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These fibulae are known by a wide variety of names: bent foot, returned foot, tied foot, umgeschlagenem fuss, P-shaped, 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 AD with the Early Bent-Foot Fibula. It was a direct descendent of middle La Tene (La Tene II) fibulae which also use a tied foot design. However the foot of this group is bent under the bow and thus ties to the bow from below, unlike the earlier La Tene II type fibula which is bent over the bow and thus ties to the bow from above.
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 AD. 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 AD. 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.
References: Almgren 2; Kostrzewski O
Dates: c. 15 BC - AD 100
Distribution: Pontic steppes, lower Danube region.
Notes: This is the first type of this group and originates on the Pontic Steppes in the 1st century AD. This early type usually has a fairly highly arched bow which extends right down to the end of the foot. Thus the fibula has more of a D-form than a P-form in profile and the catch appears to be triangular when viewed from the side. This type is a direct descent from the La Tene II types, though the direction of the bend at the foot is reversed - down instead of up.
Image: Another early bent-foot fibula. The catch (and spring) have broken off this example though remnants of the ties are still in place around the bow. This example has several sets of bronze knobs attached to the bow via iron pins. (SC Collection)
Dates: c. AD 275 - 400. Flourished AD 300 - 400.
Distribution: south Poland, Moravia, NE Hungary, NW Black Sea Coast
Notes: The spring is an extension of the bow, not a separate piece.
Dates: c. AD 320 - 400
Dates: Began as early as the Marcomannic war (AD 160 - 180). Early versions c. AD 200 - 300, later versions c. AD 250 - 350. The type flourished AD 275 - 325.
Distribution: Used by eastern and northeastern Germanic groups including: Weilbark culture of lower Vistula and Baltics; Przeworsk culture; Chernyakhov culture of Dacia and beyond. Typically found in middle and lower Danube region, especially in upper Moesia.
Notes: The head of this type ends in a flattened lateral flange which is pierced by a hole through which the spring's hinge-pin passes. There is a fairly sharp bend at the foot so there is not much space between the foot and the catch. Early examples are generally smaller and have a highly arched bow. Over time the bow grew longer and arch grew shallower. The foot is often quite a bit shorter than the bow, though the foot may be wide. Some later examples also have knobs at the ends of arms.
Image: Early type of Gothic bent-foot fibula. The end of the head has been flattened and pierced to accommodate the spring's hinge-pin. The bow has a high arch, the foot is very short. The iron spring is likely a modern replacement. The original would have been less wide and made of thicker wire (and likely bronze). (SC Collection)
Image: A later Gothic bent-foot fibula. The arch of the bow is lower than on earlier types and the foot is longer. The spring axis-pin passes through a hole in the pierced head while the spring chord passes under/behind the bow (internal chord). (SC Collection)
Dates: c. AD 210 - 275
Distribution: Middle and lower Danube region - from as far west as Siscia to the mouth of the Danube. Commonly fond in southern Romania, northeastern Bulgaria and northern Serbia. Associated with the Chernyakhov and Mutenia cultures.
Notes: The head of this type ends in a curled loop through which the spring's hinge-pin passed. The foot is usually short and thin and bends quite sharply so there is little space between it and the catch.
Image: View of the above fibula showing the thick bow and the trapezoidal foot with eye and dot decoration. (SC Collection)
Image: This Dacian bent-foot fibula has a flatter, wider bow. The foot bends more tightly into the catch and so there is little space between the two. The head loop is a simple single loop. (SC Collection)
Image: This Dacian bent-foot fibula likely has a replacement pin. The S-loop at the head shows that it was meant for an external spring chord whereas it now has a spring with an internal chord. This large fibula has a clear P-profile. The bow is faceted and has a semi-circular cross-section. (SC Collection)
Image: Another view of the above fibula showing the decorated bow. (SC Collection)
Image: Top view of the above fibula. The bow is wide but the foot is narrow. The ties are clear in this image. (SC Collection)
Image: An iron Dacian bent-foot fibula. Though impossible to see in this image, the head ends in a loop. It then has an iron spring with eight winds and an internal chord. The pin is missing. (SC Collection)
Image: A different style of Dacian bent-foot fibula. The bow, which is very flat and wide and likely made of sheet metal, is bent upwards to form a loop and is then riveted to the bow with two small rivets. The fibula has a wide small diameter spring (with at least 20 winds). The axis-pin passes through the loop in the fibula head. It has a short internal chord and small round knobs on the ends of the spring. (SC Collection)
Image: Bottom view of the same fibula showing how the catch ends in a thin wire that is then wrapped twice around the bow. Note the small ring attached to the end of the foot. A chain was likely fixed to this ring, possibly to link it to another fibula. (SC Collection)
Image: In this view of the same fibula the flat sheet metal construction of the bow can be seen. Both the bow and the catch are thin and have a U-shaped profile. (SC Collection)
Typology: Teodor I-1c; Genceva 20a
Dates: c. AD 480 - 610. Flourished AD 500 - 550 (though some sources say AD 575 - 610).
Notes: The early type (c AD 500 - 550) have long-bow and short-foot, the later (c AD 550 - 600) have short-bow and long-foot. They are frequently called a Byzantine or Romano-Byzantine type. However, iron versions were more likely Germanic, or at least local copies. Found in Gepid graves AD 500 - 550.
