NMS-56E967: Late Saxon Trefoil brooch

Rights Holder: Norfolk County Council
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Unique ID: NMS-56E967

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find published

Late early Medieval cast copper-alloy trefoil brooch, complete except for missing pin. The brooch is cast in copper-alloy and retains a good proportion of its surface, although signs of 'bronze disease' are visible on the reverse. Length from each arm end to the centre is 28mm, the longest distance from arm to arm being 50mm.

The obverse consists of a central raised triangular arm cutting off each of the three brooch arms or lobes. The central triangle has a central circular boss, another three bosses appearing, one at the end of each arm. Traces of surface decoration show that each of the three smaller central arms has a small triangular line containing small circular pellets or dots. The principal decoration is contained on each main arm, all arranged identically; at the end of each arm is an oval field containing a number of tiny dots or pellets. Lines beneath this spread out towards the central tri-arm with another three raised lines set transversely, dividing the spreading lines and the oval. The overall effect is akin to a face surrounded by a nimbus, wearing a cloak but there is nothing to suggest there is any real intention to portray a figure. The reverse has the pin catch-plate intact and the pin mount, which consists of two half-round plates set vertically into the arm; the pin would originally have swivelled between these on another pin or hinge running between the two plates (now lost). The third arm has another plate set vertically into the arm which is pierced, originally to provide another attachment point.

This trefoil brooch is of great interest in its Norfolk context ,as it is clearly a Viking object made in, and imported from, Scandinavia. The use of the pin hinge formed from parallel-set plates, and the third attachment point are both characteristic of non-insular objects, and the design is very clearly not a 'second-generation' insular trefoil type, with its derivative 'fir-tree' pattern. Instead, the brooch takes as its best parallel Maixner's Type E trefoils, in particular finding a close parallel with her E1.3 (Kat. nr. 314), a brooch from Skåne in Sweden which is of near-identical size and design, although less crisp as it survives. Maixner's E1 group has a relatively wide distribution across Denmark and southern Sweden, the E1.3 variant having few examples from which to investigate this further. This brooch is of great archaeological interest in demonstrating the import of an ethnically-Scandinavian form of material culture, which in turn helps to support the argument of Viking immigrants arriving in Norfolk in the late ninth and early tenth centuries, the date of the brooch. The piece is consequently worthy of preservation in a public collection.

References: Maixner, B, 2005, Die gegossenen kleeblattförmigen Fibeln der Wikingerzeit aus Skandinavien Universitätsforschungen zur Prähistorischen Archäologie Band 116 (Bonn).


Included in Kershaw 2010 as catalogue no. 407.

Find of note status

This has been noted as an interesting find by the recorder.

Class: trefoil
Sub class: Maixner type E 1.3

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


Broad period: EARLY MEDIEVAL
Subperiod from: Late
Subperiod to: Late
Ascribed Culture: Viking style
Date from: AD 850
Date to: AD 950

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 50 mm
Width: 28 mm

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Friday 1st September 2006

Personal details

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Materials and construction

Primary material: Copper alloy
Secondary material: Iron
Completeness: Complete

Spatial metadata

Region: Eastern (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Norfolk (County)
District: North Norfolk (District)
To be known as: Hindringham

Spatial coordinates

Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 10 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
General landuse: Cultivated land

References cited

Author Publication Year Title Publication Place Publisher Pages Reference
Maixner, B. 2005 Die gegossenen kleeblattformigen Fibeln der Wikingerzeit aus Skandinavien Bonn In Kommission bei R. Habelt Type E

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: NMS
Created: 15 years ago
Updated: 3 years ago

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