Friday, January 30, 2015

Taplow Gold and Garnet buckle

Early Anglo-Saxon, late 6th century AD - Style 11

This is a beautiful buckle, and a description from the British Museum is below, you can see the Christian cross appearing in the garnet inlay at the bottom of the buckle.  This princely burial (according to L.Webster) belongs to a growing influence of costly burials, such as the Sutton Hoo, Taplow and Prittlewell burials, an Anglian influence meeting the 'Kentish' boundaries and to quote......

 "But the 'Kentish' version with its emphasis on sinuous filigree animals, soon began to travel far and wide across regional boundaries; fine metalwork of this kind not only appears at Taplow on the remote Chiltern edge, but in Wessex, Essex, East Anglia, Mercia, Lindsey and even Northumbria"

This is ostentatious jewellery as also seen in the Sutton Hoo burial, and the articles left in the boat burial show a high standard of living, consummate with a striving for power and a competitive element between the emerging rival kingdoms.  One could almost say the vitality of the jewels were reflected in a vital natural world that was changing not just through religion but the power of politics as well...To be honest I can see the long nose of a horse in the buckle but there again it would have been sideways on the belt, jewellery such as this reflected power of the wearer, a symbolic emblem which is more important in the message it gave.
This buckle was among the very rich grave goods recovered in the late nineteenth century from a burial beneath a mound in the old churchyard at Taplow Court. Like the clasps from Taplow, also in The British Museum, it displays materials and workmanship of the highest quality.
"The kidney-shaped loop of the buckle and the basal shield on the tongue are both decorated with garnet cloisonne. Cabochon garnets mark the two bosses at the broad end while the lower boss bears another cloisonne panel. The centre of the triangular plate is formed of gold sheet raised in hooked and curled sections. Each of these sections was then topped with strands of filigree wire that create the disconnected interlace of a single animal body with a head and eye at the right side.
This is one of a series of Anglo-Saxon buckles which combine panels of interlace with tongue shields in cloisonne. It is probably the finest, and the only one of solid gold. Its value is also evident in the all-over cloisonne loop and heavy multiple strands of filigree wire. The quatrefoil or cross-shaped garnet at the end of the buckle is a rare and perhaps significant shape, as it is found primarily on very high-status objects in England and Continental Europe."  British Museum"

And to tie up what I have already written about the Taplow Buckle, and it's Style 11, some notes on the earlier styles and how they developed from Roman influence....

1) Chip Carving techniques; originally developed for wood carving, for which angled knife or chisel cuts were made to produce a v-sectioned, easily adapted to metal working; chip carving wooden or wax templates were used to create the clay mould for both cast Roman buckles and Saxon brooches.

2) Large quantities of Roman gold medallions and coinage that circulated beyond the frontiers of empire, treasure paid out to buy peace from the neighbouring tribes.  Much of which was transformed into prestige jewellery.... thousands of these coins and medallions were also accumulated in huge treasure hoards and ritual deposits..

3)The decoration of these imperial coins/medallions and of the official metalwork of the Romans had a profound effect on these Germanic people. Creation of what we now call Style 1 - animal art in Scandinavia


  1. It never ceases to amaze me how beautiful some of this early stuff is - and also how well-preserved. I would absolutely love to find something like this.

    1. Mostly they are found within a small time frame, when burying the 'life' of a person with them was seen as an accompaniment to the next world. Nowadays we are more circumspect about valuables.

  2. An interesting post. I can see the horse too (though it has three nostrils if we're going for authenticity!!!) I never thought of all that Roman coinage being melted down to be re-purposed (Anglo-Saxon upcycling at its best!!!)

    1. It sort of follows on from that previous blog on hoards, collections of gold and coins to be turned into something else. And of course as the A/S goldsmiths held Roman jewellery and coins in their hands they would note the style and copy maybe.