Fibula [Lat.: ‘brooch’]
- Niamh Whitfield
Metal dress-pin that not only was used as a clothes’ fastener, but also acted as a sign of an individual’s allegiance, wealth, and status (see fig.). Brooches are common finds in pre-Christian graves of the Germanic peoples and Vikings, enabling inferences to be drawn about their uses, the garments to which they were attached, and migration patterns. For the later Middle Ages, comparable information can be gleaned not only from the objects but also figural representations, wills, and inventories.
Many brooches from the early Middle Ages descend from Roman fibulae of different types. These include the penannular brooches from Ireland and Britain, fastened by a pin slotted through a gap in a ring; disc-brooches, fastened by a pin on the back, and worn especially by Germanic women; and the various elongated Germanic bow brooches, which seem to be adaptations of the cross-bow fibulae worn by Roman officials in Late Antiquity (...