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Reference Name LCNCC : 2004.231

Gold Iron Age fibula brooch of birdlip type

Physical Dimensions:

  • length: 55mmwhen straightened
  • width: mm
  • height: mm
  • weight: 14.5g

Material: gold

Condition: good

Quantity: 1

Completeness: 90% (pin mechanism missing)

Period: iron age, late

Place Name: Normanby le Wold

Place Name: Lincolnshire

Place Name: UK

Commentary: The brooch was originally made in at least three pieces: the body of the brooch; the spring and pin; and a small roughly triangular plate across the rear of the catch plate. The spring was probably fixed to the body of the bow with resin or glue. Traces of a black residue are present where the spring was attached to inside the mouth of the 'trumpet' at the head of the brooch. The main body of the brooch was moulded in a single piece and has a cross shaped cross section. It would have had a marked dog-legged profile with a long flat back turning sharply through an acute angle directly over the head of the brooch where the spring would have fitted. The head of the brooch ends in a trumpet shape where the missing spring and pin would be attached. The flat back of the brooch would have been the most visible part when worn. It is plain except for a single transverse rib running the length of the bow up to the moulded decoration in high relief close to the head of the brooch. Here a prominent forward facing hook with a slightly hollowed interior rises sharply from the surface of the bow. In front of the hook are two prominent circular bosses, outlined by a single raised line that forms part of a scroll that form large half 'trumpets' above eye circular boss. These half trumpets are highlighted with four rows of cabling. Running between the circular bosses and half trumpets from the forward facing hook is a raised rib that develops into a teardrop swelling directly over the 'trumpet' shaped swelling of the brooches head. Highlighting the visible edge of the 'trumpet' swelling is a line of iregular short lines to create a cabling pattern. The catch plate of the brooch has two rectilinear perforations separated by a narrow stepped bridge-work. The outside of the catch plate, the side opposite to where the pin would be held, is decorated with three small zones of irregularly spaced dots. Two of these small zones are rectangular in shape on the stepped bridge work separating the two perforations. These are outlined on two sides by a faint engraved line. The third zone is at the front of the catch plate where a semi circle containing an empty circle is marked by a faint line. The two 'trumpet' shapes created inside the semi circle by the complete circle are infilled with irregular dots. Finally the end of the brooch with the small roughly triangular plate across the rear of the catch plate is also decorated. The large circular rivet holding on this plate is decorated with dots and the plate itself has faint traces of an engraved line and small zone of dots. All the decoration on the catch plate was probably made after the brooch was cast. This brooch is a gold version of a birdlip or beaked bow brooch. Similar brooches made from bronze and very rarely silver are known in small numbers across central England. They probably date to the late 1st century BC and early to middle 1st Century AD (c.30BC-AD50). Several have been found in closely dateable contexts during archaeological excavations such as Dragonby in Lincolnshire and Kingsholm in Gloucestershire. Although a late Iron Age type of brooch, they were probably still worn for a short time after the Roman Conquest. The most well known brooch of this type is the example in bronze from the Birdlip burial in Glouctershire. A gilded silver brooch of this type was found at Dragonby in Lincolnshire, part of another has been found at the East Leicestershire late Iron Age coin hoard site. Another example in gold has been found in Lincolnshire near Market Rasen. This brooch is smaller than the Normanby brooch and has a slightly different shape. The decoration on the head of this brooch is more similar to that on the Birdlip and Ham Hill brooches with circles or dots next to the 'beak', circles and trumpet motifs above them on this and other birdlip type brooches give the impression of a stylized face. Gold Iron Age brooches are a rare find, and only 5 have been definitely discovered in England before this discovery (4 in the Winchester hoard discovered in 2000 and the gold birdlip brooch from Market Rasen).


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Last updated: 09-February-2016 12:48:46

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