NMGW-E8F8A8: Early Medieval copper alloy ringed pin

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Rights Holder: National Museums and Galleries of Wales
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PIN

Unique ID: NMGW-E8F8A8

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find published

A loop-headed ringed pin, with slightly pitted, stripped surface and golden colour (typical of some beach finds). The ring has a dark corrosion layer on the surface, remnants of which also survive on the shaft. The ring is of 'fixed' type, with a constriction where it fits through the loop head of the pin; the pin can therefore swing, but not move freely around the ring. The ring is of lozenge cross-section, and is decorated with five groups of transverse incised lines. The pin has a raised transverse moulding at the junction of the loop head with the shaft. The shaft changes in cross-section, tapering from a broad rectangular cross-section to a narrow waist of circular cross-section, then broadening and flattening from about the midpoint on the shaft to a rectangular cross-section, before tapering again to the tip. Both faces of the lower part are decorated with an incised border around an angular version of a single-strand interlace, interspaces being filled with diagonal lines. A vertical seam line on the shaft below the head is probably the result of the manufacturing process, but two transverse incised lines decorate the flattened front of the shaft, about two-thirds from the tip, and there are curved single lines at the junction of the circular cross-section with the flattened lower half on both sides. Analysis to ascertain the elemental composition of the shaft was carried out by Mary Davis (National Museum Wales) using a CamScan MaXim 2040 analytical scanning electron microscope (SEM), plus an Oxford Instruments Link Isis energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer (EDX). This has established that the shaft is made of leaded brass; the amount of lead is difficult to quantify by this type of analysis but the object has an average composition of 80-83% copper, 13-15% zinc and 2-6% lead. The ringed pin was a form of dress fastener which developed as a result of contact between artisans in the Celtic West and sub-Roman Britain. The type became very popular in Ireland, being ultimately adopted by the Hiberno-Norse during the Viking period. In form it comprised a pin with a ring inserted through a looped, perforated or pierced head. According to Fanning, about a third of all ringed pins known from Europe by 1990 had been found in medieval Dublin, but the head form of the Gower pin does not fall within the five main classes used for the Dublin ringed pins (Fanning 1994, 1-8). It is, however, very similar in form and decoration to a ringed pin found on the foreshore of the Severn Estuary at Black Rock, Portskewett, Monmouthshire and now in Newport Museum & Art Gallery (accession number NPTMG 92.16-1, -2; Redknap 2000, 82, fig. 122). The only minor differences are that the Portskewett ring has, in addition to transverse incised lines, a pair of incised lines bordering the ring; the shaft has five undecorated ribbons (rather than eight) creating a single-strand interlace pattern, and a series of parallel lines at the tip. The Portskewett ringed pin is also slightly shorter. Are the two pins of Scandinavian manufacture? They have prominent 'shoulders' to their shafts, and the Gower example also has the upper end of the shaft expanded and flattened in characteristic Scandinavian style (Graham-Campbell 1984, 36). A close parallel was found at Birka (Uppland, Sweden), in a coffin burial which included a Kufic coin of the 8th or early 9th century. The Birka pin has a similarly shaped 'shouldered' shaft, with incised line borders on the expanded upper and lower parts (Arbman 1940-43, 422 (grave 1007), fig. 377, 1, pl. 44.1; Graham-Campbell 1980, no. 204). Another with a similar shaft profile was found in a female grave in the cemetery at Tuna in Alsike (Uppland, Sweden), attributed to the first half of the 10th century (Arne 1934, 33 (grave VIb), 71, Taf. XI, fig. 3). Both the Tuna and Birka pins, however, have rings with collared and flared ends either side of the constriction. It seems likely on the basis of these parallels that the Gower and Portskewett ringed pins should be attributed to the Middle Viking period (late 9th to second half of the 10th century). They form a significant addition to the small group of late 9th-/10th-century finds from Wales with Hiberno-Norse associations, and their shared features indicate that they probably came from the same workshop.

Find of note status

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

Class: Ringed

Chronology

Broad period: EARLY MEDIEVAL
Subperiod from: Late
Period from: EARLY MEDIEVAL
Ascribed Culture: Irish
Date from: Circa AD 875
Date to: Circa AD 1000

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 163 mm
Thickness: 3.8 mm
Diameter: 24.1 mm

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Wednesday 1st January 1992 - Monday 1st January 1996

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: M Redknap
Identified by: Mr Steve Sell
Secondary identifier: Mr Mark Lodwick

Other reference numbers

Other reference: NMWPA 2008.101

Materials and construction

Primary material: Copper alloy
Manufacture method: Cast

Spatial metadata

Region: Wales (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Swansea (Unitary Authority)
District: Swansea (Unitary Authority)
Parish or ward: Port Eynon (Community)

References cited

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: NMGW
Created: 8 years ago
Updated: 6 years ago

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