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The British Museum

LEIC-D6218C: early medieval gold bracteate

Rights Holder: Leicestershire County Council
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Unique ID: LEIC-D6218C

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Awaiting validation Find awaiting validation

Early Medieval gold bracteate fragment, 19mm long, 13mm wide and 0.5mm thick with a weight of 0.74grams. The object is sub-rectangular in form and cross section and represents a fraction of the edge of a bracteate pendant. This bracteate has no known English parallels but does have similarities to Scandinavian examples.

Charlotte Behr writes,

Description: Only a small, almost rectangular, fragment of the bracteate has been found that includes the outer edge of the gold foil between roughly '10.30 and 12.30' assuming that the projecting section of the gold foil was part of the now missing loop. No gold wire surrounds the gold foil. Whilst this is not unusual among Anglo-Saxon bracteate finds, it may well be that a gold wire was originally attached, then detached and lost as there are no signs that the edge of the gold foil was thickened or decorated with incisions and thus imitating a surrounding wire as has been found on several Anglo-Saxon bracteates (Behr 2010).
No loop is preserved. However, a loop may have been part of the gold foil as a small section projects beyond the circumference of the gold foil. Its edge suggests that it had been torn off. Whilst loops were usually added to the round gold foil and soldered to both sides, there are other examples where the loop formed an integral part of the foil, was bent backwards and attached to the reverse, see for example the bracteate from Eccles (2014T801).
The gold bead that was attached within the outer rim of the bracteate is - to my knowledge - so far a unique feature among the Anglo-Saxon gold bracteate finds. It is however not so unusual among bracteates from Scandinavia and northern Germany where several examples with 2, 3, 5 etc gold beads attached underneath the loop are known.
The central image was stamped with a die showing an anthropomorphic head in profile looking to the left of which only the hairstyle has been preserved. The hairstyle formed of parallel hair strands was bordered by an outer line and decorated with a diadem that was formed of a round beaded front jewel and a beaded band just where the fragment was torn off. This type of hairstyle has been found on A- (anthropomorphic head in profile), B- (anthropomorphic figure(s)) and C- (anthropomorphic head above quadruped) bracteates. There is, however, no close parallel on any Anglo-Saxon bracteate.
The Greek cross with its beams ending with dots was placed in front of the forehead, the most common placement of the additional signs on bracteates. The cross as an additional sign is common on Scandinavian and Continental bracteate images but rare on Anglo-Saxon ones (Behr 1991). There are two crosses on Anglo-Saxon bracteates, one with cross-pieces on Scalford-A (IK 635, 1 and 2) and one where the beams end in small circles on St Giles' Field-A (IK 323) (Behr 2011). In both cases the crosses are part of sequences of imitations of Latin letters. A cross similar to the one on Nailstone in front of a head with a similar hairstyle has been found for example in Dybäck, Skåne (IK 235) but without the front jewel. Another parallel might be the C-bracteate from Fuglsang/Sorte Muld, Bornholm (IK 592).
The central image was surrounded by three concentric raised lines, an outer zone that was stamped with an individual die showing a round rosette-type sign and then another four concentric raised lines. The rosette is formed with a central circle surrounded by 12 inward pointing triangles. Among the signs that were stamped in the outer zones of bracteate pendants rosette-type stamps are a very rare sign (Axboe 1981). The closest parallel is the die used in the border zone of the A-bracteate from Hoby with Rotherby, also Leicestershire (IK 635,2) (2014T301) that is however not identical. Rosette-type signs are found on contemporary Anglo-Saxon pottery.
There is a clear impression on the reverse.

Discussion: The fragment belongs to a bracteate of a so far unknown die. Hairstyle and cross have their closest parallels not on Anglo-Saxon finds but on Scandinavian and Continental ones. Similarly an attached bead is not known from England so far. The die used in the border zone and the loop as part of the gold foil however are not features that have been observed in Scandinavia or the Continent. On the basis of the fragment it is not possible to determine with any certainty whether it was an object made locally or imported. It contributes new features to the growing corpus of Anglo-Saxon bracteate finds.

Find of note status

This is a find of note and has been designated: National importance

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Acquired by museum after being declared Treasure

Treasure details

Treasure case tracking number: 2016T681


Broad period: EARLY MEDIEVAL
Date from: Circa AD 475
Date to: Circa AD 600

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 19 mm
Width: 13 mm
Thickness: 0.5 mm
Weight: 0.74 g

Personal details

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Other reference numbers

Treasure case number: 2016T681

Materials and construction

Primary material: Gold
Completeness: Fragment

Spatial metadata

Region: East Midlands (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Leicestershire (County)
District: Hinckley and Bosworth (District)
Parish or ward: Nailstone (Civil Parish)

Spatial coordinates

4 Figure: SK4207
Four figure Latitude: 52.65910284
Four figure longitude: -1.38049573
1:25K map: SK4207
1:10K map: SK40NW
Grid reference source: From finder
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 1 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
General landuse: Cultivated land

References cited

No references cited so far.

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: LEIC
Created: 5 years ago
Updated: 3 years ago

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