Posts in Category: Copper

September - We hope this won't boar you 

Thursday, August 24, 2017 5:36:00 PM Categories: Accessories Animals Clothing Copper Metal Roman

This month we have a rather nice zoomorphic (animal-shaped) enamelled Roman strap fitting to show you. At first glance it looks very much like a plate brooch, but an examination of the fittings on the reverse show this not the case. Instead of hinged lugs and an opposing catchplate, characteristic of a brooch, the fitting has two T-shaped projections for attaching it to a strap.

Photograph of Romano-British strap fitting in the shape of a boarIt is made in the shape of a right facing boar. The facial features are moulded in relief and one ear is projecting slightly from the top of the head. The eye is recessed and inlaid with black enamel. The mouth is shown by a groove just below the snout with a moulded tusk projecting from the edge. A series of fine grooves across the head indicate the texture of bristles. The head is divided from the body by a line of punched holes. The body has a recessed area filled with blue champlevé enamel and three spots of white enamel; one at the shoulder, one at the top of the foreleg and one, larger spot on the flank. This last spot has a central hollow with traces of a red substance within. The finder notes that it originally had a dark-coloured enamel filling when discovered, but this dropped out and was lost in the soil. The large hole in the centre of the find would have originally held a loop for a pivoting copper alloy ring. Both of the legs end in cloven trotters. Two projecting stubs at the rear of the animal indicate the position of the missing tail.

The boar is a relatively common figure in Roman iconography, with many examples recorded on the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) database including: WILT-5D5B17 & SUSS-DB2C32. The banners of several Roman legions depicted a boar. Notably the XX legion used a jumping boar. The boar is said to be a symbol of strength and an embodiment of the warrior spirit.

The full record can be found at www.finds,org using the reference NMS-F70707 in the search field. 

June - Panned Out Well 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017 11:48:00 AM Categories: Accessories Brooch Copper Food Religion Roman

June's find of the month is a rather nice and very unusual copper alloy Roman brooch.  It is of a type that is representational of an object, which are collectively known as skeuomorphic brooches. 

Figure 1. Roman Patera brooch

Figure 1. Roman Patera brooch

This particular example (Figure 1) was found near Marham in Norfolk and is very unusual in that it represents a small Roman vessel called a Patera (see Figure 2). The exact purpose of the Patera in Roman life is not entirely clear but it is believed that they were used as simple cooking utensils and/or ceremonially to pour libations or make offerings of food to a chosen deity. There are many other types of representational brooches produced by inventive Roman craftsmen; these include for example amphora, horse and riders, axes, and sandal soles.


Figure 2. Examples of Roman Paterae

Figure 2. Examples of Roman Paterae

To date, there is only one other Patera brooch recorded on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database which was found on the Isle of Wight. Both records can be viewed in full at www.finds.org.uk using the search reference NMS-2104DA for the Norfolk example, and IOW-1EE0B7 for the Isle of Wight example.

May - About Time 

Friday, April 21, 2017 4:15:00 PM Categories: Accessories Copper Medieval Metal Tool

These days we take most of our gadgets for granted. Technology has advanced at such a rapid rate that much of the powerful science behind our modern devices goes unnoticed. For example, night or day the simplicity of telling the time takes no more effort than a glance at the watch on your wrist or at the illuminated digits of some appliance or gadget. Hundreds of years ago, for the majority at least, the state of the art for telling the time would have been a sundial. This is great if it happens to be shining during the day enough to cast a shadow, but one time when it’s guaranteed not to shine is during the pitch dark of the night.

Step up the Nocturnal. A nocturnal is a device made of two or more dials that in the northern hemisphere allows the local time to be determined at night by sighting the relative position of a reference star to the North Star. In the northern hemisphere, all stars will appear to rotate about the North Star during the night, and their positions, like the progress of the sun, can be used to determine the time.

April's find of the month then is a rare fragment of a 15th century medieval nocturnal. 


Photograph of fragment of medieval nocturnal

The object which was found near Snetterton, is fully described at https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/842452. It would have doubled as the lid of a type of cylindrical compendium which also contained a magnetic compass and an equinoctial sundial. Almost complete examples are held by the Oxford Museum of the History of Science (inv. nos. 50896 and 46855) and the British Museum (acc. no. 1853.06181).

