Brooches found in Britain and dated to the Iron Age and Roman eras come in a range of forms with three main categories: bow, crossbow and plate. In this last category are two subtypes, zoomorphic and skeuomorphic brooches, which take the shape of animals and objects. They range from representations of hares, dogs, horses with or without riders, and birds to lamps, sandals, knives and axes among others.
In the ancient world, dress was an important part of the interactions within society, constructing communal and personal identities. The pins on the back of the brooches, which are often missing, suggest that the pieces were made to be worn and, consequently, send messages about the wearer. Several approaches have been taken to attempt to interpret these objects and what they communicated. Crummy connects chicken, fly and sandal brooches which the god Mercury. Brooches may be interpreted in a similar way to Roman intaglios as symbols of a wearer's religious ideology while others have suggested that they may have been pilgrim badges.
When analysing the distribution of these pieces to determine the contexts in which they were used, many of these brooches are found out of their original contexts of use or deposition because they, as with other metal objects, are often found through metal-detecting. Allason-Jones studied distribution through the zoomorphic brooches recorded through the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Through this, she suggested which animal brooches may have been connected to the military or civilians but relied on the former approach for interpretation. On the other hand, using the brooches in Hull's unpublished catalogue of brooch finds, Eckardt assessed the distribution of the Horse-and-Rider brooches over site types to show that 53% are connected with ritual sites but contrasts them with pilgrim badge distributions and suggests that they were more likely votive deposits.
Condition: Red and green enamelling. Pin missing. Needs a professional clean.
Provenance: Ex. private collection, UK; acquired at UK auction.