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XXI

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Fibula Foot and Pin Catch Types

The foot is the opposite end from the head and is where the pin is closed in a pin-catch or pin-rest. Based on sculpture, mosaics and other depictions, fibulae were usually (always?) worn with the foot up. Foot is, of course, a modern name for this fibula part and, although it is apparently not appropriate, it is the correct term.

The pin catch is sometimes called a pin holder, needle holder, pin rest, needle rest, or a needle catch. The pin catch is the indispensable part of the fibula in which the needle is held on closing and while in use.

Wire Foot, c. 480 B.C. - 100 B.C.

Only the bow fibula with one-piece construction has the wire foot. These early bow fibula were made from one piece of bronze. The entire fibula from the catch, to the bow, to the spring, to the tip of the pin was created by shaping and bending a bronze wire with great expertise and skill. One end of the wire ends with the point of the pin. The catch was made by hammering flat the appropriate section of the wire and then rolling it create a slot to hold the pin in place. The end of the wire forming the foot is wrapped around and attached to the bow.



"Wire foot" examples (a - b) from Riha, E. Die römischen Fibeln aus Augst und Kaiseraugst. (1979). PDF


Van Buchem 13 - 15, pl. 2, 1 - 3: Van Buchem, H. De Fibulae Van Nijmegen. (Nijmegen, 1941). PDF

On the Early Le Tene fibula (Van Buchem 13, pl. 2, 1) the foot is bent upwards toward the bow, but there is sometimes a small space between. This part of the foot sometimes ends in an animal head design.

Bent Foot (Folded Foot), 1st Century A.D. - 6th Century A.D.

These fibulae are known by a wide variety of names: folded foot, returned foot, tied foot, umgeschlagenem fuss, etc. The foot of the fibula is bent back towards the head and is tied to the bow. This bend creates the catch, which is often in a U-section. On most tied-foot types the bent-back foot ends in a narrow wire which is tied to the bow by coiling around it several times. However, on cast types the foot and bow are cast together as one piece, though it usually still has a ridge in imitation of the original coiled ties.

This fibula group originated in southwest Russia and the Pontic Steppes in the 1st century A.D. with the Early Bent-Foot Fibula. It was a direct descendant of middle La Tene fibula which also use a tied foot design - the wire foot described above. The foot of these later fibulae is, however, bent under the bow in a simple U-shape. It ties to the bow from below, unlike the earlier Middle La Tčne fibula which is bent over the bow and ties to the bow from above. Compare the Middle La Tčne fibula below (Van Buchem 14, pl. 2, 2) with the bent foot fibula below (Almgren pl. 7, 158).



After beginning on the Pontic Steppes, the type spread to Romania and Hungary, likely with the Sarmatians or other steppe peoples. The type also spread among the German peoples of northern and central Europe. It was in use among the Chernyakhov culture in the Vistula and southern Baltic region in the 2nd and early 3rd centuries A.D. The main types of these fibulae are One-Piece Bent Foot Fibula, Gothic Bent-Foot Fibula, and Dacian Bent-Foot Fibula. These vary in construction and do not necessarily apply to specific peoples despite the type names.

Bent-Foot fibulae remained in use in the Danube region until the 6th century A.D. The later types are known as Byzantine, or sometimes Romano-Byzantine, Bent-Foot Fibula. They come in three main types: Byzantine Bent-Foot Fibula, Thick Bow Byzantine Bent-Foot Fibula, and Cast Byzantine Bent-Foot Fibula. These vary in construction and shape. The cast Byzantine Bent-Foot fibula has a bow entirely cast in its final shape and form, including the foot, which although cast imitates the folded and tied foot of the earlier types. 



Genceva group V. is Fibula types with a "Folded Foot" (pp. 109 - 113, type 18 - 21b; pl. XVI, 1 - XVII, 10).

Genceva, E. Les Fibules Romaines de Bulgarie de la fin du 1er s. av. J.-C. ā la fin du VIe s. ap. J.-C. (Veliko Trnovo, 2004). PDF


Note: On the vast majority of fibula without a wire foot or bent foot, the bow has ornamentation at the same location where a knot would be on a fibula with a wire foot or bent foot. This is a skeuomorph, an ornamental design based on a feature (the knot) that was a necessary structure on the earlier form of the object (a fibula with a wire foot).


Solid Foot / Solid Catch, 1st Century B.C. and Later

The solid foot pin catch is the most common form. As seen on the early examples below (Riha plate 3), the solid foot was first developed on early one-piece construction fibulae. The needle catch is created from a broadly hammered and bent wire section. Bow fibula with a rolled or folded hinge, and plate fibulae, usually have a triangular to quadrangular solid plate needle holder, but now and then the catch plates have some simple perforation.

