Copper alloy girdle-hanger


British Museum

British Museum

Girdle-hangers are an attribute of the châtelaines that are found in the graves of high status women in the early Anglo-Saxon period. Some elements resembling latch-lifters or keys have their origins in the Roman period. They are often interpreted as symbols of the domestic authority that Anglo-Saxon women enjoyed. Many latch-lifters and keys are made of iron and hang in groups from an iron ring. This is a rare example in copper-alloy, also exceptional in its elegant design. It has no means of attachment and so may have hung from a strap made of leather or tablet-weave.

The girdle-hanger is made in three parts. At the top is an arched element decorated with tiny triangular stamped impressions and ending in two stylized bird or animal heads with beady eyes. This is riveted at either end to a long paddle-like 'key'. Each key is designed with a stylized zoomorphic (that is, in the form of an animal) head at the top of the long shaft, which is outlined with small incised slashes forming a loose zig-zag. It was found together with a radiate-headed brooch with a zoomorphic terminal and a pin with small clappers.

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  • Title: Copper alloy girdle-hanger
  • Date Created: 500/599
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 16.20cm; Width: 3.75-3.80cm (terminals)
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Registration number: 1893,0618.19
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Caistor. Excavated/Findspot Searby
  • Period/culture: Early Anglo-Saxon
  • Material: copper alloy
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased through Rollin & Feuardent. Purchased through Sotheby's. Collected by Bateman, Thomas