Everyday Life (Part 2)
 

Dress accessories

Buckles

SF00515 is a double-looped rectangular buckle of lead alloy with a lead alloy buckle plate and an iron central bar and pin. It was found in a Phase 13 dump deposit, but is likely to be 15th or 16th century in date, as were similar examples found in London (Egan and Pritchard 1991, 452–56, 99). Also residual is SF00701, an oval copper alloy buckle with offset pin bar and decorative moulding, which was retrieved from a Phase 11 context; a similar buckle found at Bedern came from a 14th century deposit (AY 17/15, 13337), and a 13th or 14th century date is probable for SF00701. A probable buckle pin of copper alloy (SF01530) was found in a Phase 7 backfilled slot associated with Building Q.

Buckle plates

A pair of copper alloy buckle plates (SF01240) were used to attach a buckle to a strap. They had been tinned to look more like silver, and were recovered from a Phase 6.1 pit fill.

Strap-ends

SF01500 is a tongue-shaped plate from a two-piece copper alloy strap-end which would have been attached by the surviving rivet to a strap or belt. This is one of the simplest forms of medieval strap-end, and a similar example was found at Bedern in a mid-14th to early 15th century deposit (AY 17/15, 14362).

A more unusual form is illustrated by SF01264, also copper alloy; this is fragmentary, comprising a two-piece strap-end-like attachment with, at the lower end, an incomplete disc with central openwork, and decorated all over with stamped dots. The closest parallel for this object comes from London (Ward Perkins 1940, pl.XXV. no.12, 269), where it was identified as a strap-end and dated to the 14th century.

Mounts

Mounts used to decorate and reinforce belts, or to decorate other items of dress, were found. SF01548 was found in Building Q; it is a copper alloy bar mount, a style of mount that is typically narrow and long, and often but not always rectangular, as is SF01548. It has been decorated with stamped zig-zags and notches, and a central perforation. A leather girdle with six similar mounts attached was found in a late 13th to mid-14th century deposit in London (Egan and Pritchard 1991, 211, 1132, fig.133). Now incomplete, SF01017 is a circular domed mount decorated with raised concentric circles with an off-centre rivet hole; it was found in Building Y, and is similar to two mounts found in contemporary deposits at Bedern (AY 17/15, 13361, 14399). A very small silver discoidal mount SF00784 came from a floor level in Building V.

Another possible mount, SF01144 is made of lead alloy and was recovered from a floor in Building F. It has a discoidal shape, and is slightly domed with two projections on the reverse face, one of which projects almost 10mm; the obverse is decorated with a crude and largely irregular interlace in high relief. Both the discoidal shape and the material of SF01144 are indicative of 10th century disc brooches, of which several were recovered at Coppergate (AY 17/14, 10600–10604), some thought to have been made locally (AY 17/14, p.2574). But the lack of either a catch plate or a pin attachment plate suggests that this is not a brooch, but perhaps was a decorative mount; both its decoration and its findspot indicate a 10th century date for this object.

SF01187 is a copper alloy disc, possibly tinned, with a slightly dished reverse, the obverse being decorated with a central cross in relief; the cross may have been filled with some decorative material originally, as there are tool marks which may relate to keying in a filler, but analysis was unable to identify the infilled material. As with SF01144, there is no sign on the reverse of a pin or catch plate indicating use as a brooch; use as a mount, perhaps as a roundel set into leather, is, however, a possibility. Similar objects decorated with heraldic designs have been found in London (Ward Perkins 1940, 118–122, e.g. C2313).

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Silver mount SF00784

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Lead alloy mount SF01144

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Mount SF01187

Annular brooch

Although now broken and slightly distorted, SF00999 can be identified as an annular brooch of copper alloy; it has broken at the point of constriction for the pin, also now missing, but this constriction identifies SF00999 as a brooch rather than a buckle (AY 17/15, p.2911; Egan and Pritchard 1991, 248). A fairly large brooch, SF00999 appears to be decorated with stamped chevron motifs; it was recovered from a hearth in Building S, perhaps the spot where it was lost by the person who wore it as a dress fastener or as an ornament on their clothing.

Pins

Non-ferrous metal pins

Copper alloy pins with two different head forms were identified at Walmgate; three pins from Phase 9 levels have wire-wound heads (SF01015, SF00568, SF00883). A fourth pin, recovered from a Phase 8 dump (SF01105), would originally have had a separately made globular or lens-shaped head although this is now missing.

SF01105 is of a form which tends to appear in earlier contexts and in far fewer numbers than the wire-wound headed type (AY 17/15, pp.2916–18); the latter type occurs predominantly and frequently in 16th century and later deposits (AY 17/15, p.2916). Six further pins of this type were found residually (SF00191, SF00275, SF00400, SF00419, SF00451, SF00452).

The function of these pins has been the subject of some debate in the past, but it seems most likely that both forms were used as dress fastenings, particularly by women (AY 17/15, p.2918).

Bone pins

Large bone pins, also used to fasten clothing, tend to be found in Anglian or Anglo-Scandinavian deposits in York (AY 17/09, pp.1368–69; AY 17/12, pp.1948–52); the three pins found in Phase 5–8 dumps and pit fills at Walmgate are therefore all likely to derive from Anglo-Scandinavian activity on site.

