Rights Holder: The Portable Antiquities Scheme
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Rights Holder: The Portable Antiquities Scheme
CC License:

Rights Holder: Lincolnshire County Council
CC License:

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Unique ID: LIN-D3FF8B

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

An incomplete, cast mid-Anglo-Saxon copper-alloy linked triple pin set, dating to the eighth century. Only the central pin head survives. The pin is decorated with an equal-arm cross with expanding terminals, the 'arm-pits' are punctuated by four roundels each containing four running spirals around a central lozenge-shaped void. The quarto spiral patterns are framed by circular bands that are decorated with regular circular punch-marks. The cross is ornamented with a Greek meander or key-type pattern which create concentric patterns of rectilinear boxes. The outer perimeter has small circular punch-marks. A central projecting boss sits above the plate, giving a total thickness of 7.29 mm, while the plate is 2.33 mm thick.

Looking at the object with the undamaged cross-arm uppermost, there are three perforated holes - one in the left cross-arm, right cross-arm and the lower arm lobe. The left and right holes are centrally located in the cross-arm close to the outer edge, while the hole in the lower arm has been made to the right of the lobe. We can assume that the original holes (very close to the edge) were torn and a second nearby on the right lobe was added to substitute it. Sets of two or three linked pins were fashionable in the late eighth century. Each pin would have been attached to the next by means of a link with pierced circular terminals through which a wire loop connects them to the adjacent pins. The Witham pin has three pins and perforated holes for linked pins, this example from the Snelland area is no exception - demonstrating circular holes on the left and right side of the head for attachment to at least two other linked pins. The pin shaft is broken off and no traces of its attachment are visible.

It appears that the pin might have been modified at a later date. There are at least eight further rivets struck through the pin face. In his study of Anglo-Saxon pins, Ross notes that the Witham disc-headed type (LXXIV), which this object closely aligns with, might have in fact functioned as a book mount (Ross 1992, 332). The combination of both perforations for the links and the scattered rivets across the surface space could infer that this object was re-modified to function as a mount of some sort.

Diameter: 43.79 mm; Thickness (plate): 2.33 mm; Weight: 11.79g

Object group and dating

The most famous linked pin is the silver-gilt example from Witham decorated with a cruciform design with an equal-armed cross with expanded terminals and circular 'arm-pits' set at an angle to the pin-shaft and has been dated to the middle Anglo-Saxon period in the late 8th century (British Museum no. 1858,1116.4). Linked pins, however, are extremely rare - with only 12 examples recorded on the PAS database dated to the 8th century (NLM-A9E996, NLM-94EE4E, PUBLIC-E4A57C, LIN-B77E79 SWYOR-6CBDC4, SUR-D866BD, NMS-2C4864 and SF-31F506). This example forms part of the Witham disc-headed type (LXXIV) which consists of a discoid head-plate with a diameter greater than 20 mm and a thickness of less than 3 mm (not including the central boss) and are generally only decorated on the obverse face (Ross 1992, 321-322). These disc-headed type pins are generally ornamented with knot-like designs or interlaced animal ornament. The Snellandpin, however, is a very unusual example and is the first recorded instance on the PAS database of a linked pin with a Greek meander or key-type pattern, warranting further investigation. Since this record was created another linked pin with a very similar design found in the Claxby area has been recorded (PAS no. NLM-E621E9).

Stylistic parallels

The geometric pattern consists of a chequer of inset squares which could be described as a concentric Greek meander or key-type pattern. The Greek key-type design is incredibly rare in Anglo-Saxon England. A handful of mid-late Saxon jewellery pieces with this type of design exist on the PAS database e.g. a Weetch type 31.C brooch from Staffordshire no. WMID-054B67, in the British Museum (Early Medieval gallery (registration number 1999, 1-2, 1) and another example from Cambridgeshire is illustrated in 'Treasure Hunting' magazine's August 2000 edition, page 6. These brooches on the PAS database have been dated to c.AD 740-840, while the example noted in 'Treasure Hunting' has been assigned an earlier date: the 7th to 8th centuries.

What are the origins of this style? The Greek meander was common in Greek and Roman mosaic patterns, architecture, pottery and paintings (Kendrick 1972, pl. 17, 33-34). This motif has also been termed the 'rope-twist' which frequently appears in early Christina art in Ireland and continental Europe for instance. The rectilinear, angular interlaced design seems to have been a variation of the more rounded, rope-twist S-shapes which represent a living, climbing vine (Newman and Walsh 2007). The cross, for instance, of the early medieval stone high cross from Carndonagh, Inishowen, Co. Donegal depicts a cross that contains similar Green meander or 'rope-twist' motif- which has been suggested to represent the 'Sacred Vine' and the allegory in John 15:5 'I am the Vine and you are the branches' (Newman and Walsh 2007). It is possible that the Greek key-type pattern has its origins in early Christian Irish art, which is perhaps supported by the rarity of this design in Anglo-Saxon England. Interestingly, an ornate gilt-bronze mount ornamented with a Greek key-type pattern was recovered from a Viking female grave in Denmark which probably has its origins in Ireland where it may have adorned a reliquary or shrine ( This piece may have been spolia from a Viking raiding party. Objects raided from early monasteries in Ireland and England were refashioned as new items or were melted down for bullion (Lars et al. 2011). It is possible that we are missing a larger corpus of early Christian medieval objects from Ireland carrying such designs.

