BH-9F86A6: Early-medieval brooch

Rights Holder: St. Albans District Council
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Unique ID: BH-9F86A6

Object type certainty: Probably
Workflow status: Published Find published

Description: A gilded silver brooch (or perhaps a mount) cast in the half-round form of a dove with an equal-armed cross projecting above its back. The wings, tail and plumage are indicated by grooves and depressions and the cross has a nielloed contour line. The bird has a prominent eye with a punched dot in the centre and a single leg with the claws at back and front broken off. On the back there is a rectangular loop underneath the tail, which may have been a catch for a pin, while a dark patch of solder at the other end appears to mark where a hinge lug for the pin would have been attached.

Analysis: Surface metal analysis conducted at the British Museum indicated a silver content of approximately 88-89% with 4-5% copper. Lead, iron, zinc, gold and tin were also detected. The inlay is niello (silver sulphide). The dark grey-black concretion on the back of the brooch is tin-based soft solder.

Discussion: Dove brooches of gilded silver or of copper alloy with crosses on their backs are found mainly on the Continent, where they were worn by women as costume fasteners. They date from the Carolingian period from the early 9th century and later, e.g. from Große Domsfreiheit, Osnabrück, and Wangels, Germany, and Rouen, France (A. Pedersen, 1999, 'Rovfugler eller duer. Fugleformede fibler fra den tidlige middelalder', Aarbøger for Nordisk Oldkyndighed og Historie, 1999, 19-66, figs. 20b, 21a-b, and 22). The dove is thought to represent the Holy Spirit. An increasing number of the type is being found in this country, too, presumably as imports from abroad. One from near Wickford, also in Essex, but made of copper alloy, was reported to the British Museum in December 1992. A fragment of one in silver-gilt from Arlington, East Sussex, was reported as Treasure in 2004 and a more complete example in silver, but missing its tail, from Newchurch, Kent, was similarly reported the following year (Treasure Annual Report 2004, no. 83; and 2005-06, no. 205). The Ashmolean Museum has one in its collection from Berinsfield, Oxfordshire (Pedersen op.cit., fig. 19c).


The dove brooch from Chrishall would therefore qualify as Treasure under two of the stipulated criteria of the Treasure Act: it is more than 300 years old and the precious metal content exceeds 10%.

Class: bird
Sub class: Weetch type 30.B

Subsequent actions

Current location of find: Acquired by Saffron Walden Museum
Subsequent action after recording: Acquired by museum after being declared Treasure

Treasure details

Treasure case tracking number: 2015T837


Broad period: EARLY MEDIEVAL
Subperiod from: Middle
Subperiod to: Late
Date from: Circa AD 800
Date to: Circa AD 1000

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 32 mm
Height: 24 mm
Thickness: 3.5 mm
Weight: 9.65 g

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Sunday 27th September 2015

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Mr Julian Watters
Identified by: Mr Julian Watters
Secondary identifier: Mr Barry Ager

Other reference numbers

Treasure case number: 2015T837

Materials and construction

Primary material: Silver
Completeness: Incomplete
Surface Treatment: Gilded

Spatial metadata

Region: Eastern (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Essex (County)
District: Uttlesford (District)
To be known as: Chrishall

Spatial coordinates

Grid reference source: From finder
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 1 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
Current location: Acquired by Saffron Walden Museum
General landuse: Cultivated land
Specific landuse: Character undetermined

References cited

No references cited so far.

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: BH
Created: 3 years ago
Updated: About one year ago

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