January - Taking the lead 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017 4:11:00 PM Categories: Accessories Animals Copper Medieval Metal

January's Find of the Month carries a slightly tentative identification. This find, shown below, was discovered near Swaffham but similar, clearly related, objects have been found elsewhere in England and are thought to be components from composite swivels. 

Photograph of swivel

Swivels were relatively common in the Middle Ages and are understood to have had a range of uses, one of which was for animal leashes such as for hunting dogs.  Hunting was an elite activity sponsored by the rich and the equipment used in pursuit of the sport were sometimes extremely opulent, not least for their favourite furry friend. The hunting illustration shown is a 15th century image of a stag hunt using horses and leashed dogs. 

Miniature from the Book of Hunting by Gaston III, Count of Foix

Smaller complete examples of swivels have been found and they are known to exist in a variety of different configurations. However, a complete parallel to this type has not yet been recorded, hence the tentative identification, nonetheless assembled fragments have surfaced with enough of the elements still attached to give some degree of confidence to the identity (See image below). The style and openwork decoration on the Norfolk-found example dates it to circa 12th century CE. The complete record for this object can be found at 'finds.org.uk/database' using NMS-593129 as the search reference.

More complete example of a swivel from Hampshire


 

 

August - Handle with care 

Friday, August 19, 2016 10:30:00 AM Categories: Copper Medieval Metal Post-medieval Tool

After the special artefact featured in July we are back to the more modest this month with a rather corroded handle terminal of a scale tang late medieval to early post medieval knife.  The handle terminal is comprised of two sub-square copper alloy plates with curved ends that sandwich a remnant of the iron knife tang between.

Photograph of knife handle terminal

One plate has a central circular depression which taken with a slight witness mark on the opposite plate is suggestive of a central rivet that passes through a coincident hole in the tang.  Both plates are decorated with engraved images.  One side can be interpreted as a left facing cowled head, possibly iconographic; however, the other side cannot be resolved. 


Complete example of knife of same type and date

The complete example of a knife shown is courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum collection; although it is not a close parallel in terms of the handle terminal design it's form and date are broadly indicative of type.  Circa 1450-1550 AD.  The object was found near Dereham in a cultivated field by an old spring.  A full description can be found on the Portable Antiquities website (www.finds.org.uk) using the reference number NMS-833624.

July - Hold your horses 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016 10:25:00 AM Categories: Animals Copper Grooming Iron Metal Roman Tool

July's Find of the Month is very unusual in several respects. First, we are breaking the mould slightly as, in our enthusiasm to show it to you, the Portable Antiquities record is not yet complete and the object is still undergoing research.  Secondly, because of its rarity and the circumstances under which it was recovered.

It was found with a metal detector in a field in North Norfolk buried in a hoard together with a number of Roman pots.  It was included within a concretion of tools, soil and iron oxide that was excavated complete. The object was then fully revealed in a controlled off-site stage excavation of the concreted assemblage.  Shown in figure 1 below is the mass from which the object emerged, a tiny part of it can just be seen at the edge in the one o’clock position.

Concretion of tools, soil and iron oxide which contained the find

Figure 1

Projection of the butteris

Figure 2

The find that emerged is shown above in figure 2 and below in figure 3, and along with the other artefacts that emerged is now undergoing further research before being recorded onto the Portable Antiquities Scheme database. It has been identified as a Roman farrier’s tool called a Butteris and it was used to maintain and pare horses’ hooves.

Three quarter view of the butteris

Figure 3

The more usual form of a Roman butteris is a plain construction of iron, but this example has a wonderful composite design with a copper alloy moulded handle and an iron blade. The copper alloy handle appears to have some associated symbolism, as the eagle terminal and the projecting human head are repeated on other examples such as the smaller butteris handle shown in figure 4 that was found in Belgium.


A similar example from Belgium

Figure 4

As a result of a much worn Roman nummus coin found in the assemblage, the deposition of the hoard can be placed right at the end of the Roman occupation of Britain.  Credit is due to the finders who realising the significance of what they had found contacted the Historic Environment Service to enable a controlled excavation to be carried out.

