, with cast relief decoration and gilding, and occasionally with enamel. Ashley dates these to c. 1150-1300 (2002, 7-8). Good examples on the PAS database include HAMP-977038, NLM-0A18F8 and BH-828AE5, and mounts NMS-236F25 and NMS-72F762.

NB: it can be easy to mistake these square suspension mounts for buckle plates. The hinge loops are closer together on pendant suspension mounts.

Pendants with enamelled decoration, usually heraldic, seem to be most common in the late 13th and first half of the 14th century, c. 1280-1350 (Griffiths 1986, 1; Ashley 2002, 29-30; Baker 2015, 6). They can be a variety of shapes, but shield-shaped (with straight top and sides curving to a point) and lozenge-shaped are the commonest.

A precise date for the end of harness pendant use is hard to find. Ashley gives termini ante quos for some heraldic pendants (the last dates that they could have been in use), and these centre on the mid-14th century. Specifically, the arms of England are dated up to c. 1340, after which time they were assumed to have been quartered with those of France (Baker 2015, 6-7). Private arms from the same time span commonly include those of the following families: Warenne, Bohun, Clare, Valence, and Despencer (Baker 2015, 7). Ashley notes that by the end of the 14th century the heraldic pendant had been long in decline (2002, 8 and 31).

Banners range from shield-shaped side-looped examples to flag-shaped examples mounted via hollow circular sockets; other examples with side loops appear to be rarer forms – lozengiform, circular (Ward Perkins 1940, 121; fig. 40, no. 2), even eagle shaped. They are, naturally, decorated on both faces.

Post-medieval pendants, including those from fly terrets

Horse-harness pendants do not seem to have been in use in the 16th, 17th or 18th centuries. Harness pendants are shown on the second great seal of Henry VIII (in use from 1535-1542; illustrated in Harvey and McGuinness 1996, 31) but these are almost certainly anachronistic.

A few harness pendants have been recorded which appear different to the main group of medieval pendants. They are large and chunky, and their workmanship appears different. In particular, the suspension loops have a distinct groove across the front. There are not many on the database, but examples include IOW-06C5C2, IOW-AC3BA4, ESS-1ED125 and YORYM-3A1DC3.

Despite their similarity to medieval pendants, these are in fact 19th- or early 20th-century in date. They swung in frames which were screwed to the headband of draught horses, known as fly or head terrets. See the National Horse Brass Society website for more details.

Key references

Ashley 2002

Cherry in Saunders (ed) 1991

Griffiths 1986