From the Vaults - June 2016

Enamelled Hare Brooch from ‘Almacks’, Long Melford

This delightful Roman enamelled hare brooch (SF1016) was excavated from the grave of a young woman, and dates to the 2nd Century AD. The grave was unearthed by groundworks in Long Melford during 2008. 

Above: The hare brooch photographed (left) and illustrated (right) after cleaning. 
Below: Plan (left) and photograph (right) of the excavated grave.  
Images property of Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service. Brooch illustration by Donna Wreathall, Plan by Gemma Adams.

The brooch is 2.9cm long and only 0.15cm thick and depicts a running hare. The body of the hare has been decorated with three panels of enamel, the front and back panels hold traces of blue enamel and the central panel holds traces of yellow enamel, although it may have originally have been either yellow or red. 

Making a brooch of this type is a complex process. First the body of the hare was moulded from copper alloy; then coloured mixtures of powdered glass were applied to the panels. Next the brooch was fired in an oven until the powder fused into a liquid, after being left to cool the brooch was polished to a high shine and the pin fitted to the reverse. 

Hare brooches were widespread across the Continent and southern Britain during the Roman period. In Suffolk, 2 examples were excavated from Hacheston, 1 from Eye and 1 from Ousden; all are from un-stratified contexts. The use of the Long Melford hare brooch as a funerary object, and its discovery whilst still within the context of the grave makes it a rare find.

This high status brooch was not the only object that this lady was buried with; she also had a fine ceramic beaker (SF1015) that was placed near her head. The beaker (shown in the photograph above) was produced in Colchester and would have contained a funerary offering. It is clear that this was a young woman of considerable social standing.

Zoomorphic brooches are often considered to be religious objects. Given how beautiful the replica below is, perhaps it served as a symbol of the deity that this young lady revered as well as a stunning piece of jewellery. This brooch was a wonderful statement of her identity.


Replica of an enammelled hare brooch discovered on the Isle of Wight.
Image from: http://www.gmjewellery.co.uk/timeteam/timeteam.html

References

Blagg, T., Plouviez, J., and Tester, A. 2004, Excavations at a large Romano-British settlement at Hacheston, Suffolk in 1973-4. EAA 106.

Craven, J. A. 2008, Land at rear of ‘Almacks’, Long Melford LMD 137 and LMD 157. Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service Monitoring Report 2008/099

G&M Jewellery, Guy on Channel 4’s Time Team. Webpage http://www.gmjewellery.co.uk/timeteam/timeteam.html [Accessed 08/06/2016]

McIntosh, F. 2009. A study into Romano-British enamelling – with a particular focus on brooches. The School of Historical Studies Postgraduate Forum E-Journal Edition 7 (Newcastle University Dissertation) https://www.societies.ncl.ac.uk/pgfnewcastle/files/2015/05/McIntosh-A-study-into-Romano-British-enamelling.pdf

Article compiled by Julie Kennard (Archives Assistant)
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