Length: 12.7 cm
Width: 5.4 cm
Museum number: M&ME 1939,1010.4;
Gift of Mrs E.M. Pretty
Share this object
Shoulder clasps from the ship-burial at Sutton Hoo
Anglo-Saxon, early 7th century AD
From Mound 1, Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, England
Gold, cloisonné garnet, chequerboard millefiori and blue glass hinged shoulder-clasps
The shoulder-clasps are heavy and made in two halves, which are hinged and fastened by a strong pin. On the back are rows of loops which attached them to light-weight body armour, which must have been made of leather as no trace remained in the grave.
The decoration on each half of the clasps is nearly identical - four panels containing an extraordinary combination of geometric stepped cell-work within borders of sinuous animal ornament, all immaculately executed in garnet cloisonné, chequerboard millefiori and intense opaque blue glass. In contrast, the four curved ends are filled with a bold design of two entwined boars made with some of the largest garnets known in Anglo-Saxon England. Their strong shoulders are picked out in large slabs of millefiori, their tusks in blue glass and their spiky crests and curly tails in deliberately small garnets. The boar, probably a symbol of ferocity, strength and courage, may be a reminder of the wearer's qualities as a warrior. It is also used as a protective device by both men and women in early Anglo-Saxon England.
The shoulder clasps are based on Roman prototypes that were fashionable several centuries before the rise of the East Anglian Kingdom in the late sixth century.
Google Cultural Institute
R.L.S. Bruce-Mitford, The Sutton Hoo ship burial, vol. 2: arms, armour and regalia (London, The British Museum Press, 1978)
A.C. Evans, The Sutton Hoo ship burial, revised edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)