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Silver bow brooch


Length: 13.100 cm

Britain, Europe and Prehistory

    Silver bow brooch

    Possibly Slav or nomadic, late 6th-early 7th century AD
    From a hoard found at Martynivka (formerly Martynovka), near Kiev, Ukraine

    Female costume jewellery

    This silver bow brooch (one of a pair) is incised with a human head at the top, peacocks at the sides, ears of grain and an animal mask terminal. It imitates Germanic brooches in its general form. Until recently, the peacocks were thought to be animal heads like those appearing on Germanic brooches. However, the crests on the birds’ heads confirm the new identification. Birds were popular in early Slav art, appearing also on much later medieval Kievan jewellery. Nevertheless, the peacocks probably reflect Byzantine influence. The ears of grain would have been appropriate to an agricultural community. As the brooches here form a pair it is probable that they were worn as dress fasteners.

    The brooch was part of a hoard comprising 116 silver objects, including other female jewellery, male belt-fittings, parts of a sword, saddle-mounts and Byzantine vessels. The hoard weighed about 3.3 kg. The items are now shared between The British Museum and the National Historical Museum of the Ukraine. The hoard is thought to represent part of the treasury of an unknown local ruler, perhaps of the Slav-Antes people, and to have been buried at the time of nomadic incursions into the forest-steppe region, in the mid-late seventh century.

    S. Marzinzik, Masterpieces: Early medieval a (London, British Museum Press, 2013)

    L.V. Pekarskaja and D. Kidd, Der Silberschatz von Martynovk (Innsbruck, 1994)


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