5.6.3 Jewellery and Decorative Metalwork

Romano-British brooches 

In terms of decorative metalwork, Hunter (2010b) has identified three processes of transition between the Iron Age and Roman Britain: the continuation of Iron Age styles; the decorating of Roman objects with styles taken from Celtic art; and the development of hybrid types representing a fusion of both Iron Age and Roman styles and decoration to form new objects. There are clear patterns of the adoption of certain objects in the north-east of Scotland, reflected in the types of material absorbed into local societies on both sides of the frontier in the first two centuries AD (see discussion of ‘massive’ style above). A number of Romano-British brooches are found in Perth and Kinross as metal-detected strays and in excavation on both Roman and Iron Age sites. As shown in previous studies (eg Robertson 1970; Hunter 2001; Hunter 2007b), specific brooch types were selected by Iron Age societies to fit with local tastes incorporating styles familiar in Celtic art, including trumpet, headstud and dragonesque. The key types represented are as follows. 

Trumpet brooches 

Trumpet brooches were developed in Roman Britain around the mid-first century AD and were popular throughout the 2nd century AD; such brooches were worn both single and in pairs, by both women and men in a Roman context; it is not clear who wore them in the Iron Age. A rare massive hybrid variant, made of copper-alloy and strikingly effective red and yellow enamel, was found in the 19th century somewhere in Perthshire, but the precise place was not recorded (Perth Museum registration no. 143; Callander 1918, 28–31). A near complete example of a more conventionally sized trumpet brooch, with blue enamel was found in the River Tay at Inchyra, probably left there as a votive offering (MPK6720; Perth Museum registration no.1992.600; Hunter 1996, 117). More fragmentary examples have been found at Kirkton of Mailer (MPK20028; Perth Museum registration no. 2018.116) and Aberuthven (MPK19562; Perth Museum registration no. 2018.108 and with a further example in NMS), while a variant is recorded from the fort of Strageath (Frere and Wilkes 1989, fig 76, no. 56). 

Enamelled trumpet brooch ©️ Perth Museum and Art Gallery

Headstud brooches 

Headstud brooches are one of the more common types of Romano-British brooches in northern Britain in the late 1st–2nd century AD. Their name derives from the decorative stud, usually enamel or glass, at the head of the bow-shaped, copper-alloy brooch with a spring or hinged-pin fastener, which is usually missing. Fragmentary examples have been found across Loch Leven-side, Strathearn and Strathmore including at Meigle (MPK20030; Perth Museum registration no. 2018.114), Crieff (MPK20032; Perth Museum registration no. 2018.94 [Ochtertyre] and MPK20023; 2018.101 [Broich]), and Dunning (MPK20319; Perth Museum registration no. 2021.55).  The Meigle and Dunning examples come from near a Roman fort and marching camp respectively, while the Broich brooch may have been an offering deposited in the River Earn and the final Crieff example may have been associated with the fort at Ochtertyre.. Two further examples are known from Easter Balgedie (MPK19165) and Loanhead (MPK19562). 

Plate brooches 

Another common form of enamelled copper-alloy Romano-British brooch category, spanning the first to the third century AD, is the plate brooch, which could be simply hemispherical (‘umbonate’) or have a ‘fantail’ attached. These were generally worn in pairs, linked by a chain, to fasten a cloak. A round, brightly enamelled example was illegally metal-detected at the Roman fort at Bertha (MPK17783; Perth Museum registration no.2013.66; Hall and Hunter 2011, 158). It is directly comparable to an example metal-detected from fields to the north-west of Inchtuthil fortress (MPK19132; NMS registration no.xxx) and an excavated example from Strageath (MPK714; Frere and Wilkes 1989, 151, no. 57, fig. 76). Brooches with fantails are known from Kinnaird, Scotlandwell (MPK19164; Perth Museum registration no. 2016.46, 2013.65; Hunter 2014, 169),and Bankfoot (MPK20020; Perth Museum registration no. 2019.36); both have elements from local Celtic art styles. The brooch from Milnathort (Perth Museum registration no. 2020.4) is an unusual Roman plate type for Scotland (cf. Mackreth 2011, 160–3, pl. 107) and has a central glass gem and gilded decoration more common in the south of Britain. It was found near an Iron Age settlement site indicated by a souterrain 120m to the SSW of the find spot (CANMORE 70794) and had presumably come into local hands. 

Crossbow brooch 

This is a type of late Roman brooch very rarely found in Scotland. They are often linked to Roman officialdom, especially the military. A metal-detected example from Kinnesswood (Perth Museum registration no. 2021.53) is made of gilded copper-alloy, a trace of gilding survives on one shoulder. It also has punched decoration and is complete apart from the hinged pin, possibly lost through ploughing damage. It was probably a votive offering into Loch Leven. Dated to the fourth century, it represents a very rare find from the later Roman period, and was probably worn by someone of high, official (military?) status. 

Crossbow brooch from Kinnesswood ©️ Perth Museum and Art Gallery

Brooches as votive offerings 

As with this crossbow brooch, metal-detecting in recent years has recovered a significant number of Romano-British broches, generally fragmentary, from around the margins of Loch Leven. Though the findspots are dry today they would have been below water or at the edge of the loch before the 19th century partial draining of the loch to release additional farmland. A range of objects have been found from the loch, which span from the prehistoric to the medieval eras and indicate that the loch was used to make ritual offerings or to appease the supernatural (cf. Cowie and Hall 2001; Cowie and Hall forthcoming). Notable examples of Roman Iron Age brooches include, in addition to the Kinnesswood crossbow brooch cited above: a plate and fantail brooch from Scotlandwell (Perth Museum registration no.2013.65); two headstud brooches from Easter Balgeddie and Kelty (Perth Museum registration no. 2015.117 and 2015.116 respectively; and two trumpet brooches from Kinnesswood (Perth Museum registration no. 2018.92 and 2021.53). The use of Loch Leven as a location for votive deposition is a topic for further investigation (Cowie et al in preparation). 

The increased volume and distribution of brooches during this period is notable when compared to the scarcity of brooches from the pre-Roman Iron Age. In general, brooches no longer represent unique, singular expressions of craftworking and identity; they become more available and predictable. It could be argued that brooches underwent significant transformation in meaning during the 1st and 2nd centuries AD; they became multifaceted objects for negotiating relationships and for creating and maintaining identities in a changing world. 

Various types of decorative metalwork are found on both Roman and Iron Age sites; however, it should be noted certain types of jewellery and ornate fittings from Roman sites are uncommon on Iron Age ones. For example, the excavation at the fort at Strageath (Frere and Wilkes 1989) produced a rich range of decorative objects including fittings such as an enamelled stud or dress fastener featuring an eagle (Frere and Wilkes 1989,151, no. 60) and a stud in the form of Medusa’s head (Frere and Wilkes 1989, 151, no. 62). Such items did not apparently fit with local tastes, and perhaps carried too much military connotation to be desirable. 

Glass beads 

Distinctive ribbed ‘melon beads’ are a typical Roman form, found on many sites in Perth and Kinross: for example, at the Roman forts at Ardoch (ref. xxx), Cardean (ref. xxx), Fendoch (ref. xxx), Inchtuthil (a single example; Price 1985, 303, 312, no. 15), and Strageath (36 in total; Price 1989, 202–3). They are also found occasionally on Iron Age sites, most recently during the excavation at Castle Craig broch (Poller forthcoming; Case Study Castle Craig Broch).