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Viking IdentitiesScandinavian Jewellery in England$

Jane F. Kershaw

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199639526

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199639526.001.0001

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(p.256) Appendix B: XRF analysis of Scandinavian and Anglo-Scandinavian brooches

(p.256) Appendix B: XRF analysis of Scandinavian and Anglo-Scandinavian brooches

Source:
Viking Identities
Publisher:
Oxford University Press

Introduction

Recent XRF analysis of Viking-Age Scandinavian artefacts, including brooches, has revealed many items to be brass (copper + zinc), rather than bronze (copper + tin) as is traditionally assumed (Eremin 1996; 1997; Eremin et al. 1998; Arrhenius 1989). This is true of items found within Scandinavia, as well as artefacts found in the British Isles on sites with a known Scandinavian presence, such as York, Lincoln, and Dublin (Bayley 1992, 809–10; 2009; Fanning 1994). The importance of brass within Scandinavian metalworking practices is at odds with its rare employment in insular metals, with analysis suggesting that brass was infrequently used within Britain between the Late Roman and Late Anglo-Saxon periods (Bayley 1990, 22). In this context, the presence of low levels of brass observed in insular artefacts with Scandinavian stylistic influence, found at Scandinavian sites within Britain, is likely to reflect the recycling of brass from existing, Scandinavian metals (Eremin 1996; 1997; Eremin et al. 1998).

The possibility that there existed different metal-alloy traditions for Scandinavian and insular artefacts prompted the present writer to test the compositions of Scandinavian and Anglo-Scandinavian brooches found in England. It was hoped that such analysis might reveal the place of manufacture of Scandinavian and Anglo-Scandinavian items, with moderate to high levels of zinc suggesting production within Scandinavia, or on Scandinavian sites in England. Low levels of zinc observed in Scandinavian or Anglo-Scandinavian products may be due to the recycling of brasses with a high zinc content, suggesting the availability of Scandinavian metals and metalworking techniques.

Methods

The author, in collaboration with Dr Adrian Allsop of Oxford University, analysed nine Scandinavian and thirteen Anglo-Scandinavian brooches found in England, all of which came from the collections of North Lincolnshire and Norwich Castle Museums. In order to increase the amount of available data for Scandinavian brooches found in Scandinavia, analysis was also conducted on three Scandinavian brooches from Denmark, currently on loan to Norwich Castle Museum from the National Museum, Copenhagen.

(p.257) The brooches were analysed at the Research Laboratory for Archaeology, Oxford University, using non-destructive Energy Dispersive X-ray fluorescence (XRF). Quantitative data was obtained for eight elements: copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), lead (Pb), iron (Fe), nickel (Ni), arsenic (As), silver (Ag) and tin (Sn). As XRF achieves a penetration depth of just 1–2 mm, the recorded compositions relate to the surface of the brooch and may not be representative of the underlying alloy. This is a potentially significant factor where the brooch surface is corroded, since corrosion is thought to increase levels of lead and tin, and decrease levels of zinc in some instances (Eremin et al. 1998, 3). The analyses were conducted without any sample preparation; although only clean, flat surfaces free of visible signs of corrosion were sampled, the results can only be considered semi-quantitative.

Results

The results of the XRF analysis are presented in the Tables 13 with the Scandinavian brooches from Denmark, and Scandinavian and Anglo-Scandinavian brooches found in England, presented separately.

Table 1: Scandinavian brooches from Denmark: The results obtained for the three brooches found in Denmark highlighted an appreciable quantity of zinc in a lozenge brooch but insignificant levels in the remaining two brooches, suggesting variability in the use of brass for small Scandinavian brooches. With a moderate zinc content of just under 8 per cent and also a significant lead element, the lozenge brooch could be confidently identified as a leaded brass, with the two remaining brooches constituting copper-alloys, with the addition of lead in one case. Notably, all three Scandinavian brooches analysed were small brooches (a lozenge, disc, and small trefoil brooch), and are thus distinct from the large brooch types (oval, large trefoil, and equal-armed brooches) which have formed the focus of earlier analyses (Eremin 1996, 1997; Richardson 1997). While brass is consistently found to dominate in collections of large, ostentatious Scandinavian brooches, the current results suggest that brass was used more selectively for smaller brooches, perhaps considered less valuable. This suggestion is significant, since many of the Scandinavian brooches found in England represent small brooch types. It is hoped that future analyses of equivalent items will test the validity of these results.

