The Baltic Sea region has surely played its part in the realm of recent archaeological news, especially with its fair share of early 19th century beer and champagne specimens. But this time around, archaeologists were unearthing a far older Iron Age settlement on the Baltic island of Bornholm (belonging to Denmark) – and they surprisingly came across an enameled bronze brooch boasting of high-class craftsmanship. Dating from around 2nd century AD, the tiny clasp features green paint, black hues and glass disks in vivacious red and yellow colors. And, as one can make out from the image (below the jump), the tiny object (1.5 x 1.5 inches) resembles an owl looking ‘intensely’ at the viewer – a poise made more dramatic by the orange definitions surrounding the large pupils.
Now the significance of this exclusive find lies in the fact that the brooch closely resembles the then-contemporary Roman style. To that end, the clasp was actually found in a well-preserved settlement that already had unusually large numbers of Roman-oriented artifacts, including coins depicting Faustina the Younger (the Empress consort of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius), dress pins, spurs, iron brooches, glass beads and animal bones from various specimens (like horses, birds, fishes and even dogs). Many of such type of crafts were more-or-less common along the Roman frontier in Germania and other parts of continental Europe. But how did this personal item end up in a relatively isolated island beyond the Northern European sea – is a question that still baffles the historians.
In terms of Roman-inspired art, flat-shaped brooches were pretty popular in the three hundred years between 1st and 4th century AD. They were mostly shaped like common objects (axes, wheels, shoes, etc), animals (dogs, boars, lions, etc) and even mythical creations (like sea-serpents). But the use of owl as a symbol in a clasp was very rare, with its possible connotation being associated with the Roman goddess of wisdom, art and trade – Minerva. As for the odd locational attribute of the brooch in question, it may have been a personal item of a Nordic mercenary serving in the Roman army.
The exquisite yet diminutive brooch is currently showcased at the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen.
Brooch Image Credit: The National Museum of Denmark/Bornholms Museum.