Danish Gold Fibula and Ring

i-4d0688a806afb2d5407d9397fb469ba7-Guldfibula1_s.jpg

Archaeologists love preciousss metals. Not for their monetary value, but because they keep so well. Take a fine damascened sword whose blade ripples like water, so well balanced that you hardly feel its weight, and bury it: it will look like crap after a few centuries. Bury a golden object, and it will in most cases remain unchanged for millennia. It’s basically a question of information integrity. Materials like flint and gold allow us to see exactly what prehistoric people saw, and to understand that their material culture was no less skilfully made and eye-catching than ours.

Today brooches and badges have no functional significance: we hook them to a convenient spot on our clothing to signal something or just to look good. But until long after the introduction of buttons in the late 1st Millennium, brooches (and strap buckles, and the odd toggle) were what kept your clothes from falling off.

The brooch and finger ring in the pic above were found a few years ago in a grave at Rosenholmvej in Tjrring parish, Ringkbing county, western Jutland. Profiled fibulae like this were common around AD 100 (phase B2 of the Roman Iron Age) over most of Germanic-speaking northern Europe. But they are always made of bronze. Golden fibulae of any type are exceptionally rare. Tribes in Jutland enjoyed unparallelled access to Roman trade and diplomatic gifts at the time, until power shifted to Zealand around AD 200.

The brooch measures 72.5 by 22 mm. It’s made of gold with 10% silver and 1-3% copper. The total weight of the fibula and the finger ring hung on its pin is 66 grams. The find is exhibited at Herning Museum and has been published in the annual FRAM. Fra Ringkbing amts museer 2004.

Thanks to Kent Andersson for Kjeld Hansen’s photograph and the date, to Karen Hilund Nielsen for contextual information.

[More blog entries about , , , , , ; , , , , .]

Comments

  1. #1 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    March 27, 2007

    What about the silver content? Was it added on purpose to achieve a certain hardness and workability, or is it an artifact of limited purification procedures?

  2. #2 Martin R
    March 28, 2007

    That’s really a matter of interpretation. To answer the question, I’d like to look at the composition of coeval Roman coins, which are likely to have provided raw material for the jewellery.

    Apart from durability, you would need a certain stiffness in the material for the spring mechanism of the fibula to work (cf. modern safety pins). It wouldn’t surprise me if the fibula’s spiral has an alloy composition different from the rest of the brooch.