Table 2: Scandinavian brooches found in England: In total, nine Scandinavian brooches found in England were subject to XRF analysis, including two large and seven small brooches. The two large brooches (cat. nos. 357, 407) were both found to be brasses with moderate zinc components of around 12 per cent and 9 per cent, suggesting their manufacture within Scandinavia or at (p.258)

Table 1 Scandinavian brooches from Denmark

Item

Cu

Sn

Zn

Pb

As

Fe

Ag

Alloy

Trefoil brooch Lake Tissø, Denmark

83.75%

5.92%

3.83%

3.40%

0.10%

2.92%

0.08%

copper-alloy/gunmetal

Lozenge brooch Lake Tissø, Denmark

67.22%

1.33%

7.99%

9.81%

0.43%

5.85%

0.56%

leaded brass

Convex disc brooch Lake Tissø, Denmark

83.95%

3.07%

1.42%

7.41%

〈 0.20%

3.09%

0.28%

leaded copper-alloy/gunmetal

(p.259)

Table 2 Scandinavian brooches from England

Item

Cu

Sn

Zn

Pb

As

Fe

Ag

Alloy

Cat. no. 4 Lozenge brooch

81.69%

0.13%

4.13%

13.67%

0.06%

0.22%

0.10%

leaded copper-alloy

Cat. no. 9 Lozenge brooch

83.38%

0.15%

12.29%

2.54%

〈 0.50%

0.85%

0.34%

brass

Cat. no. 15 Lozenge brooch

23.96%

〈 0.04%

3.20%

66.90%

〈 0.07%

5.84%

0.10%

lead-alloy

Cat. no. 327 Terslev-style disc brooch

85.23%

3.49%

2.68%

5.70%

0.43%

2.44%

0.31%

copper-alloy/ gunmetal

Cat. no. 357 Large trefoil brooch

74.91%

4.39%

11.80%

2.96%

1.60%

3.80%

0.32%

brass

Cat. no. 407 Large trefoil brooch

82.41%

0.77%

8.97%

3.53%

〈 0.14%

4.06%

0.17%

brass

Cat. no. 473 Jellinge-style disc brooch

89.60%

0.22%

3.15%

4.73%

0.12%

1.22%

0.32%

copper-alloy

Cat. no. 486 Jellinge-style disc brooch

89.77%

0.12%

1.93%

7.16%

0.05%

0.24%

0.22%

leaded copper-alloy

Cat. no. 487 Jellinge-style disc brooch

77.82%

1.43%

9.35%

8.80%

0.47%

1.97%

0.21%

leaded brass

(p.260)

