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Record Detail

  • Organisation
  • Alternative name(s)
  • Canmore ID
  • Site type
  • Parish
  • Council
  • NGR
    NY 1 8
  • Latitude, longitude
    55.106209N, 3.412216W
  • Archaeological notes
    NY18SW 106 Unlocated 'An Ornamental Fillet of thin Bronze, and five Bosses of Bronze, found together in Dumfriesshire many years ago, the locality being now unknown'. The 'fillet' had measured at least 18 inches (457mm) in length and seems to have had a uniform width of 1 1/8 inches (29mm); it is ornamented with repousse running scroll ornament of Northumbrian type. Portions of five or six bronze bosses were also found. PSAS, 1905-6 (donation). These objects are held in the Royal Museum of Scotland under accession number FC 179. Continental parallels are identified for the decoration, and they are attributed to the earlier part of the chronological range between the mid-fifth and mid-seventh centuries AD. They may have formed elements of a helmet decoration. de Paor 1963. It is possible, but no more than speculation, that from Tynron Doon (NX89SW 1) come fragments of copper decorated with vinescroll and other motifs of late Antique inspiration, and coated with gold foil, now in the National Museum, Edinburgh. These have been identified as belonging to a series of central European embossed copper ornamental plates with gold foil known as pressblech, which are most commonly found on Merovingian helmets of the the type known as spangenhelmen. The span the period from the fifth to the mid-seventh centuries. The Dumfriesshire fragments are not from a spangelhelme but from some other form of helmet, and probably belong to the seventh century. How they reached the area is uncertain, but they appear to have been scrap metal and may have been loot from the troubles in Northumbria in 633. Such objects as the helmet were favoured as diplomatic gifts in the seventh century. L R Laing 1975. Sheet-metal fragments, Dumfriesshire, Scotland. Copper-alloy, gilding. Anglo-saxon, second half of 8th century. NMS FC 179. 135a. Gilded copper embossed strip. Running vine-scroll with spiral structure, within a rectangular frame and beaded ovolo border. Three fragments show the end of the rectangular frame, indicating that there were at least two strips. Width of strip 2.8cm, estimated overal length over 40cm. 135b. Gilded copper embossed sheet with arcaded vive pattern. The decoration is heavier and larger than on (a) and a folded packet of this foil suggests that these are fragments from a wide sheet rather than a strip. Largest fragment c. 5 x 6cm. 135c. Gilded copper embossed and chased sheet. Figural decoration set within elaborate borders and against a background with vegetation and perhaps architectural detail. Identifiable on three separate fragments of foil are a right foot in the corner of a decorative border, shoulder-length hair with torso, and a hand against flowing drapery. As the fragments of foil are small and form a complex image, any reconstruction is necessarily speculative. It is clear, however, that while the vegetation and architectural designs are executed to a very high standard and to the same scale, the foot is drawn to a larger scale than either the hand or hair. Extrapolating from the surviving portions of these figures, it would appear that the figure to which the foot belonged would originally have stood some 25-7cm high while the hand, hair and drapery would have come from a figure or figures approximately half that size. 135d. Gilded copper fragments from five bosses. Fine pin-holes around the rims of these objects show that they were attached to a backing. Diameter 5.9-6.7cm. These fragments are from a surviving total of around fifty decorated pieces of repousse sheet and five bosses, found at an unknown locality in Dumfriesshire many years before their first mention in 1905. The embossed sheets and strips appear to have been folded into packets and buried with the bosses. Given their very fragmentary state and unknown circumstances of discovery, it is impossible to say whether they are from one or more objects. However, the presence of the five large bosses hints at a cross-pattern, which would be consistent with the religious symbolism of vine-scroll and figural foils. As they stand, all the surviving fragments could have come from a large wood-based ecclesiastical object, such as a shrine or altar cross. Despite de Paor's suggestion that the vine-scroll and some of the other fragments might have come from a late sixth-century continental helmet, it is obvious that all the fragments belong at earliest to the later eighth century. The running vine-scroll finds its closest parallel in the foils on the sides of the Bischofshofen cross, which have panels with very similar spiral vine-scrolls and stylised berry-bunches; similar motifs appear on some of the Northumbrian styca coinage. The width of these foils is indeed very similar to those on the Bischofshofen cross and they could well have come from the sides of such a cross. The figural elements cannot be so easily read, but the presence of a hand, drapery, diagonal framework and decorative elements such as marigold motifs and beaded borders suggest at the very least a clothed religious figure within a fairly elaborate, such as the figure on St Cuthbert's portable altar or the seated figure on the early ninth-century Winchester reliquary. The chased repousse technique on the figural fragments also seems to have become popular after the middle of the eighth century, as the Ormside Bowl, Bischofshofen cross, Hexham shrine plates and Moratin 'casket' suggest. The likelihood must be that all the fittings came from one or more shrines or crosses and belong at least to the second half of the eighth century. L E Webster and J Backhouse 1991.
  • Architectural notes

1st edition 6-inch maps

TitleDateOther parishes/counties
 Ordnance Survey six-inch to the mile, Dumfriesshire, Sheet L1856

1st edition 25-inch maps

TitleDateOther parishes/counties
 Ordnance Survey 25 inch to the mile Dumfries, Sheet 050.081856
 Ordnance Survey 25 inch to the mile Dumfries, Sheet 050.081856