Zoomorphic strap end, Hartest

front, side and back of zoomorphic strap end

Almost complete zoomorphic strap end in the Winchester style dating c. 900-1100 AD, found in the Hartest area.

This strap end is a particularly complete and impressive example decorated in this style. It is decorate with a central plant stem sprouting leaves to either side, sitting below which are a pair of birds with their backs facing inwards, turning their heads over their bodies towards each other. Though not particularly common as a motif, it can be paralleled by other strap ends from across the country, although this example is somewhat unusual – it depicts the whole scene in a round three dimensional style, as opposed to just demonstrating a decorated upper surface which is the norm. The feathers and eyes have been rendered extremely realistically, implying a great deal of care and attention went into the manufacturing of this object.

It is ornate in its overall form. This is a so-called ‘tongue shaped’ example dating from the end of the Early Medieval period, decorated in a way generically referred to as the Winchester style. This specific artistic medium originated in the houses of religious orders and cathedrals in southern England from the 10th to 11th centuries, primarily in illuminated manuscripts. The main emphasis of this style is based around the use of symmetry, primarily using foliate (plant) motifs which intertwine and flourish in repeating patterns of scrolled leaves, buds and stems. Sometimes, animals inhabit the foliage or are themselves depicted alone in intertwined symmetrical designs, though the latter is more rare.

The generally large size of tongue-shaped strap ends made them suitable candidates for the application of ornate designs such as this, therefore the use of Winchester style ornaments quickly transferred onto these and other objects. Over 250 strap ends decorated in the Winchester style have been recorded via the national Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) mostly from East Anglia and south-eastern England, with further examples known from museum collections and archaeological excavations.

Strap ends are one of the most ubiquitous and numerous objects recorded on the PAS database. Designed to act as protective terminals for leather straps (e.g. on a harness, knapsack or clothing) as well as belt ends. They are an incredibly diverse form of object both in terms of function as well as decoration. Medieval examples tend to be mass produced in sheet metal and correspond to a general set form, whilst older pieces demonstrate a greater application of individuality in their construction. Known in both base and precious metals, many of these earlier strap ends (mostly Early Medieval examples) demonstrate complex decorative techniques such as moulding, engraving, gilding, inlaying of glass, niello or fine silver wire.

View the full record on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database

Thank you to the finder for allowing this object to be featured.

This find was recorded by the Suffolk Finds Recording Team, supported by the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

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