All the buckles described in this section have as a feature of their design, a representation of an animal, a decorative style known as zoomorphic. They have all been found in England on Roman military and civil sites and also in Anglo-Saxon graves. As with all the buckles in this series they have been found by a variety of methods including the use of metal detectors. Several of these buckle types have also been found in other parts of the Roman Empire and yet others appear to be of native manufacture only.
These zoomorphic buckles were first classified by Hawkes and Dunning1 in a pioneering article - 'Soldiers and Settlers in Britain, Fourth to Fifth Century'. The article also included an important catalogue of finds that had been made up until 1961, and in which the typology of these buckles was first laid out. The conclusions of this paper were that some of this metalwork was of a Continental military type which was worn by Germans in the pay of the Roman army and brought over from northern Gaul by Count Theodosius in the time of Valentinian I (364-375AD). Some of this metalwork was then copied, with some variation in style, and produced by native craftsmen.
Over the last twenty-five years, these theories have often been challenged and occasionally amended, and indeed there is some reason to doubt the English origin of some of the Type I buckles as they have now been found in some numbers on the Continent. Also, since the paper was written, many more examples have been found in England from a variety of sites and one proposed theory is that these buckles formed part of the belt-set worn as a badge of office by civil as well as military officials. Of the Type I buckles from Anglo-Saxon graves, all have been worn by women and if they were the wives of officials, these women may have worn similar belt-sets as a mark of their husband's rank. Unlike the Romans, the girdle or belt was a normal feature of Germanic dress.
The original article by Hawkes and Dunning was therefore invaluable for the typology, for drawing attention to some previously neglected late-Roman metalwork, and for stimulating more research into the subject. The distribution of this metalwork is important for determining the events of a crucial period in our history and I would therefore urge anyone who has found such a piece to record it at a Museum. I would however like to suggest here that there is another sub-type not accounted for in the typology laid down by Hawkes and Dunning. I have seen two examples2 with the double hinge-bar that have confronted 'dolphin' heads on the loop and not across the hinge-bar as normal in Type IIC - compare fig.2 no's 23; 24 with fig.2 no 25. If this is accepted then this new type should become Type IIC with Hawkes and Dunning Type IIC reverting to a new category - Type IID. The typology then continues as before with Type III - the animal heads facing across the hinge-bar.
1.Medieval Archaeology (1961). My thanks to Mrs Hawkes for allowing me to base my drawings on those in her typology.
2. Gordon Bailey in Treasure Hunting (June 1982).
Kevin Leahy in A Prospect of Lincolnshire (1985).
Typology - figures in bold are finds from Anglo-Saxon graves, the rest are from Roman sites
TYPE IA - buckle with 'D' shaped loop formed of confronted 'dolphins' with pellet between open jaws and straight hinge-bar cast in one piece with the loop (fig.2 no's 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 9; 10; 11). Decoration by punched dots, stamped ornament or transverse grooving. Buckle-plates are of sheet bronze doubled over the hinge-bar and riveted. Decoration by stamped ornament and engraved geometric design (fig.2 no's 1; 6; 7; 11; 12). Fig.2 no 12 is a variant with a separate hinge-pin.
TYPE IB - similar buckle-loop to Type IA but developed into outward facing 'horse' heads. In some the 'dolphins' are still distinguishable but the horse heads are the dominant feature (fig.2 no's 13; 14; 15). Buckle plates same as above.
TYPE IIA - buckles of separate loop, tongue and plate joined by a separate hinge-pin (fig.2 no's 16-20). The loop is similar to Type IA but the terminals, instead of forming the hinge-bar for the tongue and plate, are turned inwards (involuted). The loop and tongue have rings, which interlock with those on the plate, and a pin through the middle then hinges the whole. The tongue is often barred (rather like a fleur-de-lis) and interlocks with the involuted terminals of the buckle-loop. The buckle-plate is cast and is usually of open-work design (as no's 17-19) with punched ring-and-dot ornament.
TYPE IIB, - similar to Type IIA but the loop and plate are cast in one piece (fig.2 no's 21; 22).
TYPE IIC - another variation of Type IIA but with two hinge-bars cast in one piece with the loop - one for the tongue and the lower one for the attachment of a strap or buckle-plate (fig.2 no's 23-24). There are two conjoined animal heads either side of the hinge-bars.
Type IIIA - in this category the buckle-loop terminates in open-jawed animal heads confronted across the hinge-bar (fig.2 no's 26-27). The buckle-loops are plain or decorated with chip-carving and incised or stamped designs. The buckle-plates are cast or cut from sheet metal folded double over the hinge-bar and are semi-circular or square in shape.
TYPE IIIB - as Type IIIA but the buckle-loop and plate are cast in one piece (fig.2 no's 28-30).
TYPE IVA - similar buckle-loop to Type IIIA/B but set inside a one or two-piece rectangular plate with chip-carved ornament (fig2. No's 31-32).
TYPE IVB - similar buckle-loop to Type IIIA/B but set inside an open-work frame (fig.2 no 33).