Diameter: 14.900 cm
Enlightenment: Ancient scripts
Silver disc brooch of Ædwen
Anglo-Scandinavian, first half of 11th century
From Sutton, Isle of Ely, Cambridgeshire, England
Inscribed with a curse
A hoard of objects, which included coins, gold rings and this brooch, was discovered during the ploughing of a field in 1694. The objects disappeared, but the brooch was rediscovered in a private collection in 1951 when it was bought by the British Museum.
brooch is made from a hammered sheet of silver. The engraved
decoration is based around four overlapping circles forming
flower-like motifs. At the centre of these flowers are conical
raised bosses, one of which is now missing. Within the circles are
different animals, some four-legged, others like snakes, surrounded
by stylized plant ornament in an English version of the
There is an inscription in Old English around the edge on the back. Uniquely, it tells us who owned the brooch. The inscription may be translated as: 'Ædwen owns me, may the Lord own her. May the Lord curse him who takes me from her, unless she gives me of her own free will'.
The back of the brooch is also decorated and has a fragment of silver strip attached, onto which the fixings for the missing pin were mounted. This strip is engraved with seven imitation Anglo-Saxon runes which cannot be read. The nature of the damage may indicate that the brooch was torn quickly and with some force from clothing and then buried, perhaps at a time of danger.
The bold but simple decoration, the size of the brooch and the inscription suggest that its owner was a woman of some status.
R.I. Page, An introduction to English run, 2nd ed. (Woodbridge, Boydell, 1999)
D.M. Wilson, Anglo-Saxon ornamental metalwo (London, The British Museum Press, 1964)
R.L.S. Bruce-Mitford, 'Late Saxon disc-brooches' in Dark-Age Britain-1 (London, Methuen, 1956)
J. Backhouse, D.H. Turner and L. Webster (eds.), The golden age of Anglo-Saxon, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1984)