Finds tray – Roman lion brooch

This is a copper-alloy brooch that was discovered in East Lindsey, Lincolnshire, in March. It dates to the later Roman period, sometime during the 3rd century AD.

Image: North Lincolnshire Museum

The body of the lion is composed of one long, narrow plate with a short forelimb and elongated hindlimb, giving the impression that the animal is moving forward, perhaps ready to pounce on its prey. The tufted tail would have once stood straight out but has now been bent back behind the rump. The eye is formed of a small pit with the mane depicted by a moulded, diagonal rib. Apart from a slightly porcine snout, it is a remarkable likeness of a real lion.

Recessed cells along the body indicate that the brooch was once richly decorated and, indeed, two cells of blue enamel are still visible on the hindquarter. The spring fastening, which still contains three coils of a spring and the stub of the pin, is present, but the only part of the catchplate that remains is a horizontal, slightly bent plate extending behind the head, just above the forelimb.

While zoomorphic brooches were popular during the Roman period, a lion is relatively rare. A few similar brooches have been found in Britain, including near Worlingworth in Suffolk (SF-AC69BC), in Ashwell, Hertfordshire (BH-533002), and in Hayling East, Hampshire (HAMP-CB5093). None of them are as anatomically accurate as the East Lindsey example, however, with some barely resembling lions. This could suggest, then, that the maker of this brooch had seen a real lion during their lifetime. Since the spring fastening indicates that it was made in Britain, could this craftsman have witnessed a venatio (beast hunt) in the arena of a Romano-British town?

For more information about this brooch, see or you can search for NLM-BDDED0 on the PAS database.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme is an initiative to encourage the recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales. For more information on the Scheme, and to browse its database of more than 1.5 million finds, visit Information for this find was provided by Martin Foreman, Finds Liaison Officer – North Lincolnshire.
TEXT: Kathryn Krakowka