What could be more exciting than an unusual object coming across your desk? The thrill of getting to research something you’ve never seen before, the joy of sharing it with other people, the thought that you may be significantly contributing to research in to a particular period or object type!
Ducks! That’s what!
Much of a Finds Liaison Officers time is spend recording familiar objects. Roman coins, medieval buckles, lead spindle whorls and so on. Occasionally though something different will cross our path giving us a nice break from the norm.
YORYM-C37EB7 is one such object. It is an Iron Age copper-alloy strap fitting with three large bird, possibly duck, decorations which was found in Thwing, East Riding of Yorkshire.
We have over 56,000 Iron Age objects recorded on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database though over 46,000 of these are coins. 713 of these are from the East Riding including 316 coins.
Despite the quantity of material on the PAS database and elsewhere in literature, no direct parallel for this object could be found at the time of recording though similar features are noted in a number of different object types.
Similar ring shaped objects with decorative knops include triple knoped terret rings such as YORYM-71FC10 and SWYOR-3A981A. These are dated to the early Roman period c.AD 43 – 150. The absence of a strap bar makes this an unlikely function for our ducks though.
Pins such as HAMP-A63ECB and BH-00BCA1 have similar knotted elements and are all dated to the 2nd century BC. The birds are paralleled in Roman furniture fittings such as LIN-F1A832 and LVPL-273BD0 and also a late Iron Age to Roman fob dangler recorded as SUR-8328CA.
Given the form of our duck object the function of strap fitting is suggested. It is possible the object was designed to hang from a strap or belt with the space between the knot terminals designated to hold the strap.
Reb Ellis, PHD Student at The University of Hull, comments that bird decoration in general appears in pockets in England and Wales, as well as in Ireland and on the Continent, though in stylistically different ways. Miss Ellis suggests a date of approximately 100BC-0BC/AD for this object based on the style of the bird which is paralleled in other Iron Age material (as discussed above).
Despite the richness of metal work in the East Riding of Yorkshire, animals are somewhat rare making this object especially interesting and important. The absence of any known direct parallels for this object suggests it is nationally unique.
Click on this link to see all the Iron Age material from East Yorkshire recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme: https://finds.org.uk/database/search/results/broadperiod/IRON+AGE/county/East+Riding+of+Yorkshire