Pair of oval brooches

Viking, early 10th century AD
Santon Downham, Suffolk, England

Possibly from the double burial of a man and woman

This matching pair of gilt-bronze brooches was found in 1867 together with a sword. They would have been both decorative and useful: Viking woman wore pairs of oval brooches to fasten the shoulder straps of a tunic worn over other garments. Beads of amber, wood or glass may have hung between these brooches or a chain with useful items such as a comb or keys.

Each brooch was made in two layers: a lower shell can be seen through an openwork upper shell decorated with stylised animals and bosses. Silver wire has been used to enrich this decoration. On the undersides are the cast impressions of cloth used in the moulding process and the remains of fixings for iron brooch pins.

Oval brooches are sometimes called 'tortoise' brooches because of their appearance. They were commonly worn by women in the Scandinavian homelands of the Vikings, but finds like this pair are rare in England, despite the Viking conquest and settlement of large areas of the West Midlands and East Anglia. The discovery of a sword at the same time shows that the grave of a warrior was nearby.

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More information


E. Roesdahl and D.M. Wilson (eds), From Viking to crusader: the S (Sweden, Bohusläningens Boktryckeri, 1992)

J. Graham-Campbell, Viking artefacts: a select cat (London, The British Museum Press, 1980)

V.I. Evison, 'A Viking grave at Sonning, Berks', The Antiquaries Journal-2, 49 (1969), pp. 333-35


Length: 11.600 cm (1888,1-3,1)
Width: 7.900 cm
Height: 3.600 cm
Length: 11.600 cm (1888,1-3,1)

Museum number

M&ME 1888,1-3,1;M&ME 1883,7-27,1


Gift of Canon W. Greenwell and Mrs W. Weller Poley


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