The design decorating the 'arm-pits' of the equal-arm cross consists of four running spirals around a central lozenge-shaped void which seem to run in a clockwise direction. Other linked pin on the PAS database with spiral motifs includes a fragment of a copper-alloy disc-headed pin from Cricklade, Wiltshire (WILT-609F56), a copper-alloy silvered lozenge-shaped object from Chipenham, Wiltshire (WILT-B11376). Spiral motifs were in use in early Anglo-Saxon England - including fifth to sixth-century saucer brooches (Dickinson 1991). This motif re-flourished in the mid-to-late Saxon period, appearing on escutcheons or roundels of D and E hanging bowls. The bowl roundels from Whitby (Yorkshire) and Bekesbourne (Kent) for instance carry the running spiral around a central setting or void (Bruce-Mitford 2005, 13, fig. e). This motif is suggested to have been a degenerate design of the trumpet-spirals, which ultimately derives from the Romano-British triskele theme (Bruce-Mitford 2005, 13-14). Bruce-Mitford (2005, 40) dated the D and E bowls to the eighth-eleventh centuries and are broadly contemporary with the Witham triplet pin set which is stylistically dated to the late 8th century (Backhouse and Webster 1991, 227-8). Spiral motifs decorate early Christian Irish metalwork and illuminated manuscripts. Two famous examples include St John's Rinnagan crucifixion plaque, for instance, dating to the eighth-ninth century is ornamented with running spiral motifs and the eighth-century Tara brooch is furnished with loose spirals in panel 16 (Harbison 1984, Bourke et al. 1988).

Finally, the equal-arm cross itself with wedge-shaped, flaring lobes and circular armpits are reminiscent of the pectoral crosses of the seventh century including St Cuthbert, the Trumpington bed burial cross and other gold and garnet pendant crosses (e.g. PAS no. DOR-1B7E81) which have wide-curve armpits (Lucy 2016). Metalwork finds provide important evidence of connections around the Insular world (Britain) in the early medieval period. What is clear is that the Greek meander or key-type pattern and the spiral motif is incredibly rare in Anglo-Saxon England, supporting the broader theme of incoming styles from Western Britain (in particular, Ireland) mixing with existing styles and generating hybrid, novel items.


Backhouse, J. & Webster, L. 1991. The making of England: Anglo-Saxon art and culture AD 600-900, London, British Museum Press.

Bourke, C., Fanning, T. & Whitfield, N. 1988. An insular brooch-fragment from Norway. The Antiquaries Journal, 68, 90-98.

Bruce-Mitford, R. L. S. 2005. A corpus of late Celtic hanging-bowls : With an account of the bowls found in Scandinavia, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Dickinson, T. M. 1991. Material culture as social expression: The case of Saxon saucer brooches with running spiral decoration. Studien zur Sachsenforschung, 7, 39-70.

Harbison, P. 1984. The bronze cruifixion plaque said to be from St. John's (Finnegan), neaAthlonene. The Journal of Irish Archaeology, 1-17.

Lars, P., Skre, D., Hårdh, B., Wamers, E., Graham-Campbell, J., Gjøstein Resi, H. & Plahter, U. 2011. Things from the town. Artefacts and inhabitants in Viking-age Kaupang., Aarhus Universitesforlag

Lucy, S. 2016. The Trumpington cross in context. Anglo-Saxon England, 45, 7-37.

Newman, C. & Walsh, N. 2007. Iconographical analysis of the marigold stone, Carndonagh, Inishowen, co. Donegal. Making and meaning in insular art: Proceedings of the fifth international conference on insular art held at Trinity college Dublin, 25-28 August 2005. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 167-183.

Ross, S. 1992. Dress pins from Anglo-Saxon England: Their production and typo-chronological development. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Oxford.

Find of note status

This is a find of note and has been designated: Include in MedArch

Evidence of reuse: Rivets might indicate it was reused as a mount, possibly a book mount.

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


Broad period: EARLY MEDIEVAL
Subperiod from: Middle
Subperiod to: Middle
Ascribed Culture: Anglo-Saxon
Date from: Circa AD 700
Date to: Circa AD 800

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Thickness: 2.33 mm
Weight: 11.79 g
Diameter: 43.79 mm

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Dr Lisa Brundle
Identified by: Dr Lisa Brundle

Materials and construction

Primary material: Copper alloy
Manufacture method: Cast
Decoration style: Geometric
Completeness: Incomplete

Spatial metadata

Region: East Midlands (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Lincolnshire (County)
District: West Lindsey (District)
To be known as: Snelland area

Spatial coordinates

Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 10 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: LIN
Created: 4 months ago
Updated: 9 days ago

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