Conservation of a rare Visigoth Brooch

on Thursday, 23 March 2017. Posted in Archaeology, Conservation

Conservation has been undertaken on a rare Visigoth Brooch here at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. We were honoured with a visit by the finder of the artefact Matt Smith, who came for a tour of our facilities and to view the work being undertaken.

Matt Smith holding the brooch

Thought to be only the second of its kind found in the country the iron and copper alloy brooch has been identified as a late 5th, early 6th-century AD type, predominantly found in southern France and central Spain. The brooch was uncovered during excavations undertaken by Operation Nightingale and Wessex Archaeology at Barrow Clump on Salisbury Plain.

The brooch formed part of the grave goods associated with one of the female burials on the site, and Matt’s first solo grave excavation. Significantly, well preserved organics remain on the surface of the object with the weave of the fabric visible through the microscope.

Image of the brooch after conservation
Microscope view of the fabric weave

The brooch arrived at the conservation labs after x-radiography revealed the decorative copper alloy inlay. Still covered in corrosion products and soil from the burial environment, clues to the presence of preserved organics were just showing through the soil covering. Cleaning started slowly with scalpels and pins under the microscope to remove the soft chalky soil and reveal the extent of the organics.

Image of brooch before conservation

The harder iron corrosion requires removal with an air abrasion machine. Similar in technique to a sandblaster, our version is much smaller, using fine powder through 0.5 diameter nozzles. With this a conservator can slowly blow the iron corrosion products away to reveal what is left of the original surface of the object.

The brooch has been returned for post excavation analysis, photography and drawing along side the rest of the finds from this incredible archaeological site.

To find out more on the Barrow Clump Excavations and Operation Nightingale click on the links below:

http://www.wessexarch.co.uk/projects/operation-nightingale/salisbury-plain-excavations

https://www.facebook.com/operationnightingale/

Gabby Flexer, Object Conservator

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