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Pair of saucer brooches


Diameter: 4.600 cm
Height: 0.700 cm (lip)
Diameter: 4.600 cm

M&ME 1893,7-16,41;M&ME 1893,7-16,42

Room 41: Europe AD 300-1100

    Pair of saucer brooches

    Anglo-Saxon, 5th-6th century AD
    Found in a grave at East Shefford near Hungerford, Berkshire, England

    Gilt copper alloy brooches with cast decoration

    This type of brooch, named after its dished form, was worn by women of Saxon origin. They have been found in the upper Thames Valley and the southern and western Midlands, corresponding to the region that became the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex.

    Saucer brooches were worn in pairs at the shoulder to fasten a dress, often with strings of beads hanging between them. The brooches were cast with decoration in the central area while the rim is left plain; most were gilded on the front. The form had a very long life, from the late fifth century, throughout the sixth and even into the early seventh century.

    Many saucer brooches are decorated with simple geometric ornament in the centre field, with spirals and stars being the most common. This type of decoration and indeed the method of casting derives directly from Late Roman provincial metalworking in northern Europe. Some saucer brooches, like these, also incorporate Style I elements such as face masks, helmeted heads and zoomorphic limbs. These two are not an identical pair. Both display frontal face masks of moustached men surrounded by a classically derived egg and tongue pattern around the rim, but one is larger with a deeper rim with stamped ornament around its border.

    L. Webster and M. Brown (eds.), The transformation of the Roma (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)


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