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Anglo-Saxon great square-headed brooch

After trying a different field to the one he had been targeting Stephen Palmer said he did quite well. Amongst a group of interesting items was the find pictured here. It is cast from copper-alloy, one side bears an image and the other side a stiffening ridge running vertically. The top edge is rounded but the bottom is rough, probably because it was broken off something larger.

So, what can this be? I can’t be absolutely certain but I would suggest this could be the footplate from an Anglo-Saxon great square-headed brooch. These things date from the pagan period, which lasted until well into the 6th century. The image on Stephen’s find looks rather like Jesus Christ but this can be ruled out because of the date of manufacture. Similar images can be seen on other Anglo-Saxon artefacts dating from the 5th to early 7th centuries. They might be intended to represent a pagan god or a warrior.

If this is the foot from a great square-headed brooch then shouldn’t the image be the other way up? This type of brooch was worn by women on each side of the chest. When worn the square head was at the bottom and the foot at the top. We know this from the careful excavation of Anglo-Saxon female graves. So, the head is the bottom and the foot is the top. Therefore, when being worn the image would be the correct way up.

Most of the front face of great square-headed brooches was gilded. On Stephen’s find the area surrounding the image is glided, which adds more weight to my suggestion that it is the footplate of a brooch.

Where is the rest of the brooch? It might be somewhere on the field, so I suggested that another search would be worthwhile. Should there be any indication that the footplate could be part of a burial then any excavation work should be handed over to archaeologists.

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