Non-ferrous metal objects by J.D. Richards with a contribution on a ninth century strap end by Elaine Campbell

Copper-alloy objects

Strap ends

  1. Decorated strap end in fair condition. XRF reveals basically copper with a little zinc, lead and tin. The strap end has two rivet holes and the remains of green/blue enamelled decoration on one side although it is hard to tell if this is the original colour as decay of enamel or staining by the surrounding copper corrosion products can cause colour changes (Bayley 1987, 8-9). At the terminal, a series of eight transverse bars are incised on the left hand side of a longitudinal groove, which is slightly off-centre; a further nine occur to the right of this line. The main ornament is reserved for the central area, consisting of incised decoration, with enamel inlay. This is situated within a linear border, which runs inside the long edges; the short sides of this 'frame' are open. The design is composed of two parallel pairs of concentric arcs which emerge from the left and right border. These are symmetrically opposed to form an open-ended, lozenge-shaped field at the centre of the panel. Each inner arc encloses three transverse nicks. Two smaller lunate incisions are located near the centre of the panel, which touch the edge of the two larger arcs on either side. A central line extends from the ornament at the split-end to a point just before the centre of the main field. The back is plain. Possible leather remains in one of rivet holes. L.50.5, W.14mm, COT93, 1004, sf20.

Discussion, by E.Campbell

Strap ends are the most frequently surviving items of Late Saxon ornamental metalwork, with some 600-1000 now being known (Graham-Campbell 1982, 148; Haldenby 1998a). The strap end is usually formed from a convex-sided metal plate, which is split at one end to receive a strap, generally fixed in place by two rivets. They have been described as a 'stereotyped and ubiquitous' object (Wilson 1964, 62), on account of the consistent recurrence of certain conventional characteristics, in both form and ornament. Their precise function is uncertain, although it is probable that they were used to protect the ends of leather belts or straps (Wilson 1964, 63).

This strap end belongs to a distinctive group which is fairly well represented throughout the country. The type is characterised by symmetrical ornament formed by incised arcs. A number of close stylistic parallels exist, locally and further afield. Geographically closest, and also remarkably similar in style, is an example which was amongst the material recovered by metal-detector users on the same site (No.010). The concentric arcs on the main panel are virtually identical, although these connect at the centre and lack the transverse bars within the inner arcs. The zoomorphic terminal has well-defined ears in place of the transverse nicks of this example. A fragmentary strap-end, also amongst this material, bears a closer resemblance, in so far as it survives, as a series of transverse nicks flank a longitudinal line at the terminal, and similar incised arc ornament can be seen on the broken central panel (No.002).

Other examples of this type of ornament can also be seen on two strap-ends from Whitby (Peers and Radford 1943, fig.11, nos.11 and 13). The split-end is missing from both, whilst the decoration on the central panel of each is formed by a series of interlocking arcs, more complex than the design found on the Cottam example. These are unusual in having a cylindrical bar in place of a modelled animal head terminal, the more complete example (no.13) having incised transverse ribs, recalling the double row of bars on the Cottam example. Perhaps the closest parallels are two examples from further south, one of which was excavated from the Saxon palace site at Cheddar (Wilson in Rahtz 1979, 282, fig.95, no.10) and another unprovenanced example, probably from Oxfordshire, in the Ashmolean Museum (Hinton 1974, 12, no.5) The terminals of both are plain, apart from a series of transverse nicks on either side of a central line, and the incised arc ornament on the main panel is remarkably similar.

Strap ends of this form are conventionally dated to the ninth century, on art historical grounds and by their occurrence in coin-dated hoards. None of the examples cited above, however, can be firmly dated by association with coins or other archaeological means. Their simple incised ornament is unparalleled in other datable media. Wilson ascribes a date early in the ninth century to the Whitby examples (1964, 198-9) and it would be difficult to question a ninth-century date for the Cottam strap end without more secure dating evidence.

  1. Decorated strap end in fair condition, broken at tip. The strap end has two rivet holes and the remains of enamelled decoration on one side. It still retains its enamel inlay but although this is now green/blue again it is hard to tell if this is the original colour. The central design comprises two pairs of parallel arcs set within a linear border which runs inside the long edges. Since the terminal is missing it is impossible to say how this was decorated. The back is plain. L.36, W.15.5mm, COT95, 4003, sf49.

This strap end has much in common with the example from COT93, discussed above. The decoration falls within the broad category of geometric forms, and is within Haldenby's Group 13 (1998a), the Arc and Step Type. Its closest parallels an the excavated example above and a detectorist find at Cottam (No.010), both discussed above.

