A Unique Enamelled Brooch from Chlebczyn in Southern Podlasie
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Państwowe Muzeum Archeologiczne w Warszawie, ul. Długa 52 «Arsenał» ,PL 00-241 Warszawa
Wiadomości Archeologiczne 2017;LXVIII(68):275–280
In 2017 the collections of the State Archaeological Museum in Warsaw acquired a unique enamelled brooch found on the grounds of the village of Chlebczyn, Łosice County, in the valley of the Middle Bug, on the left, southern bank of that river2. The site of its discovery (Fig. 1) does not coincide with any of the archaeological sites recorded in that region3, thus, the brooch is either a genuine stray find, or it belongs to an as yet unidentified Roman Period cemetery or settlement. The brooch (Fig. 2) has a fan-shaped head with a raised compartment filled with white enamel, and a curved border with a row of punched dots and three round projections with a design of concentric circles; on the central projection there is a circular loop. The foot is trapeze-shaped, with a cell of red enamel, and three small round projections – two with cells of dark blue enamel, and one with residue of dark blue and green enamel (Fig. 3). The hinged fastening is incomplete. Length 43 mm, surviving height 9 mm, weight 6.39 g. Visible in the white enamel background are several, fairly regularly spaced round dimples with a distinct central cavity which originally held a small quantity of dark-coloured, presumably black enamel (Fig. 4). Similar inserts are a frequent form of decoration of plate brooches with a larger enamelled area, e.g., Roman sandal form brooches dated to the 2nd and 2nd/3rd centuries AD, where they imitate the nails studding the sole of the caligae5. At the same time, this form of decoration was used also in other types of enamelled brooches (Fig. 5). While the Roman provenance of the brooch find from Chlebczyn, and its general dating confined to the late 1st – late 2nd century are undeniable, its closer typological attribution is more problematic. The brooch belongs to a large – and quite varied – group of plate brooches with a single axis of symmetry8; many of these brooches have a small ring on the head. They are known mostly from the Rhine provinces and Gaul. So far, no good morphological analogy to our specimen has been identified among the numerous brooches of this group. According to Maxime Callewaert PhD7, the features of the brooch from Chlebczyn (projections decorated with enamel and the ocellated design, the cell filled with white enamel with small black dots of possibly black colour) establish the dating of this specimen as presumably, the second half of the 2nd century AD. The brooch is made of copper alloy containing 78.54% copper, 17.64% zinc and 2.34% lead, with a trace amount (0.39%) of tin4, thus, brass with a high content of zinc and lead content slightly higher than usual. Similar alloys were used widely in making small items, especially during the 1st century AD10. The dating proposed for the brooch does not permit a more conclusive culture attribution, but it does suggest that this specimen is more likely to belong to the Wielbark Culture rather than the Przeworsk Culture. In the immediate vicinity of Chlebczyn (Fig. 1) the only Wielbark Culture site is the cemetery at Sarnaki12 dated to phases B2/C1–C2; three settlements known from fieldwalking projects date to the Late Pre-Roman Period and the Roman Period (Chlebczyn I and II, Sarnaki XVI, Rozwadów II and XX)15, thus, most likely to belong to the Przeworsk Culture, while another one, located on the northern bank of the Bug, dates to the Late Roman Period (Wólka Nadbużna III)17, therefore should be attributed to the Wielbark Culture.