Table 3 Anglo-Scandinavian brooches from England

Item

Cu

Sn

Zn

Pb

As

Fe

Ag

Alloy

Cat. no. 10 Lozenge brooch

86.84%

0.15%

3.43%

8.60%

0.08%

0.91%

0.07%

lead-alloy

Cat. no. 56 Borre-style disc brooch

83.89%

〈 0.08%

3.32%

12.91%

〈 0.07%

1.47%

0.08%

lead-alloy

Cat. no. 84 Borre-style disc brooch

86.26%

0.19%

4.30%

8.15%

0.07%

0.83%

0.09%

lead-alloy

Cat. no. 222 East Anglian Series brooch

85.07%

3.80%

0.07%

9.54%

0.19%

1.25%

0.10%

leaded copper-alloy

Cat. no. 272 East Anglian Series brooch

86.38%

0.07%

1.69%

10.90%

0.07%

0.82%

0.09%

lead-alloy

Cat. no. 314 East Anglian Series brooch

81.29%

0.18%

1.76%

16.10%

0.08%

0.52%

0.12%

lead-alloy

Cat. no. 363 Small trefoil brooch

46.11%

9.90%

1.93%

26.18%

0.06%

6.84%

0.11%

lead-alloy

Cat. no. 366 Small trefoil brooch

67.18%

〈 0.07%

0.89%

26.01%

〈 0.06%

5.76%

0.10%

lead-alloy

Cat. no. 384 Small trefoil brooch

80.70%

0.08%

3.45%

15.31%

0.07%

0.46%

0.08%

lead-alloy

Cat. no. 396 Small trefoil brooch

73.08%

0.08%

7.69%

18.37%

0.07%

0.64%

0.10%

leaded brass

Cat. no. 421 Small trefoil brooch

34.75%

0.91%

2.02%

53.52%

0.33%

7.37%

0.15%

lead-alloy

Cat. no. 475 Jellinge-style disc brooch

63.06%

0.04%

12.13%

19.23%

0.39%

5.21%

0.26%

leaded brass

(p.261) Scandinavian sites within England. Brasses were also recorded for two small brooches, including a lozenge brooch (cat. no. 9), which had the highest observed zinc content, at over 12 per cent. The remaining artefacts were mainly judged to be copper-alloys, with metal-alloys consistent with those recorded for small brooches from Denmark. However, a Scandinavian lozenge brooch was assessed as a lead-alloy, with a high lead content (cat. no. 15). This item, from Elsham, Lincolnshire, is the finest lozenge brooch recorded from England, with crisp, intricate beading along its arms. The use of lead in this instance is likely to have facilitated the application of such fine stylistic detail, since lead is a softer material than copper-alloy and easier to shape after casting.

Table 3: Anglo-Scandinavian brooches from England: Among the thirteen Anglo-Scandinavian brooches analysed, just two items were found to consist of brass, in both instances with appreciable quantities of lead (cat. nos. 396, 475). These items may have been produced in a Scandinavian setting within England, perhaps using brass from recycled, Scandinavian metals. Significantly, these items show strong Scandinavian features in other ways. The Jellinge-style disc brooch (cat. no. 475) is identical to its Scandinavian counterparts, only being classed as Anglo-Scandinavian due to the absence of an attachment loop, while the geometric trefoil brooch (cat. no. 396) displays a casting flaw also found on brooches within Scandinavia, indicating that it came from the same model as brooches produced there. Taken together, the brass content and design features of these items strongly suggest that they were the products of Scandinavian craftsmen working in England.

The remaining Anglo-Scandinavian brooches showed consistently high levels of lead, not observed among the Scandinavian corpus. Although zinc appears to have been used in some alloys, it was not observed at a level which would suggest the recycling of Scandinavian metals. Zinc levels were especially low among East Anglian Series brooches, which could be classed as leaded copper-alloys. These items show no influence from Scandinavian metalworking practices and may have been produced in Anglo-Saxon workshops within the Danelaw, as their insular brooch form and attachment mechanisms would suggest. Overall, the frequent use of lead as the dominant metal Anglo-Scandinavian products finds parallels among Late Anglo-Saxon brooches and strap-ends, but not among Scandinavian jewellery, where lead use is infrequent (Leahy 2007, 179, fig. 80). In this sense, the Anglo-Scandinavian brooches have a closer affinity with Anglo-Saxon, rather than Scandinavian, artefacts.

Conclusions

The mix of copper-alloys and brasses recorded among the brooches from Denmark hints at variability in Scandinavian metalworking practices, at least in (p.262) the use of brass to make small brooch types. Within England, the artefacts identified by the author as Scandinavian and Anglo-Scandinavian were each characterized by different metal-alloy compositions, with lead-alloys dominating the assemblage of Anglo-Scandinavian items and brasses and copper-alloys prevailing among Scandinavian items. The presence of brass among the Scandinavian artefacts strongly suggests that select items were manufactured in line with Scandinavian techniques, either within Scandinavia, or within Scandinavian workshops in England. With two notable exceptions, Anglo-Scandinavian items exhibit distinct compositions involving high levels of lead. Variation in the use of brass across the Anglo-Scandinavian corpus is likely to reflect the different contexts in which such items were produced. However, most Anglo-Scandinavian items included in this survey look insular in terms of their metal-alloys, perhaps reflecting their manufacture by craftsmen trained in Anglo-Saxon traditions.