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Silver brooch


Length: 12.200 cm

Purchased with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund

Britain, Europe and Prehistory

    Silver brooch

    Northern Germanic, late 5th/early 6th century AD
    Found on the island of Gotland, Sweden

    Female costume jewellery

    This gilded silver radiate-headed brooch is decorated with chip-carved, Style I animals, human heads and scrolls, and inlaid with black niello. The knobs at all the corners are in the form of animal heads. The wavy outline of the head-plate may be derived from friezes of bird heads on earlier forms. The design was possibly introduced by Ostrogothic craftsmen from central Europe in the late fifth century, or it may be imitating their work. Either way, the decoration may represent myths common to both areas as a sign of shared ancestry, which appears to be reflected in the name of Gotland itself.

    A remarkably similar brooch was found in 2010 in a hoard from the ring-fort at Sandby Borg, Öland, Sweden. This type of brooch comes mainly from the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. Long before the Viking culture became dominant on the island from the end of the eighth century, the people of Gotland may have had links with the Ostrogoths. This connection is tenuous but appears to be supported by the carving on this brooch, which was probably worn to fasten a cloak or shawl, as suggested by the position of brooches found on bodies in graves. Such evidence gives us a little information about dress fashions of the times.

    T. Sjøvold, 'The Scandinavian relief brooches of the Migration Period', Norske Oldfunn (1993)