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La Tene I type fibula

From earliest times and into the Medieval period, people used pins to hold their clothes together. Ancient Sumerians and Egyptians made pins with decorated heads and then in the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans they began to use fibulae, or brooches.

This example recently came in to the Finds Liaison office in the museum for processing by the Volunteers there. Discovered by a metal detectorist, it is what is described as a La Tene brooch and falls about halfway through the history of brooches. It dates from the Iron Age, about 2 500 years ago. Brooches of this age are not unusual, but complete ones are a treat.

The La Tene material culture became widespread across Europe with a remarkable degree of standardisation. Thus this could be an import, or worn by a visitor to the country, but is likely to have been made in England.

Excavations of burials show that these were worn at the shoulder, holding together a tunic, or keeping a cloak or cape in place. Although the official description of such brooches always starts at the ‘head’ (in this case describing the coils of the spring, the pin, etc, first) and continues with the bow and ‘foot’ (in this case the curved section with the disc at the end), regular readers will know that the brooches were actually worn the other way up.