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Square-headed brooch


Length: 11.000 cm

Gift of Darenth and Stone Hospital Management Committee

M&ME 1954,12-4,1

Britain, Europe and Prehistory

    Square-headed brooch

    Early Anglo-Saxon, early 6th century AD
    From Darenth Park, Dartford, Kent, England

    A silver gilt and nielloed brooch with openwork borders

    This brooch, although fragmentary, is a significant early example of the a type of Anglo-Saxon brooch known as 'great square-headed' brooches after their size and shape of the headplate. Great square-headed brooches excavated from female graves have been found on the front of the body at the chest or under the chin. This positioning, together with the fact that they are sometimes found overlying other shoulder brooches, suggest they were used to fasten a cloak or shawl worn over the dress.

    This example has openwork borders around the square head plate and to the sides of the footplate. The internal decoration of the panels consists largely of chip-carved spirals and Style I quadrupeds and figures. The stylized necks and heads of two facing birds form the curved edges of the open footplate. The borders between the panels are rendered with stamped nielloed triangles.

    Various details of the decoration of this brooch are similar to those on brooches from Scandinavia and Continental Europe. Both the English and Continental examples were probably copied from Scandinavian prototypes, and this is one of a number of such brooches that is evidence of Scandinavian influence on Saxon areas of settlement in south-eastern England.

    J. Hines, A new corpus of Anglo-Saxon gr (Woodbridge, Boydell for the Society of Antiquaries of London, 1997)

    D. Wilson, 'An Anglo-Saxon grave near Dartford, Kent', Archaeologia Cantiana, 70 (1957), pp. 187-91


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