Guest Post: Ripping Off A Thousand Flowers?

Roman Brooch

Year on year, all kinds of Roman brooches are unearthed by metal detectorists. The example shown here is of a variety known as the Umbonate type. It appears to have been machined or lathed to quite a precise finish, as opposed to being cast. It is very thin having lost its 2000 year or so battle against the plough, amongst other things. And yet it still has its pin – something that is always a bonus with Roman brooches.

This makes us stop and think: just how can a brooch like this be lost if its pin is still in tact? Was it ripped from some delicate fabric in a wine-fuelled, lustful incident; or perhaps a violent fight? Was the item of clothing mislaid somewhere, slowly decaying away until just the brooch remained? Or was the brooch intentionally discarded for some reason? So many amazing tales can be conjured up in one’s mind from such a tiny artifact.

Roman Brooch

The brooch we have here has a charming floral enamel inlay – which in itself bears a poetic irony. The outer sections, though damaged, are made from thin slices of Millefiori: a complex glasswork technique that actually translates as “A Thousand Flowers”. Distinctive decorative patterns are created on glassware using mosaic beads, now frequently associated with Venetian glassware. The technique itself was lost by the 18th Century then slowly revived.

Roman Brooch Close Up

It may just be another Roman brooch, but it is a tiny piece of history, ready to get the imagination fired up with all the possible stories it has to tell.

About Julian Evan-Hart
Julian is from Hertfordshire, England and has always been interested in fossils and antiquities. Julian has written a number of books on metal detecting, and is an avid user of Minelab products.

6 Responses to Guest Post: Ripping Off A Thousand Flowers?

  1. lee says:

    nice brooch Julian, I have found one very similar several years ago, but the pin was missing on my example. up here in Staffordshire roman finds can be few and far between, but when we find the right spot, fibulas can be very numerous, and some are in great condition.
    I think that these are more offerings than random losses, due to the lack of coinage, yes it is a real bonus when they contain there pins.

    • Julian Evan-Hart says:

      Hi Neil apologies for the extremely late response to your interesting comments. I think the same as you regarding Votive offering status of many of these and similar finds. Hope this late response finds you well and that you have made many interesting discoveries since you wrote it. All the very best Jules.

      • lee says:

        yes Julian I have made some decent finds since, including bronze age axe heads and a couple of sceats. all the best lee
        (not neil)

  2. Hi! What a wonderful find! I’m doing a research project on these tiny pins. Can you please tell me its measurements? Did you find it in Hertfordshire? Thanks so much!

    • Julian Evan-Hart says:

      Dear Sharon what a delight to hear from you. OK the little Roman Umbonate brooch is 20mm across and the central section with the Millefiori enamel on is 15mm across. It was a metal detecting find on a Roman site in Hertfordshire. Hope this helps and if there is anything else I can do please just ask….all the very best….Jules.

      • Thank you! In case you are curious about my project on gap-sleeve fasteners, there is an early version posted on the “Documents” page of my website, RomanaSum daht calm. I have found lots more since writing that and expect to release an update soon!

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