Length: 10.100 cm
Britain, Europe and Prehistory
Room 41: Europe AD 300-1100
Gilded silver brooch
Merovingian, 6th century AD
Said to be from the cemetery at Herpes, Charente, France
Female costume jewellery
This brooch is one of a pair that is said to be from the cemetery at Herpes. When the cemetery was excavated between 1886 and 1893, an adequate report was never published. This makes interpretation of the site very difficult, and only a few of the groups of objects that came from a specific grave can be accurately reconstructed.
The brooch is made of gilded silver, with chip-carved decoration, garnet and niello inlays and scrolls. The style of the inlays and scrolls appears to be derived from late Roman art, while the style of the heads of the birds of prey round the head-plate are thought to be of south Russian origin, brought to the west through Gothic influence.
Such brooches were worn by women, in barbarian-settled areas from northern France, the Rhineland and southern Germany to Italy, and may have been worn as a sign of rank. There are numerous regional variations, distinguished especially by the shape of the foot-plate and the number of knobs round the radiate head. The decoration is typically geometric.
J. Werner, Katalog der Sammlung Diergardt (Berlin, 1961)
C. Haith, 'Un nouveau regard sur le cimetière d'Herpes (Charente)', Revue Archéologique de Picardi, 3-4 (1988), pp. 71-80
B. M. Ager, 'Recent re-discoveries in the Continental Early Medieval Collections of the British Museum' in Papers of the “Medieval Europe, vol. 10 (Zellik, 1997), pp. 139–144