Solid foot / solid needle catch types (i, l, m) from Riha, E. Die römischen Fibeln aus Augst und Kaiseraugst. (1979). PDF

Riha plate 3, 92 - 100: Riha, E. Die römischen Fibeln aus Augst und Kaiseraugst. (1979). PDF


Genceva plate VII, 1 - 12: Genceva, E. Les Fibules Romaines de Bulgarie de la fin du 1er s. av. J.-C. ā la fin du VIe s. ap. J.-C. (Veliko Trnovo, 2004). PDF

Frame Foot / Open Foot, 1st Century B.C. and Later

The frame foot or open foot appears to be intended to look more like the wire foot on earlier fibulae. Bow fibula with a spring hook or spring sleeve predominantly have an framed foot or perforated foot (but occasionally also a solid foot as seen on some of the examples above).
Open foot / frame foot type (c) from Riha, E. Die römischen Fibeln aus Augst und Kaiseraugst. (1979). PDF

Riha plate 23, 598; Riha plate 35, 951: Riha, E. Die römischen Fibeln aus Augst und Kaiseraugst. (1979). PDF

Perforated Foot / Perforated Catch Plate, 1st Century B.C. and Later

The perforations on the foot (catch plate) appear to be purely ornamental. Bow fibula with a spring hook or spring sleeve predominantly have an framed foot or perforated foot (but occasionally also a solid foot).
Perforated foot types (d - h) from Riha, E. Die römischen Fibeln aus Augst und Kaiseraugst. (1979). PDF


Genceva plate IV, 1, 2, 5: Genceva, E. Les Fibules Romaines de Bulgarie de la fin du 1er s. av. J.-C. ā la fin du VIe s. ap. J.-C. (Veliko Trnovo, 2004). PDF

Riha plate 18, 458, 460; Riha plate 32, 864, 866: Riha, E. Die römischen Fibeln aus Augst und Kaiseraugst. (1979). PDF

Long Parallel Catch Plate

This solid foot variation with a long catch plate is very common.


Long parallel catch types (n - o) from Riha, E. Die römischen Fibeln aus Augst und Kaiseraugst. (1979). PDF

Genceva plate XVII (modified): Genceva, E. Les Fibules Romaines de Bulgarie de la fin du 1er s. av. J.-C. ā la fin du VIe s. ap. J.-C. (Veliko Trnovo, 2004). PDF

Perpendicular Catch Plate

A perpendicular catch plate is much less common than a parallel catch plate.  


Perpendicular catch plate type (p) from Riha, E. Die römischen Fibeln aus Augst und Kaiseraugst. (1979). PDF

Kovrig plate XI, 112 & 114: Kovrig, I. Die Haupttypen der kaiserzeitlichen Fibeln in Pannonien. (Budapest, 1937). PDF


Genceva plate XV, 1 - 11: Genceva, E. Les Fibules Romaines de Bulgarie de la fin du 1er s. av. J.-C. ā la fin du VIe s. ap. J.-C. (Veliko Trnovo, 2004). PDF

Tubular Pin Catch

The tubular catch is most commonly used with a cast tubular hinge. Without a spring or the thorn-like projection to press the pin into the catch, the tubular pin catch provides better security for the pin.



Tubular needle catch / channel needle catch types (q - s) from Riha, E. Die römischen Fibeln aus Augst und Kaiseraugst. (1979). PDF


Genceva plate XIX, 2 - 11: Genceva, E. Les Fibules Romaines de Bulgarie de la fin du 1er s. av. J.-C. ā la fin du VIe s. ap. J.-C. (Veliko Trnovo, 2004). PDF

Genceva plate XXIII, 1 - 2: Genceva, E. Les Fibules Romaines de Bulgarie de la fin du 1er s. av. J.-C. ā la fin du VIe s. ap. J.-C. (Veliko Trnovo, 2004). PDF


Note: The bow fibulae types with a spring pin were made with every type of foot and pin catch except the wire foot. This is not surprising because these fibulae include a great variety types that were manufactured over a very long period from the mid-first century until the late empire.


 References

Genceva, E. Les Fibules Romaines de Bulgarie de la fin du 1er s. av. J.-C. ā la fin du VIe s. ap. J.-C. (Veliko Trnovo, 2004). PDF
Kovrig, I. Die Haupttypen der kaiserzeitlichen Fibeln in Pannonien. (Budapest, 1937). PDF
Riha, E. Die römischen Fibeln aus Augst und Kaiseraugst. (1979). PDF
Van Buchem, H. De Fibulae Van Nijmegen. (Nijmegen, 1941). PDF

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