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Six disc brooches from the Pentney hoard

 

Diameter: 6.100 cm (min.)
Diameter: 6.100 cm (min.)
Weight: 28.700 g (min.)
Weight: 28.700 g (min.)

M&ME 1980,10-8,1-6

    Six disc brooches from the Pentney hoard

    Anglo-Saxon, early 9th century AD
    From Pentney, Norfolk, England

    Found by Mr William King while digging a grave in 1978

    The brooches of this extraordinary hoard are principally made of delicately cut and engraved sheet silver. The decoration shows that there are two pairs together with one larger and one smaller individual brooch. The pairs suggest that some disc brooches were made to be worn in twos like Viking oval brooches. However, the smallest brooch is the only one to show signs of having been worn. Unusually, all but the smallest still have their pins and fixings, the finest belonging to the largest brooch. Overall, they were in very good condition when they were buried, suggesting that the hoard might have belonged to someone who made or sold the brooches (although they may not have all been made by the same person or workshop).

    The four brooches of similar size are decorated with animal and plant ornament in a cruciform (cross-shaped) arrangement. This originally carried five domed bosses. One pair of brooches has scalloped edges, extensive beading and a central lozenge of decoration. There are also four radiating lobes of foliage divided by contorted animal motifs. The other brooch pair is inlaid with black niello and a simple cross divides them into quarters, each decorated with a pair of entwined dragon-like creatures. These originally had glass eyes.

    Niello has also been used extensively on the largest brooch in this collection. Its decoration is also based around a cross. It has nine small bosses, one marking the centre while the others pick out the points of four zones of decoration within circles of animal openwork.

    The smallest brooch is also in openwork, but this is riveted to a gilded backplate which gives a contrasting background to the simple decoration of entwined stylized plants.

    D.M. Wilson, Anglo-Saxon art (London, Thames and Hudson, 1984)

    L. Webster and J. Backhouse, The making of England: Anglo-S, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)

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