Dump truck delivers topsoil, 9th c. Anglo-Saxon silver brooch

A rare Anglo-Saxon brooch that was once part of the most unwittingly valuable dump truck full of a topsoil is on its way to being declared treasure. It was discovered by a novice metal detectorist in a field near Swaffham, Norfolk, on May 9th, 2019. Numbers that should forever be his lotto picks, because it was literally the third time he’d ever gone metal detecting. He had no idea what he’d found, at first thinking it was Victorian. He reported his lucky strike to the local finds liaison for the Portable Antiquities Scheme who identified it as an Anglo-Saxon silver disc brooch in Trewhiddle style dating to the mid- to late 9th century.

The brooch is made of silver with niello inlay. It is three inches in diameter and is complete with the pin mechanism on the back. The front features a central cross with concave arms over a saltire of open-work tongue-shaped lobes. Inside the lobes of the saltire are what appear to be three stacked pots with large, round flowers growing out of the top and bottom pots. The spaces between the saltire and the arms of the cross are decorated with zoomorphic figures typical of the Trewhiddle style. Around the edges of the disc are swirling foliar designs. Five domed bosses are riveted on the arms and center of the cross.

The Norfolk County Council dispatched archaeologists to the find site to excavate it. Beneath the layer where the brooch was found, the team unearthed a 19th century plough, so they knew the brooch was likely deposited on the field rather than having slumbered there for centuries. The landowner confirmed he had recently had a load of soil dumped on the field, but he didn’t know where it came from having simply “flagged down” a truck.

Topsoil deliveries usually don’t range far afield so the soil was almost certainly local, and this would not be the first time exceptional Anglo-Saxon brooches were found in the environs. The Pentney Hoard which includes six open-work silver disc brooches in Trewhiddle style, was discovered by a gravedigger in a churchyard not 10 miles away in 1978. The swirled foliar border, cross, saltire and bosses of the newly-discovered brooch are very similar to one in the Pentney Hoard, only in even better condition. Norfolk County Council’s senior finds archaeologist Steven Ashley believes the pieces were made by the same hand, or at least the same workshop.

The coroner’s inquest to determine the brooch treasure status has been opened. It is scheduled to close on June 9th, and it’s pretty much a given that the brooch will be officially declared treasure.

5 thoughts on “Dump truck delivers topsoil, 9th c. Anglo-Saxon silver brooch

  1. Those brooches are also referred to as ‘disc fibulae’ (sing. ‘fibula’). The “Pliezhausen bracteate”, for example –which in fact is not even a “bracteate”, but gold foil from a disc fibula– shows a scene similar to ‘design 2’ from the “Sutton Hoo helmet”.

    The “domed bosses”, I suppose, represent either pearls or gems. A distinction is made between Jewelled plated and Jewelled composite. Real jewels or not, ‘plated’ refers to a single gold plate on a backplate, while ‘composite’ has a third plate on the back of the backplate.

    No plates here. I wonder, however, what kind of plant is depicted at the cutouts? Thistles, giant hogweed, or maybe something else?

  2. Plant: It´s maybe a bit of a stretch, but could it be horsetail (Equisetum)? People used to eat it and for meds…

  3. Ambrosius, have a look at the 1st pic, there is a scale on the left side (in cm).

    If we look closely, we might have a diameter of, let’s say, 6.5cm:

    You have: 6.5cm
    You want: inch
    6.5cm = 2.5590551 inch


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