Variation: with wide, flat bow with central ridge and narrow foot, usually in bronze but sometimes in iron, dates to 7th c AD and was in use in western and central Balkans. These fibulae are often associated with Byzantine-style buckles with an openwork hinged plate in triangular form with two eye-holes and a triangular hole. They may have been used as late as the 10th c AD by Slavs in the central Balkans.
Dates: 6th c AD, possibly from late 5th c.
Distribution: Serbia (including Vojvodina), Bosnia & Herzegovina, Dalmatia; used by ďcolonizedĒ Ostrogoths and other Germans (i.e. Gepids).
Notes: Similar to the regular Byzantine Bent-Foot Fibula but with wide, though quite short, bow and very long foot. Usually with knobs at end and/or sides of head. Some examples are quite large while others are shorter. This type is a regional variation of the regular Byzantine Bent-Foot Fibula type and may be slightly later in date.
Most of these fibulae are iron. An example from Mogorjelo, in the Neretva valley, Bosnia & Herzegovina (Busuladěić #66) is iron with copper wire inlay; another (#67) is iron with gold and silver wire inlay.
Image: Though broken at the point where the foot bends to form the catch, this example shows the typical features of the Thick Bow Byzantine Bent-Foot Fibula - the short though thick bow and the long foot. This iron example has a thick trapezoidal bow and a long semi-circular cross-section foot. Remnants of a tie can be seen on the narrow section where the bow and foot join. (SC Collection)
Image: A complete example of an iron Thick Bow Byzantine Bent-Foot Fibula. It has a short thick bow, with faceted semi-circular cross-section, and a long foot with semi-circular cross-section. The catch is U-shape in cross-section and then ties to the bow. It has a short iron spring with internal chord and original pin. It had three faceted copper-alloy knobs - one at the head of the bow and one at each end of the spring. This example is decorated with silver. The silver is thick sheet applied to the head and foot (though little is remaining on the foot) and decorated with lines and with a stamped diamond decoration. (SC Collection)
Image: Front view of the above fibula showing the short iron spring, the faceted copper-alloy head knobs (one is missing from the right end of the spring) and the decorated silver sheet applied to the bow. (SC Collection)
Image: A smaller example of the Large Bow Byzantine Bent-Foot Fibula. This iron example has a bow with semi-circular cross-section decorated with fine gold wire inlay. There are small round copper knobs at the ends of the springs. One may be missing from the end of the bow head. (SC Collection)
Image: Another iron Large Bow Byzantine Bent-Foot Fibula. This example has a wide, flat head and narrow foot with semi-circular cross-section. The bow and foot are decorated with gold wire inlay. (SC Collection)
Image: This iron example has a thick silver wire down the middle of the bow. The foot and the rest of the bow are decorated with fine silver wire in a cross-hatch pattern. the wire has been hammered flat to produce a net-like effect. Three copper-alloy knobs can be seen at the head. (SC Collection)
Image: This iron example has flattened gold wire inlaid on the bow. The foot is decorated with lateral ridges and may have been gilded. The knobs on the head appear to be made of brass and are made from high quality castings. (SC Collection)
Dates: c. AD 535 - 620. Flourished AD 560 - 600, especially AD 575 - 600.
Distribution: Likely Byzantine origin but also found in Avar and Slav graves (as late as AD 650). Found in the northern Balkans; northern Bulgaria, northern Serbia, southeastern Hungary, Danube mouth, and Moldova. Several workshops are known in northeastern Bulgaria,including in/near Turnu Severin, Sadovec and Pernik.
Image: Cast Byzantine bent-foot fibula. Though the foot has been cast attached to the bow, the bow still has a ridge design which imitates the windings of the wire ties of a tied-foot type. Note the small knob on the head, which is part of the body, and the separate knob attached to the ed of the spring. (SC Collection)
Notes: There are a wide variety of sub-types and there are many ways to break the varieties down.
Uenze divided them into four varieties based on length of bow versus foot, and on the material:
Group 1: bow and foot are the same length; examples are usually small,
Group 2: foot is much shorter than bow,
Group 3: foot is longer than bow,
Group 4: made of iron (any form).
Măgurana divided them into 15 varieties based on the type of decoration - usually on the bow:
Type A: no imitation tie on the bow (thus transition between bow and foot is smooth),
Type B: round button on bow,
Image: Cast bent-foot fibula with disc on bow. (SC Collection)
Image: Top view of the round button on the bow. Some of these buttons may have been decorated with a precious stone or something similar attached although this example shows no sign. (SC Collection(
Type D: cast disc and triangle on foot,
Type F: ribbed foot,
Type G: trapezoidal shaped foot,
Type I: dot or dots at ends of bow with line between,
Type J: sinusoidal (snaky) line,
Image: Close up of a bow showing sinusoidal, or snake-like, line, in this case with one circle at foot-end of bow. This cast bent-foot fibula has one knob at the end of the six-wind spring but has lost the other. (SC Collection)
Type K: line of circles or dots down bow,
Type L: X-designs on bow,
Type M: deep ellipsoidal (pointed oval) groove on bow,
Type N: simple line, or lines, on bow,
Type O: undecorated, but with imitation tie.
Image: A variant not in Măgurana's scheme. The bow is wide and flat, with a rectangular cross-section. It appears un-decorated now but might have been silvered or gilded. (Antiquities and Ancient Art collection.)