SF01225 is made from a strip of compact bone from the shaft of a large longbone, and SF01146 from a pig fibula bone; both simply made pins are of types commonly recovered in York. SF01214 has been more elegantly made, with a head with two identical areas of decoration, very similar to three pins found on Clifford Street and Goodramgate, all of which incorporate the same design although in only a single area (Waterman 1959, 83, fig.12, nos.7–9).

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Bone pin SF01146

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Bone pin SF01225

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Bone pin SF01214

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Bone pins (from left to right) SF01225, SF01146, SF01214

Button

A discoidal lead alloy button with raised rim and four central perforations (SF00473) was recovered from a Phase 9.8 deposit associated with metalworking; the button must, however, be intrusive, as it dates to the 18th century at the earliest (see for example Type E buttons from Winchester; Biddle and Cook 1990, 573, fig.155).

Lace tag

A single copper alloy lace tag, which was used on the end of a lace to prevent fraying (SF00714), was found in a levelling deposit associated with the Phase 9.4 garderobe. With an edge-to-edge seam, SF00714 is the most common type noted at other York sites, and identified as coming principally from 15th to 16th century levels (AY 17/15, Type E, pp.2920–21).

Twisted wire loop

Possibly another type of lace end, though now incomplete, SF00723 has a twisted wire shank, and looped upper end. As with the tubular lace tags (see above), these wire loops have derived from 15th to 16th century deposits on other York sites (AY 17/15, p.2921).

Possible rumbler bell

Possibly the lower part of a large copper alloy rumbler bell, SF01226 was found in a backfill deposit. The dome appears to have been been slightly flattened, but it retains the flanged edge to which the upper part of the bell with its suspension loop would have been soldered. Rumbler bells have also been recovered from 15th century deposits at Bedern in York (AY 17/15, 14488–89); they are thought usually to have been worn attached to dress (Egan and Pritchard 1991, 336).

Jewellery

Finger-ring

SF01011 is a fragmentary finger-ring made of jet or another jet-like material such as shale which was found in a levelling dump. Although 7jet finger-rings have been recovered from medieval levels at other York sites, in particular at Coppergate, they have been interpreted as most likely to derive from Roman or Anglo-Scandinavian activity (AY 17/15, p.2928), as may be the case with SF01011.

Beads

Two beads were recovered from medieval levels: SF01001 is a globular green glass bead. Excavations at Coppergate produced almost 300 glass beads from Anglo-Scandinavian levels, and the globular form was the most common, accounting for a third of the beads with identifiable forms (AY 17/14, Table 261). Globular glass beads were also found at 34 Shambles where there was evidence of their manufacture on the site in the 12th or early 13th century (AY 17/04, pp.210–26). A polychrome glass bead (SF00004) of the Viking period was recovered during the Time Team excavations.

SF00769 was retrieved from a levelling dump; it is an irregularly annular bead of jet or another jet-like material such as shale, which might originally have been part of a medieval rosary, as was postulated for similar beads from Fishergate and Bedern (AY 17/15, p.2948).

A small disc bead, possibly of shale (SF00013), was also recovered during the Time Team excavations.

Amber pendant

A broken amber pendant, thought most likely to be 10th to 11th century in date (SF00082), was found during the Time Team excavations.

Personal accessories

Combs

Two fragments of combs were found; SF01200 is an antler tooth plate fragment from a single-sided composite comb. Composite combs, as their name indicates, were made up of several pieces, namely a pair of connecting plates between which several tooth plates were riveted. Antler was the preferred choice of material for such combs, although bone, and occasionally wood, was also used (AY 17/12, p.1925). Similar combs have been found on many sites in York, particularly those of the Anglian or Anglo-Scandinavian periods, appearing primarily in 8th to 11th century deposits. SF01200 was found in a Phase 5 dump deposit which also produced 11th and 12th century pottery, an unfinished bone object (SF01372), a phyllite hone (SF01357) and a fragment of lava quern (SF01561). All the artefacts, including SF01200, seem likely to date from the 11th century. Another small bone or antler comb fragment was found during the Time Team excavations (SF00022).

Of a very different construction, material and date, SF01091 is an incomplete double-sided one-piece comb of elephant ivory. Although almost all of the teeth are now lost, sufficient remains of them to see that the teeth were of different gauges on each side. One-piece combs, often made of boxwood or ivory, became particularly fashionable in the 14th to 16th century (MacGregor 1985, 82); SF01091 was found in a Phase 9.2 (early 15th century) floor. A more elaborate but contemporary ivory comb was found at Bedern (AY 17/12, 8114).


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Copper alloy buckle SF00701
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Copper alloy buckle SF00701

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Buckle plates SF01240

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Strap-end SF01500
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Strap-end SF01264
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Strap-end SF01264

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Bar mount SF01548

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Mount SF01017

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Mount SF01187

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Annular brooch SF00999

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Detail of reverse of brooch SF00999 showing constriction

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Bell SF01226 (lower half)

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Fragmentary jet finger ring SF01011

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Glass bead SF01001

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Viking-Age glass bead SF00004

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Jet bead SF00769

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Ivory comb SF01091
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Ivory comb SF01091
© Copyright York Archaeological Trust 2003