LANCUM-EEFFFB: Runic copper-alloy and gilded disc pin head

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Object type certainty: Certain
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Fragmentary copper-alloy gilded pin head of early medieval date (c. 700 - 800 AD). The object is flat and would have been circular in form originally, although the edges of the object are now heavily chipped and broken. The front face of the object is thickly gilded, while the back face is unenhanced and carries a rough, brown-green patina. The pin head is pierced through the front face by a dome-headed copper-alloy stud, circular in section, which is positioned centrally. The top of the stud head is worn and abraded, while the sides retain some gilding and moulded decoration consisting of parallel lines running diagonally from top to bottom. A circle is incised around the stud head on the front face, providing a frame for an incised inscription in English runes that runs around the edge of the pin head. Due to the fragmentary nature of the object, many of the rune forms are heavily truncated but the inscription can be transliterated, using the Dickins-Page system (Page 1999, 38-40, ibid. 1984, 33-7) as: 'f u รพ o r c e h n [i]'. This is the first ten runes of the runic alphabet, the futhorc. As all that remains of the final rune is a vertical line, the rune form could in theory be one of a number of runes: 'w, I, j, x, s (long-stemmed or 'manuscript' variant), t, i, ea'. Comparison with the size of the h rune, which is almost complete, suggests that the majority of the rune is visible and, consequently, it is most likely to be i. While the order of the futhorc was never fully fixed after the first six runes, there is a certain amount of consistency in the futhorcs that survive within both epigraphical and manuscript contexts; the order of the runes on this object is unusual in the placement of 'e' in seventh place, something previously unattested. The runes are carefully incised and seriffed, although unequally spaced.

The object is 28.76mm in length, 23.71mm in width and 1.52mm in thickness. The central stud is 5.57mm in length and 4.68mm in diameter. The object weighs 3.49g.

Disc-headed pins such as this example are well known from early medieval contexts, having been excavated at multiple Middle Saxon sites. This style of pin seems to have had a relatively short usage, appearing in eighth-century contexts but no later (Owen-Crocker 2004, 142). Many are recorded as stray finds on the database (eg, LIN-81FD08, SWYOR-3DEE70, SUR-CFE0C7). These pins are frequently gilded and were occasionally worn in linked pairs or threes. The use of a runic inscription is much rarer and is currently paralleled only by a pin head found in Lincolnshire and recorded on the database as DUR-79B856, and the Malton Pin, found in North Yorkshire and now in the British Museum (Museum no. 2000,0508.1). All three examples contain a partial futhorc. A further (silver) runic pin head of contemporary date is attested from Brandon, Suffolk, although the partial futhorc on this example is scratched in two rows across the face of the pin head and the runes are unseriffed (Parsons 1991).

While inscriptions in English runes are more frequently attested after c.650, the overall corpus remains relatively small and this object therefore represents an important addition to it, especially in the potential it holds for adding to scholarly understanding of the interaction between vernacular and Roman writing in this period.

Owen-Crocker, G R (2004), Dress in Anglo-Saxon England (Woodbridge: Boydell)

Page, R I (1999), An Introduction to English Runes (Woodbridge: Boydell)

Page, R I (1984), 'On the Transliteration of English runes', Medieval Archaeology 28, 22-45

Parsons, D (1991), 'New Runic Finds From Brandon, Suffolk', Nytt om runer 6, 8-11

Find of note status

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

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


Broad period: EARLY MEDIEVAL
Subperiod from: Middle
Subperiod to: Middle
Date from: Circa AD 700
Date to: Circa AD 800

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 28.76 mm
Width: 23.71 mm
Thickness: 5.57 mm
Weight: 3.49 g

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Miss Lydia Prosser
Identified by: Miss Lydia Prosser

Materials and construction

Primary material: Copper alloy
Completeness: Incomplete
Surface Treatment: Gilded

Spatial metadata

Region: North West (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Cumbria (County)
District: Carlisle (District)
Parish or ward: Cumwhitton (Civil Parish)

Spatial coordinates

4 Figure: NY5052
Four figure Latitude: 54.86027468
Four figure longitude: -2.78044155
1:25K map: NY5052
1:10K map: NY55SW
Grid reference source: Centred on parish
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 100 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: LANCUM
Created: 5 months ago
Updated: About one month ago

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