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The Cruciform Brooch and Anglo-Saxon England

The Cruciform Brooch and Anglo-Saxon England

Toby F. Martin
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    The Cruciform Brooch and Anglo-Saxon England
    Book Description:

    Cruciform brooches were large and decorative items of jewellery, frequently used to pin together women's garments in pre-Christian northwest Europe. Characterised by the strange bestial visages that project from the feet of these dress and cloak fasteners, cruciform brooches were especially common in eastern England during the 5th and 6th centuries AD. For this reason, archaeologists have long associated them with those shadowy tribal originators of the English: the Angles of the Migration period. This book provides a multifaceted, holistic and contextual analysis of more than 2,000 Anglo-Saxon cruciform brooches. It offers a critical examination of identity in Early Medieval society, suggesting that the idea of being Anglian in post-Roman Britain was not a primordial, tribal identity transplanted from northern Germany, but was at least partly forged through the repeated, prevalent use of dress and material culture. Additionally, the particular women that were buried with cruciform brooches, and indeed their very funerals, played an important role in the process. These ideas are explored through a new typology and an updated chronology for cruciform brooches, alongside considerations of their production, exchange and use. The author also examines their geographical distribution through time and their most common archaeological contexts: the inhumation and cremation cemeteries of early Anglo-Saxon England. Dr Toby Martin is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Archaeology, Oxford University.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-476-5
    Subjects: Archaeology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-xiii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. 1 The Anglian Brooch par excellence
    (pp. 1-11)

    Almost exactly a century ago Edward Thurlow Leeds, in what might justifiably be called the founding work of early Anglo-Saxon archaeology, described the cruciform brooch as the ‘Anglian broochpar excellence’.¹ It was the distribution of cruciform brooches in the eastern half of England along with their appearance here following the fall of Roman Britain that inspired Leeds to make such a grand statement (Figures 1 and 2). The Anglian cultural zone, which is represented not just by cruciform brooches but by a few other types of jewellery, was a persevering material phenomenon in the region for most of the...

  7. 2 A New Typology for Cruciform Brooches
    (pp. 12-89)

    The earliest cruciform brooches did not already contain the sum components of their future development awaiting stylistic elaboration. Although they were small and plain they did, however, contain many elements that proved remarkably resilient to change and remained part of cruciform brooch design from start to finish. The definitive cruciform brooch arrangement of a head-plate with three knobs and a foot decorated with an animal or human mask is one such feature that persevered. However, additional elements were inventedde novoon the cruciform brooch along the way. Furthermore, cruciform brooches exchanged stylistic features with a host of other decorative...

  8. 3 Building a Chronological Framework
    (pp. 90-128)

    While there is little doubt that the ordering of types in the previous chapter reflects a broad direction of chronological change from small and plain brooches to large and elaborate ones, this tells us little about which types were contemporary, how rapidly this development occurred, or if it was at an even pace. The significant extent to which components were exchanged between types suggests that many of them were contemporary, effectively constituting a pool of components from which craftspeople could copy and mix designs. While some tightly defined types probably possessed narrower chronological horizons, the more generic types most likely...

  9. 4 Cycles of Exchange and Production
    (pp. 129-160)

    An holistic understanding of cruciform brooch production must go beyond a technical explanation of casting processes and raw materials. From an interpretative perspective, production involves a number of physical, mental and social processes. Craft production is also, inevitably, part of wider exchange relationships. Here, I will accentuate the cyclical nature of both production and exchange in order to emphasise their reiterative, perpetual and socially reproductive functions. The idea of repetitive action is also necessary to understand how cruciform brooches operated as material symbols, how they came to stand for something other than themselves and how they consequently became valuable items....

  10. 5 Migrants, Angles and Petty Kings
    (pp. 161-190)

    In the previous chapter, I suggested that the production and exchange of objects like cruciform brooches created a world of material and social connections binding both objects and people into what we refer to as early Anglo-Saxon society. The question posed in this chapter is what kind of a society did cruciform brooches go toward creating? And within what kind of socio-political structures did they operate? Accordingly, this chapter asks what cruciform brooches can tell us about three of the most important historical processes of the fifth and sixth centuries: migration, the construction of ethnic identities and the formation of...

  11. 6 Bearers of Tradition
    (pp. 191-232)

    Only particular women in early Anglo-Saxon society wore cruciform brooches. Upon their death, their mourners buried or cremated many of them deliberately and spectacularly in their full regalia. In so doing, their surviving kin drew persuasive connections between their own social status and that of their deceased wife, mother, sister, daughter, cousin or more distant relative. The women who wore cruciform brooches were therefore a minority capable of standing for a greater whole. By wearing cruciform brooches in life and in death, they bore a material tradition that held considerable importance to their kin group, household or wider community. The...

  12. 7 Cruciform Brooches, Anglo-Saxon England and Beyond
    (pp. 233-238)

    The foregoing analyses and discussions permit us to paint the following picture of cruciform brooches and Anglo-Saxon England. The first examples were probably brought to south-east England by migrants in the 420s. While this suggestion will probably remain contentious, from the available historical and archaeological evidence, this seems likely. Any absolute date tied to this event should and will be subject to further scrutiny, but some point in the first third of the fifth century seems probable. At this early stage cruciform brooches were relatively small and plain items, assuming a variety of forms that were common to the North...

  13. Appendix 1 Cruciform Brooches by Type
    (pp. 239-296)
  14. Appendix 2 Cruciform Brooches by Location
    (pp. 297-310)
  15. Appendix 3 A Guide to Fragment Classification
    (pp. 311-314)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 315-334)
  17. Index
    (pp. 335-338)
  18. Plates
    (pp. 339-380)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 381-383)