Button and Loop Fasteners

Introduction

Button-and-loop fasteners seem to have been multi-purpose, some perhaps for horse-harness (especially the chunkier earlier ones) and some for human clothing (Worrell 2008, 341).  Their core distribution in lowland Scotland and northern England, has been extended southwards by PAS finds, which are now well known from Yorkshire and the Humber, the East and West Midlands, and, to an extent, from the Eastern and South East regions (Worrell 2008, 341-342; fig. 2).  The rural signature of PAS data has also challenged the strength of a former association with the military (Worrell 2008, 342, 344).

PAS object type to be used

Use BUTTON AND LOOP FASTENER

PAS object classification to be used

Use the Wild (1970) class, where possible (the scheme merits revision in light of more recent discoveries).  For example, Wild Class III

Terms to use in the description

These consist of a button-like head and a loop which quickly develops into a ninety degree bend. Loops can be separately made, and/or of iron.  The loop is often quite narrow and some would have taken a cord rather than a strap. Button-and-loop fasteners were classified by Wild (1970), on the basis primarily of the form of the head.  Heads are mainly petal-shaped (Class III), circular (Classes IV, V, VIII, X), or rectangular (Class VI).  Some are moulded, and some hollow backed, while others are flat.  Certain classes are decorated with enamel (Classes III, Vb, VIa and VIc), others with relief designs.  Rare examples feature a second boss above the loop, while even rarer are fasteners with loops set in the same plane.

Date

Button-and-loop fasteners began in the Late Iron Age and continued through the Roman period, up until the 3rd century AD.

Iron Age button-and-loop fasteners

Date

Only Wild’s Class I is effectively dated to the Late Iron Age and early Roman invasion period (c. 50 BC – AD 50).

Examples

Iron Age to Roman button-and-loop fastener of Wild Class I (HAMP-8E0771)
Iron Age to Roman button-and-loop fastener of Wild Class I (HAMP-8E0771) Copyright: Winchester Museum Service; CC-BY licence)

Roman button-and-loop fasteners

Date

Class VIIIb (Vindonissa type) is early and has been dated to the 1st century AD.

Many other classes start in the 1st century , but continue beyond: Class VII (1st-3rd century AD), Class III (mid 1st- mid 2nd century AD), Class II (mid 1st-2nd century AD), Class Va (late 1st-2nd century AD), Class Vd (late 1st-late 3rd century).

The following classes have been dated to the 2nd century: Class IV, Class VIa, Class VIb, Class VIc.  Enamel is present on many.

Class Vb, also with enamel, can go later: 2nd-3rd century.  Class IX has also been attributed between the mid 2nd and the 3rd century.

Examples

Roman button-and-loop fastener (YORYM-C0CDD4)
Roman button-and-loop fastener of Wild Class III (YORYM-C0CDD4) Copyright: York Museums Trust; CC-BY licence)
Roman button-and-loop fastener of Wild Class VIa (SOM-BF7D5F)
Roman button-and-loop fastener of Wild Class VIa (SOM-BF7D5F) Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme ; CC-BY licence)
Roman button-and-loop fastener with two heads comparable to examples of Wild Class III (SWYOR-42F1E5)
Roman button-and-loop fastener with two heads comparable to examples of Wild Class III (SWYOR-42F1E5) Copyright: West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service; CC-BY licence)

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Key references

Wild 1970 – available here 

Worrell 2008available here