Iron Age Brooch, Exning

front, side and back of brooch

An Iron Age copper-alloy bow brooch from Exning, dating c. 450-300 BC.

This brooch is an “La Tene I” style brooch. The entire object has been cast in one piece, with a coiled spring at its top and a so-called ‘reverted’ foot that turns back on itself. This example is quite plain, demonstrating only some moulded lenticular motifs on the front face of its body, but more ornate examples are known to exist.

Though this type is heavily influenced by its continental counterparts, by contrast the later Iron Age brooches manufactured in Britain have a more individualistic flair, with types existing here that are unparalleled elsewhere in Europe. Examples in both iron and copper-alloy occur in this period, with increasing diversity in the other types of material used to enhance the appearance of brooches. These include inlays of glass, enamel and coral in various garish colours.

This particular type of brooch is the most common type and has been shown to concentrate in counties such as Wiltshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire, as well as on the Sussex coastal plain, the Kentish coast and in parts of East Anglia.

The modern use of brooches to most people is generally taken in the context of decorative jewellery pieces used to adorn clothing. However, in the past brooches were a key part of everyday dress used to secure clothing together, fulfilling roles of adornment and social display in both life and death. Before the appearance of the earliest brooches in Britain (c. 450 BC) it was the job of large and impressive dress-pins to fulfil the same job. These are far less commonly encountered than the Early Iron Age brooches, implying that things had changed both in terms of the people who had access to these dress accessories and on the scale at which they were manufactured.

There are about a thousand brooches known (from metal detecting and in museum collections) from the Early and Middle Iron Age (c. 450-150 BC).

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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