April - The Beast of East Anglia 

Wednesday, April 06, 2016 1:01:00 PM Categories: Accessories Animals Brooch Copper Metal Saxon

Our chosen find this month was found on the Suffolk border and is a type of Saxon brooch that has a growing population on the Portable Antiquities Scheme Database.  

Photograph of Saxon brooch featuring backwards turning beast and ring and dot decoration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The number of these brooches recorded by the scheme and the identification and recording team at Gressenhall is now approaching 90. These brooches are found as far away as the Welsh border, but interestingly the distribution is proving to be very much centred on East Anglia. 

The brooch is a late Saxon disc type dating to circa 850-1000 AD and depicts a backwards facing beast. It often, but not always, features ring and dot decoration as part of the design.

The map below is a form of geographic map plot called a ‘heat map’ and gives a colour-contoured representation of the distribution, where red depicts the highest density.  As you can see East Anglia seems to be home to the beastie

Heat map of the distribution of backwards facing beast brooches in England.

 

March - Don't hang around 

Wednesday, March 09, 2016 3:20:00 PM Categories: Accessories Copper Metal Post-medieval

March's find of the month surfaced from ploughed land near Thetford. The object is a late 16th to 17th century post medieval sword hanger, which would have attached the scabbard - containing the sword - to a belt, using straps and rivets. This type is made from copper alloy, and it is very unusual to find a complete example.

Photograph of post-medieval sword hanger

The foliate decoration makes fragments readily identifiable and the individual hooks and various pieces are very common finds across the fields of Norfolk and England.  Given the type was so prolific it is surprising that a search failed to find a single original picture or surviving example of a hanger actually in use.  

There were many images of more sophisticated examples often made of silver, but perhaps, as the accessories of the common post-medieval man, this type would be used until worn-out or broken making it less likely for complete examples to survive. As such the owners would not be of sufficient social status to feature in portraits nor would their trusted long-serving possessions merit subsequent preservation like their more opulent equivalents.

February - Getting to the point 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016 2:59:00 PM Categories: Bronze Age Copper Grooming Metal Metal working Tool

This month we are going back to the Bronze Age to a time when the production, fabrication, development and use of metals was very much in its infancy.  The late Bronze Age knife or razor shown below was found near Swaffham and was probably cast in a two-piece clay mould around 800 to 700 BC.


Photograph of Bronze Age knife

The metal is Bronze which is comprised of copper and tin alloyed together, but it probably also contained a deliberate addition of lead, as the metal-workers of the time had already discovered that this made the metal more fluid when molten and therefore improved the casting process (1).  As the drawing shows the leaf-shaped blade is still in surprisingly sharp condition.


Illustration of Bronze Age knife

Full details of the knife can be seen at www.finds.org.uk using search reference NMS-5BFE67.

 

Ref 1: A Sample Analysis of British Middle and late Bronze Age material using Optical Spectrometry, M Brown and A Blin-Stoyle.

December - Best foot forward 

Friday, December 04, 2015 12:22:00 PM Categories: Animals Copper Food Metal Post-medieval

December's find of the month is a modest choice, modest in the sense that it is a humble fragment of something much larger. 

Photo of animal-headed foot of post-medieval chafing dish

A significant part of the skill of the identifier of these fragmentary objects is being able to recognise them as pieces of the parent object which they used to be part of. It is rather like being handed a single piece of a large jigsaw and needing to recognise it as part of the bigger scene from a recollection of the box lid. 

Challenge met then, the small fragment pictured above, turns out to be the animal-headed curving foot of a post-medieval chafing dish support.  It’s location in-situ can be seen in the picture below of an example in the Curtius Museum in Belgium.


Photo of example of whole chafing dish from the Curtius Museum in Belgium

Chafing dishes were used to hold burning charcoal or other combustible material, whose purpose was to cook food or keep it hot at the table. Examples of this type of dish date to circa 1575-1650 AD.

The object was found on farmland close to Wymondham in Norfolk. The full record can be seen at www.finds.org.uk using the reference NMS-AB93AB.

Page 1 of 2 1 2 > >>
Norfolk County Council logo Heritage Lottery Fund logo

Powered by HBSMR-web and the HBSMR Gateway from exeGesIS SDM Ltd, and mojoPortal CMS
© 2007 - 2017 Norfolk Historic Environment Service