Friday, 6 December 2013

British Celtic Snettisham-style strap junction

British Celtic strap-junction, mid 1st cent BC, 
Snettisham-style, Bronze H: 3.2 cm, W: 2.9 cm,
Taylor and Brailsford type 1 Figure of eight form
(flanked at each side by a vertical bar attached at
each end. Apparently unpublished subtype. 
(click to enlarge)

This example of Type 1 (R. J. Taylor and J. W. Brailsford, British Iron Age Strap Unions, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 51, 1985, pp. 247 - 272.) is in the Snettisham-style and this subtype is not recorded by Jope, the PAS, or the UK detector finds database. It was also not represented in a search of the British Museum online collection.

At first glance, the design seems to be an example of fold-over symmetry where the lower disc's design is flipped upside down and then reversed right to left. However, this is true only for the two crescents and the voids -- the internal details within the voids using similar elements in a different arrangement. For example, within the comma-shaped void in the top disc are two beads, while in the same void on the lower disc there is only one.

The subtype is named for the goldwork found at Snettisham, Norfolk, which has relief design elements set against a chased basket-hatched background. Basket hatching is always considered to be a design element in its own right, and this is further demonstrated in the latter mirror style where there are no relief elements and the designs are made with chased outlines alone. However, in this example, the voids that contain both the basket hatching and the relief design elements are set lower than the empty cusp-shaped void and the basket hatching seems not to be used as a design element, but a roughing of the surface so that molten glass would fill the area securely. The surface of this "enamelling" would then be at the same level as the cusp-void.

The Great Torc from Snettisham
© Trustees of the British Museum
It might be speculated about which examples of basket hatching were used as design elements and which were used to roughen the surface in an attempt to make molten glass stick to the object. It seems that many of these attachment methods (as in the elaborate locking mechanism of anthropomorphic sword pommels) has limited success. Earlier, rivets were used to join coral and other appliqués to the main body of the object. Later, a slight bezelling of the drilled hole was used.

There is some erosion damage to the edges of both discs, but enough details remain to reconstruct the original design. Similar erosion can be seen on the posts. Bare metal (from an overly-harsh cleaning?) is visible on the highest points of the crescents, and there a few other light cleaning marks in the thin patina, otherwise, the patina is fairly smooth.

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