Collection online


  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Gold opus interrasile breast-chain composed of two large central medallions connected to each other by four chains. Each medallion is composed of seven smaller open-work medallions, the central one in the form of a quatrefoil enclosing four cinquefoils in a symmetrical arrangement; this design is repeated three times in the surrounding medallions alternating with a design composed of an octofoil containing a symmetrical design of alternating trefoils and spear-headed motifs. In the interstices between each medallion, a trefoil emerging from a double running scroll; to the outer edge of each medallion are soldered four loops at equidistant intervals, each embellished with a granule at the junction of loop and edge, to which are attached the four open-work chains. Each chain is constructed of twenty-three small medallions alternately imitating the designs of which the central medallions are composed. The medallions are connected to each other by a double biconical loop of plain gold strip.


  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 7thC(early)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Diameter: 77.8 millimetres (large medallion)
    • Diameter: 26 millimetres (small medallion)
    • Length: 720 millimetres (chain)
    • Weight: 643.2 grammes
  • Curator's comments

    Published: W. Dennison, A Gold Treasure of the Late Roman Period (University of Michigan Studies, Human. Ser. 12), 1918, no. 15; J.P.C. Kent and K.S. Painter (eds.), Wealth of the Late Roman World (exh. cat.), London, 1977, no 163; K. Brown, The Gold Breast Chain of the Early Byzantine Period in the Romisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, Mainz (1984), 17-21; H. Tait (ed.), Seven Thousand Years of Jewellery, London (1986) p. 100; F. Daim et al (eds), Reitervolker aus dem Osten. Hunnen + Awaren, Eisenstadt, 1996, no. 5.68, 241; D. Papanikola-Bakirtzi (ed.), Everyday Life in Byzantium, Thessaloniki White Tower, Athens, 2002, no. 505; C. Johns, 'Body-Chains, Hellenistic to Late Roman', in Chris Entwistle (ed.), Through a Glass Brightly: Studies in Byzantine and Medieval Art and Archaeology presented to David Buckton, Oxford, 2003, 14, fig. 2.5; L. Wamser, Die Welt von Byzanz - Europas ostliches Erbe - Glanz, Krisen, und Fortleben einer tausendjahrigen Kultur, Munich, 2004, no. 493; H. Hawkesford, 'The Body Chain from the Hoxne Treasure', in M. Henig (ed.), Roman Art, Religion and Society, BAR Int. Ser. 1577, Oxford, 2006, pp. 42-44; R. Cormack and M. Vassilaki (eds), Byzantium 330-1453, London (Royal Academy), 2008, no. 126. Found with 1916,0704.2-6


  • Bibliography

    • Tait 1976 190 bibliographic details
    • Baldini Lippolis 1999 2.III.1.a.7 bibliographic details
    • Tait 1986a 223 bibliographic details
    • Yeroulanou 1999 45 bibliographic details
    • Buckton 1994 97 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G41/dc12

  • Exhibition history


    2012-2013 11 Nov-25 Aug, USA, Art Institute of Chicago, Tradition Transformed: Late Roman and Early Byzantine Treasures from the British Museum
    2010 26 Feb-13 Jun, Germany, Bonn, Kunst and Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Byzantium: Splendour and Daily Life
    2008-2009 25 Oct-22 Mar, London, Royal Academy of Arts, Byzantium 330-1453 AD
    2004 21 Oct-2005 3 Apr, Germany, Munich, Archäologische Staatssammlung, The World of Byzantium
    2001 10 Oct-2002 10 Jan, Greece, Thessaloniki, The White Tower, Byzantine Hours
    1996 25 Apr-31 Oct, Austria, Vienna, Schloss Halbturn, Hunnen und Awaren

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    The chain was part of a treasure of thirty-six objects said to have been found at Tomet, near Assiut, or at Shekh Abada (ancient Antinoe) at the beginning of this century. Mrs Burns was the sister of J. Pierpoint Morgan, the American philanthropist who had himself acquired ten objects from the treasure in 1912.

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number


COMPASS Title: Gold breast chain

COMPASS Title: Gold breast chain

Image description



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Object reference number: MCB1370

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