Rights Holder: Durham County Council
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Rights Holder: Durham County Council
CC License:

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Unique ID: DUR-6AD3ED

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

An incomplete Roman copper alloy plate brooch of the dragonesque type, dating from c.AD 50 - 200

The object comprises a incomplete concave curvilinear plate, in an S-shape abstract zoomorphic form with turned in heads at each end. The brooch is coated in what appears to be a polished black lacquer, variously inlaid with enamel decoration, and in places incised. The condition of the patina is fair, with some pitting in places.

The upper, more complete, head has a back sloping ear with incised groove running parallel to the upper convex edge. The lower part of the ear has a sub-ovate recessed opening with a raised ridge running through the middle. Above this opening is an irregular curving triangle, incised into the black coating, containing eight similarly incised notches or elongated marks. The 'ring and pellet eye' comprises a thick circular incised band inlaid with red enamel encircling a much thinner black ring (black coated copper-alloy) which in turn surrounds the central circle of inlaid white enamel, partially damaged and missing. The nose is also unfortunately missing, the break indicating that this is old damage.

The lower head is similarly damaged: the ear and nose are completely missing, as is much of the upper part of the eye. Perhaps a third of the lower part of the eye survives; much of the red enamel is either damaged or missing. The white enamel of the inner part of the eye is almost completely absent. The parts of the eye that remain indicate that both heads were probably identical.

The body of the figure is decorated by two incised two-sided scroll-like shapes, separated by a central incised irregular quadrilateral scroll, creating three distinct cells. The upper and lower cells are decorated with four leaf shaped pointed ellipses, conjoined in groups of two where the point of the ellipses are closet to the centre. A fifth ellipse is bisected by the outer edge of the brooch. The outer edge of each ellipse is marked out in relief in black coated cooper-alloy, while the central area of the leaves are infilled with blue enamel. The remainder of each of the upper and lower cells are infilled with red enamel . The edges of the central cell, which narrows toward the centre of the brooch but generally follows the line of the body, are marked out with lines in relief of black coated copper-alloy. This central cell was infilled with enamel, almost all of which is now missing, though the traces that remains toward the edges indicates it may have been white. Each outer edge of the body of the brooch is decorated with a curving groove, again following the liner of the body, that meet in a point on the neck of each of the heads. Parts of this channel, particularly on what is regarded here as the lower body of the brooch, are damaged and show evidence of minor corrosion.

The reverse of the brooch is not decorated, but is black coated, the colour tending toward brown in the central body area of the brooch. The pin attachment on the neck is absent; however, there is evidence of wear on the upper neck, particularly visible on the reverse, in the area that the pin would have been looped. Overall, the reverse patina is fair, but pitted and chipped in places.

The dimensions of the brooch are: Length: 52.27mm, Width: 29.58mm, Thickness: 2.54mm, Weight: 11.5g

Dragonesque brooches are generally regarded as a hybrid art form, reflecting newer Roman influences of the 1st and 2nd centuries, but firmly rooted in the artistic traditions of the Iron Age. This is a particularly fine example, and as set out below is possessed of uncommon decoration. Bayley and Butcher (2004, 171) note that brooches of this type are found in both military and native contexts, with a marked concentration in the north of Britain. As such this example fits within that broad model, being found in Co. Durham along the wider route of Dere Street, and in what may be regarded as the wider hinterland of Binchester Fort.

Stylistically, the body of the brooch is not a close fit to any of the types set out in the classifications described by Hunter (2010, 97). The closest parallel is probably type A5; however, with the brooch having three curving scrolls rather than the requisite curving triangles, the brooch must be designated as Type A6 (other). In terms of the classification of dragonesque head types also set out by Hunter (2010, 100; after Braby) the head of this brooch fits most closely with Head Type A, defined as "Backward-sloping ear forming a smooth convex-concave profile with the nose, which generally ends in a scroll; its derivation from a trumpet scroll is clear. The head generally has a marked eye and nose" (Hunter 2010, 105). It is notable, however, that in this case the noses of both zoomorphic heads are missing. Hattat (2000, 351) also features similar examples (see types 1655, 1025 and 1026), but again non that are direct parallels.

Examples featuring similar stylistic elements, though not identical in form, can be found on the PAS database include: SWYOR-A4DDFC (also decorated with blue pointed elliptical leaves) and SWYOR-279501.

Class: Dragonesque


Bayley, Justine, and Sarnia Butcher. 2004. Roman Brooches in Britain: A Technological and Typological Study Based on the Richborough Collection. London: The Society of antiquaries of London.
Hattatt, Richard. 2012. A Visual Catalogue of Richard Hattatt's Ancient Brooches: Reprinted from His Fourth Book Ancient Brooches and Other Artefacts. Oxford: Oxbow Books
Hunter, Fraser. 2010. "Changing Objects in Changing Worlds: Dragonesque Brooches and Beaded Torcs." In A Decade of Discovery: Proceedings of the Portable Antiquities Scheme Conference 2007. British Archaeological Reports 520.

Find of note status

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

Class: Dragonesque

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


Broad period: ROMAN
Period from: ROMAN
Period to: ROMAN
Date from: Circa AD 50
Date to: Circa AD 175

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 52.27 mm
Width: 29.58 mm
Thickness: 2.54 mm
Weight: 11.5 g

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Tuesday 10th January 2017

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Mr Benjamin Westwood
Identified by: Mr Benjamin Westwood

Materials and construction

Primary material: Copper alloy
Secondary material: Enamel
Manufacture method: Cast
Decoration style: Zoomorphic
Completeness: Incomplete
Surface Treatment: Inlaid with enamel

Spatial metadata

County or Unitary authority: County Durham (Unitary Authority)
District: County Durham (Unitary Authority)
Parish or ward: LCPs of Stanhope, Wolsingham and Tow Law (Civil Parish)

Spatial coordinates

4 Figure: NZ1732
Four figure Latitude: 54.68277094
Four figure longitude: -1.73784704
1:25K map: NZ1732
1:10K map: NZ13SE
Grid reference source: From finder
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 1 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Chance find during metal detecting
General landuse: Cultivated land
Specific landuse: Operations to a depth greater than 0.25m

References cited

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: DUR
Created: About one year ago
Updated: About one year ago

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