Finds tray – dragonesque Roman brooch

This is a dragonesque Roman brooch, dating to between AD 50 and AD 150. It was discovered by a metal-detectorist this past April near Doncaster in Yorkshire, and was remotely recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

IMAGE: courtesy of the Portable Antiquities Scheme; copyright retained by the illustrator.

Measuring 43mm long and 35mm wide, it is made of copper alloy and features elaborate, colourful enamelled decoration. The stylised dragon has upright ears, which are coloured with red enamel. The centre of the dragon’s circular eye is blue, surrounded by a ring of red, while its nose is represented by a small circular cell of red enamel positioned at the end of the upwardly curved snout. The body is wrapped on itself into an S-shape, and the central rectangular panel is decorated with four yellow lozenge-shaped cells with red triangles in between them. This panel is framed on either side of the body with a blue enamel stripe. Each end of the body is then a mirror image of the other, featuring a red background with a blue, bifurcated scroll at the inner end and a yellow circle at the junction where the blue panel splits. The foot of the brooch is partially hidden behind the body, but features a similar design to the head.

While these types of brooch first appeared in Britain shortly after the Roman conquest in AD 43, they clearly include aspects of Celtic design, and this is reflected in the fact that many have been discovered near the northern frontier of the Roman Empire – the point where Roman and Celtic cultures converged.

For more information on this mount, see www.finds. or search for SWYOR-BAD29B on the PAS database. See CA 311 for more about dragonesque brooches and what they tell us about mobility and migration in Roman Britain.