  1. Undecorated strap end in fair condition, broken at tip. This is a fairly small example, with slightly convex sides and two rivet holes. It had clearly been manufactured by soldering together two sheets of copper alloy; the sheets are splayed at the rivet end. L.30, W.12mm, COT95, 4000, sf108.


  1. Finger ring in good condition; made from fine copper alloy sheet shaped to provide a decorative plate at midpoint with narrowing ends twisted into a join. Decorated with an incised line around border and crudely stamped ring-and-dot ornament. D.18mm; COT95, 4178, sf142.

Hooked tags

  1. Hooked tag in good condition; heart-shaped with tapering projection, hooked up at lower end. Manufactured from a cut sheet rather than cast. There are two small perforations close to the upper edge of the head, with an incised circle around the circumference of each perforation. A third circle, with a punched dot in the middle, is positioned slightly below the centre of the head. Together these give the impression of ring-and-dot decoration. L.20, T.0.5mm; head: L.13, W.11.5, T.0.5mm; COT93, 1003, sf34.

The earliest hooked tags, or garment hooks as they are sometimes known, date to the seventh century, but they had a long period of use, occurring in Anglian levels at Fishergate, York and Anglo-Scandinavian levels at Coppergate, York (Rogers 1993, 1359-60). They have most recently been given a date of the seventh-eleventh centuries (Griffiths 1987-8, 45). It has been suggested that hooked tags may have been used in cross-gartering (Wilson in Biddle 1965, 264), but they could only have acted as light fasteners; their use as purse fasteners is also known (David Hinton pers comm).


  1. Incomplete disc-headed pin in fair condition; probably with circular head originally, although top half of head is missing. There is a single small perforation in the centre of the lower half, with an incised circle around it. L.73, D.2mm; head: W.12.5mm (estimated); COT93, 3022, sf22.

  2. Fragment of globular-headed pin, shank broken. L.20, D.1mm; head: D.5mm; COT93, 1004, sf4.

  3. Pin in fair condition, with irregular biconical head with ring collar below. L.60, D.1.5mm; head: D.6mm; COT93, 1004, sf5.

  4. Pin in fair condition, with flattened globular head with ring collar below; lower half of pin has rectangular cross-section. L.76, D.1.5mm; head: D.6.5mm; COT95, 4178, sf53.

  5. Pin in good condition, with flattened globular head. L.78, D.1.5mm; head: D.6.5mm; COT95, 4197, sf55.

  6. Pin in fair condition, with biconical head with ring collar below. L.86, D.2mm; head: D.8.5mm; COT95, 4275, sf188.

  7. Pin in three pieces in fair condition, with flattened globular head with ring collar below. L.64.5, D.1.5mm; head: D.6mm; COT95, 4265, sf140.

  8. Shank fragment. L.25, D.2.5mm; COT93, 1001, sf44.

  9. Shank fragment with pointed tip and rectangular cross-section becoming flattened at end. L.29.5, D.2mm; COT93, 3022, sf14.

  10. Shank fragment, broken at both ends. L.30, D.2.5mm; COT93, 1000, sf97.

  11. Shank fragment with pointed tip and circular cross-section. L.63.5, D.2mm; COT95, 4265, sf135.

    Other items

  12. Plain circular disc, possibly a very worn coin, trade token or button. D.22, T.1.5mm; COT93, 3000, sf102.

  13. Irregularly shaped fragment, possibly casting run-off. L.22.5, W.10, T.0.5mm; COT93, 3022, sf98.

  14. Triangular shaped sheet, folded over at two corners. L.25, W.17, T.0.5mm; COT95, 4000, sf69.

Lead alloy objects

  1. Small round ball. D.2mm; COT95, 4000, sf136.

  2. Flattened and folded cylinder, with grooved incisions 5mm apart and 7mm long on one side. L. 40, W.11.5mm; COT95, 4000, sf97.

Metal debris

Copper alloy debris

  1. Irregularly shaped fragment. L.22, W.15, T.2.5mm; COT95, 4178, sf51. Copper alloy debris

  2. Irregularly shaped dense lump of copper alloy. L.32, W.20, T.10mm; COT95, 4000, sf106.


Fragments of fuel ash slag, generally light in weight, and commonly of greyish blue colour; were found in the COT93 contexts listed below:

Lead working debris

Small fragments of lead, greyish - white in colour; mainly found by metal detectors from contexts listed below: