Pair of miniature gold buckles

Anglo-Saxon, early 7th century AD
From King's Field, Faversham, Kent, England

Perhaps used to secure leg garters

Two pairs of bird's heads decorate each of these miniature gold buckles. Rows of pseudo-plaited filigree wire (made to look like a plait) decorate the addorsed (back to back) necks of the birds. The cut-out, hooked beak of each bird hangs down and meets that of its opposite number. Each bird has a bold, angled eye-surround, in beaded wire, above a granular eye. In the centre of each buckle is a trapezoidal (four-sided, with two parallel sides) plate stamped with an interlace pattern. The pattern is emphasised with rows of beaded wire, which resolve into two ribbon animals biting one another's tails.

Twinned birds of prey are one of the most common motifs of Germanic art in the early medieval period. A number of other ornaments from England and the Continent repeat this particular form of addorsed and pendant (hanging down) bird heads, rendered in Style II. It is possible that the combination of two birds refers to the Norse god Odin, who according to legend, was accompanied by two ravens.

These miniature buckles have no parallels in Anglo-Saxon dress ornaments. The rich burials at the so-called King's Field were not scientifically excavated and we do not know where on the body these buckles were worn. Their size and weight indicate that they could only have fastened a strip of textile or braid, as might be found on leg garters.

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More information

Bibliography

G. Speake, Anglo-Saxon animal art and its (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1980)

Dimensions

Length: 3.150 cm
Width: 2.200 cm
Length: 3.150 cm
Width: 2.200 cm

Museum number

M&ME 1094'70, 1094A'70

MCS14762;MCS14745

Bequeathed by William Gibbs

Location

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