Figurative Animal Pin Heads, Staunch Meadow, Brandon

two figurative animal pin heads

All the pins date to the 8th-9th Century AD. Some of the depictions on these pins are so abstract that the animal they represent remains a bit of a mystery.

Found at the Anglo-Saxon monastic site at Staunch Meadow, Brandon, the three pins (Sf 2161, Sf 2163 and Sf 2297) have flat heads decorated with depictions of animals and were excavated from unstratified contexts across the site. The final animal pin has a more rounded head with applied decoration and was excavated from a pit.

The first pin (SF 2161) is made from gilded silver and has a kite-shaped head. It depicts two animals with prominent muzzles and dots for eyes. Their bodies, including the legs, dissolve into tightly bound spirals. Lower down on the pin head is a lateral snake like bar interlaced within the design. Similar designs have been seen in hoards in Scotland and in Anglo-Saxon Gospels.

The second pin (SF 2163) is gilded silver and is broadly shield-shaped. It depicts two affronted beasts with long muzzles and stocky snake like bodies. The eye on each of these beasts is represented by a ring and dot motif, their bodies are decorated with spots. These two beasts meet nose to nose above a third beast which is almost deer-like. It looks back on itself and its legs and tail dissolve into an interlace pattern.

illustration of pins.
Illustration of pin SF 2161 (right) and SF 2163 (left)

The third pin (SF 2297) is much smaller but is also made of gilded silver and is decorated with interlaced lobed snake-like tendrils. This is quite an abstract design with few features that suggest they represent animals.

The last pin (SF 2000) is also made from silver but differs to the others as it has a very three-dimensional shape. The main head is sub-oval with a rather detailed upwards angled snout. The eyes have been made from inset yellow glass. This pin head is likely to depict a hog or pig like animal.

black and white illustration of pin
Illustration of pin SF 2000

The ‘From the Vaults’ series is written by the County Council’s Archaeological Archives Officer

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