SUSS-5AF9E0: Medieval or Post Medieval Fitting

Rights Holder: Sussex Archaeological Society
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Unique ID: SUSS-5AF9E0

Object type certainty: Probably
Workflow status: Published Find published

An incomplete cast copper-alloy object, probably a book clasp, dating to the 11th century.

The object consists of a sub-triangular relief-decorated openwork plate. The base has the projecting semi-circular remains of two originally circular loops, pierced from side to side, which may together have held a hinge bar. The other end (the apex of the triangle) has a zoomorphic decorated knop in the shape of an animal's head, with two pointed-oval eyes outlined by narrow ridges, a snout which is concave on top, open jaws also delineated by lines, and a rounded forehead. The open jaws hold a loop, also pierced from side to side.

The decorated plate in the centre between these ends is roughly pentagonal in shape, with an elaborate openwork and relief symmetrical design. The exact details of this design are hard to decode, but it seems superficially similar to the engraved design on a Williams Class A Type 1 stirrup-strap mount (e.g. Williams 1997, no. 5).

The upper and side edges are filled with what appears to be a pair of animal heads, each with an ear or lappet on the top of the head (forming a knobbed corner) and an upturned nose, forming a knob close to each lower corner, above the loops. There appears to be a sunken sub-triangular area in each of these heads, possibly an eye. The backs of the heads join at a decorative perforation.

The underside of these heads forms an arch filled with thinner metal which has four perforations. The uppermost one is large and circular, and perhaps functional (see below); below this is a row of three smaller and less regularly shaped perforations. In between, two ridges run down the centre, are crossed by a broad raised band, and then diverge, curving towards the corners to end in scrolled roundels. The base of the object is marked by a raised line. No traces of gilding remain.

The object has been bent at the top, across the hole between the back of the beasts' heads. It measures approximately 35 mm long (with bend), 7.3 mm wide at apex head, 16.7 mm wide at double-loop end, 3.8 mm thick and weighs 7.7 grams.

David Williams has seen an image of this object and agrees that it can be dated to the 11th century on the basis of its ornament. Although it looks very like a Williams Class A Type 1 stirrup-strap mount, it has functional features in common not with these mounts but with later medieval hinged book-clasps. As with these, the pair of projecting loops would have held a bar on which a strap or plate would have hinged, attached to one cover of the book. The large central circular perforation would have fitted over a peg on the other cover of the book, and the terminal loop used to hold a ring or cord to assist in pulling the clasp from the peg (and also risking a bend in the object as seen on this example). Compare, for example, YORYM-2BBE37.

This find therefore pushes this type of book clasp securely back into the 11th century. There are a few other book clasps suggested with a start date in the 11th century or earlier (e.g. LEIC-F7DA57, LVPL-3AB218, BUC-9ED8F7).

Find of note status

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

Class: clasp
Sub class: Howsam no type

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


Broad period: EARLY MEDIEVAL
Subperiod from: Late
Subperiod to: Late
Ascribed Culture: Anglo-Scandinavian
Date from: Circa AD 1000
Date to: Circa AD 1100

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 35 mm
Width: 16.7 mm
Thickness: 3.8 mm
Weight: 7.7 g

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Thursday 7th February 2013

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Miss Stephanie Smith
Identified by: Miss Stephanie Smith
Secondary identifier: David Williams

Materials and construction

Primary material: Copper alloy
Completeness: Incomplete

Spatial metadata

Region: South East (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: West Sussex (County)
District: Arun (District)
To be known as: Near Aldingbourne

Spatial coordinates

Grid reference source: Centred on parish
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 1000 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
Discovery circumstances: Date listed is date submitted for recording

References cited

No references cited so far.

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: SUSS
Created: 5 years ago
Updated: 3 months ago

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