body chain / mount / coin
Body-chain with coin-set clasp and jewelled mount. Four chains are joined so as to form an upper-body decoration passing over the shoulders and under the arms of the wearer, and crossing at the front and back. The chains are of complex loop-in-loop construction connected laterally to form a thick flat strap, rather than a round-sectioned chain. They terminate in three-dimensional lions' heads. The lions have large eyes, rounded ears and flat muzzles. A plain tubular collar behind each head contains the end of the chain, fixed in place by a rivet, and each lion has a small ring in its mouth that connects with further rings to link with the frontal plaque, and to gold hooks at the other end, which connect with the back plaque to form a clasp. The collars that enclose the ends of the chains are encircled at each end by a band of twisted, square-sectioned wire.
The clasp at the back of the body chain takes the form of an octagonal open-backed mount set with a gold coin. A border in pierced gold features a foliate design of leafy spirals at the corners, meeting in the centre of each side over a heart-shaped leaf. This openwork border has been backed with sheet gold, so that it now appears simply as a design in relief on a solid background, and four ribbed rings are soldered to the backing in diagonal positions.
The coin is a solidus of Gratian (AD 367-83). At the front of the body chain is a roughly oval gold setting for nine gems. It has a slightly concave solid back. The centre oval cell contains a cabochon amethyst, and surrounding it four almond-shaped garnets (one damaged) alternate with four empty circular cells still containing some sulphur. These may have contained pearls.
- 367-375 (production date of coin)
- 4thC(late) (body chain)
- Minted in: Trier (coin)
- (Europe,Germany,Rhineland Palatinate,Trier)
- Excavated/Findspot: Hoxne (Hoxne hoard)
- (Europe,British Isles,England,Suffolk,Hoxne (parish))
- Length: 840 millimetres (extended)
- Length: 370 millimetres (minimum)
- Length: 380 millimetres (maximum)
- Length: 19 millimetres (lion-head terminals; approx)
- Width: 35 millimetres (coin mount)
- Weight: 249.5 grammes
Inscription ContentVICTORIA AVGG
The Hoxne (pronounced 'Hoxon') hoard is the richest find of treasure from Roman Britain. Alongside the approximately 15,000 coins were many other precious objects, buried for safety at a time when Britain was passing out of Roman control.
This body-chain is a type of ornament which had a long history and can be seen in representations in both Hellenistic and Roman art, but actual examples are extremely rare. The size of the chain indicates that it was worn, fitting closely over a thin garment, by a slender woman or adolescent girl with a bust
measurement of around 30–32 in (76–81 cm).
Treasure Trove, acquired with the aid of major grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the National Art Collections Fund, the J. Paul Getty Trust, The British Museum Friends, the Goldsmiths Charitable Trust, Lloyds Private Banking, and many donations by private individuals.
C. Johns, The Hoxne Late Roman Treasure; Gold Jewellery and Silver Plate (London, British Museum Press, 2010)
P.S.W. Guest, The Late Roman Gold and Silver Coins from the Hoxne Treasure (London, British Museum Press, 2005)
R. Bland and C.M. Johns, The Hoxne Treasure, an illustrated introduction (London, The British Museum Press, 1993)
C.M. Johns and R. Bland, 'The Hoxne late Roman treasure', Britannia, 25 (1994), pp. 165-73
2008-2009 25 Oct-22 Mar, London, Royal Academy of Arts, Byzantium 330-1453 AD
2005-2006 25 Jul-13 Jan, Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, Buried Treasure: Finding Our Past
2005 12 Feb-26 Jun, Newcastle, Hancock Museum, Buried Treasure: Finding Our Past
2004-2005 1 Oct-15 Jan, Manchester Museum, Buried Treasure: Finding Our Past
2004 30 Apr-21 Sep, Cardiff, National Museums & Galleries of Wales, Buried Treasure: Finding Our Past
2003-2004 21 Nov-14 Mar, London, BM, Buried Treasure: Finding Our Past
1994-1995 Oct-Jan, Ipswich Museum, The Hoxne Treasure
Prehistory and Europe
- T304 (Treasure number)
Gold body-chain, consisting of four chains joined at two plaques. The chains passed over the shoulders and under the arms of the wearer, with a decorative focus where they join on the chest and the back.. The two plaques where the chains join comprise a gold coin of Emperor Gratian (reigned AD 367-383) in a decorative mount, and an oval setting for nine gems, a central amethyst, four garnets, and four empty round settings which probably contained pearls, now completely decayed. Condition shots for 'Buried treasure' exhibition.
If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Object reference number: BCB90800
British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.
The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.