Silver disc brooch

Viking, 10th century AD
Probably found on the island of Gotland, Sweden

A puzzling design

This silver disc brooch is elaborately decorated with Borre Style interlace and animal masks. Figures of four backward-biting animals are riveted around the high central boss, itself formed of eight long-necked animal heads. Round the edge of the brooch are two squatting, human figures grasping what appear to be their own forked beards, alternating with animal heads holding a bar between forepaws and mouth. The significance of this design is uncertain although disc brooches with figures in this style are found mainly in central Sweden. The nicked edges of the design imitate beaded wire.

On the back of the brooch are impressions of textile used in the casting process and a pierced lug for the attachment of a chain. A piece of cloth impregnated with wax was placed in the half of the mould bearing the design of the disc. The other half of the mould was then made by pressing clay over the cloth. The complete mould was then fired to melt out the wax. Any remaining cloth was removed, but an impression of the textile was left on the back half of the mould, and was transferred to the underside of the disc when it was cast.

Circular brooches were usually worn singly by women on Gotland, to fasten an outer garment such as a cloak. In this case the lug for a chain suggests the brooch could have been linked to another item, possibly of jewellery.

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Silver disc brooch

  • Side view

    Side view

 

More information

Bibliography

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

H. Tait (ed.), 7000 years of jewellery (London, British Museum Press, 2006)

S. Marzinzik, Masterpieces: Early medieval a (London, British Museum Press, 2013)

Dimensions

Diameter: 7.800 cm

Museum number

Gift of the Friends of the British Museum

Britain, Europe and Prehistory
1901,0718.1

Location

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