University of Leicester
2013AdamsSAPhD.pdf (10.27 MB)

The first brooches in Britain : from manufacture to deposition in the Early and Middle Iron Age

Download (10.27 MB)
posted on 2014-02-20, 16:48 authored by Sophia Anne Adams
This thesis explores the evidence for the earliest brooches in Britain. The first brooches were used and made in Britain in the Early Iron Age from c.450 BC. During this period, and into the Middle Iron Age, methods were devised for constructing brooches with mock springs and hinges. In tandem with these changes a greater variety of types came into use. Some are relatively widespread across Wales, England and into Scotland. Others are concentrated in central or western and eastern regions of England. Brooches were manufactured from both bronze and iron. Bronze brooches dominate in the earlier period but iron brooches are as common as bronze in the Middle Iron Age. Some bronze brooches are constructed with small elements of iron and vice versa. Other materials are also employed as decoration on the body of the brooch including coral and glass. A revised chronology and typology are proposed, drawing on both intrinsic attributes and external archaeological evidence. The evidence from burials shows brooches were used to clasp fabric. The fabric was probably a woollen cloak wrapped around the body as a shroud. The brooch was positioned so it was visible during the funerary process. Some brooches fastened bags and other small brooches were better suited as ornaments or badges. These have distinctive designs that would have made them recognisable, perhaps as objects belonging to a particular person and/or associating that person with a specific group. Brooches are also found at settlements, at hillforts and in rivers, as well as at sites with or deposits of a ritualised character. Aside from cemeteries these latter sites contain the highest numbers of brooches. The deposition of personal objects at these types of site may have asserted the individual’s connection to the community in a manner comparable to the burial of a person in a cemetery.


Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)



Haselgrove, Colin; Joy, Jody

Date of award


Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD


Due to copyright restrictions Appendix 6 (Illustrated research database catalogue – included as a DVD) is not available with the electronic version of this thesis. The unabridged version can be consulted, on request, at the University of Leicester’s David Wilson Library.



Usage metrics

    University of Leicester Theses


    No categories selected



    Ref. manager