- Museum number
Clasp comprising two sub-triangular plates of equal size, engaged by means of a hook and loop; the components have copper alloy cores wrapped in gold filigree-decorated sheet. It would have been sewn to a fabric or leather base by means of three loops on the underside. Three circular settings for shell inlays (now empty) mark the angles of the triangular plates, which are decorated with an identical symmetrical design of four interlaced Style II ribbon animals executed in beaded filigree wire on a raised base. The loop has a Style II confronted bird-headed creature in filigree: the hook has a simple pseudo-plait, twisted and S-scroll filigree. The back is plain.
- Production date
Length: 6.57 centimetres (eye-plate)
Length: 6.10 centimetres (hook-plate)
Width: 2.90 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Webster & Backhouse 1991 (reg. nos. 1883,1214.2-3)
The clasps are among the latest items from the exceptional early seventh-century barrow burial overlooking the river Thames at Taplow. In its complex assemblage of luxury items it commemorates a dead man whose status approaches that of the royal dynasty buried at Sutton Hoo. Among the many trappings of status, old and new, in the burial, the clasps with a significant number of other grave goods indicate a Kentish connection; their form and fine filigree technique and Style II decoration are best paralleled in the seventh-century Kentish gold-decorated triangular buckles. It is likely that a political reality underpins this link, connected perhaps with Kentish territorial expansion in the middle Thames region during the earlier seventh century, as much as with the spread of changing fashions in dress and religion.
The supremely elliptical Style II animal ornament seen here illustrates the close relationship of this sinuous and rhythmical style to the availability of gold and consequent use of filigree technique. The (briefly) increased availability of gold in early seventh-century Anglo-Saxon England is certainly an important factor in the rapid dissemination of the new style; while the occurrence of Kentish state-of-the-art pieces such as the clasps in the Thames valley also underscores the changing power structures at work in this period.
Bibliography: Smith, R.A. 1905, ‘Victoria County Histories, Buckinghamshire I, Anglo-Saxon Remains’, London, 199-204; Meaney, A. 1964, ‘A Gazetteer of Early Anglo-Saxon Burial Sites’, London, 59 and refs; Speake, G. 1980, ‘Anglo-Saxon Animal Art and its Germanic Background’, Oxford, 52 ff and refs.
- On display (G41/dc5)
- Exhibition history
2013 1 Jul-30 Sep, Durham, Palace Green Library, Lindisfarne Gospels Durham
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number