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Knee Fibulae

Knee fibulae are a type of bow fibulae. There are many different variations of Knee fibulae. They all share the short bow with a sharp (sometime 90°) bend - giving the appearance of a knee. The first division is based on whether the pin is attached to the fibula via a spring or hinge. The hinge was a later introduction. It is not clear if the knee fibula originated in the Roman province of Pannonia or with the Germanic peoples north of this province. Knee fibulae are common from Britain to the Lower Danube and are known from as far away as Syria.  They are generally a Roman military type.

Spring Knee Fibulae

Knee fibulae with a spring mechanism pre-date the introduction of the hinge type, though the two types then overlap. The spring chord can be internal (passing under the bow) or external (passing over the bow). The internal spring-chord is rarer than the external and is of German-Raetian origin. The main divisions are based on the shape of the head plate, or the spring cover.

Large Round Head-Plate

Typology: Böhme 19; Jobst 13c; Riha 3.12.4; Bojovic XX; Genceva 16a

Dates: c. AD 130/140 - 225

Distribution: origin in upper Rhine and Raetia but widespread, especially common in Pannonia and the Moesia.

Notes: The bow section can be half-round (Bojovic XX var. 1), triangular (Bojovic XX var. 3), or quadrilateral / faceted (Bojovic XX var. 4) in cross-section. The catch is tall and narrow and there is often a wide flaring at the foot. There are several sub-types:

- head-plate without decoration or with zigzag on edge only is Böhme 19b-d (c. AD 170 - 225) (Pannonia),

- head-plate decorated with zigzag stitching on edge and center is Böhme 19a; Jobst 13d (Germany to Pannonia) (c. AD 130/140 - 170),

- head-plate decorated with dots is Böhme 19h; Jobst 13e (Noricum, Pannonia) (c. AD 150 - 180/200),

- knob at tip of head-plate is Böhme 19e-f (c. AD 150 - 180),

- fan-tail foot is Böhme 19g (c. AD 175 - 200).

Image: The semi-circular head-plate of this example would have been large enough to cover most or all of the spring when it was present. It has one line of zig-zag decoration at the edge of the head-plate (Bohme 19c). The semi-circular cross-section bow makes it a Bojovic XX variation 1. (SC collection)

Image: Side view of the same fibula showing the sharp angle of the bend in the bow and the form of the flange with hole for the axis-pin of the spring and indentation to hook the external spring-chord. (SC collection)

Small Round Head-Plate

Typology: Bojovic XX var. 2; Popescu 5/48; Genceva 16b

Dates: c. AD 175 - 250

Distribution: Rhine Limes and Pannonia. It is not clear if this type started in Pannonia (Bojovic) or along the Danube.

Notes: The small semi-circular head plate is not decorated. The bow is usually semi-circular in cross-section.

Image: The small semi-circular head plate would not be large enough to cover the spring when it was present.  (SC collection)

Round Head-Plate

Typology: Bojovic XXI var. 5;

Dates: early 3rd century AD

Distribution: Dalmatia, southern Pannonia and Upper Moesia.

Notes: has a small round (not semi-circular but almost a full circle) head plate, usually with zigzag decoration. Bow is semi-circular in cross-section and often partly hollow.

Large Rectangular Head-Plate

Typology: Jobst 13a; Böhme 20a-f

Dates: c. AD 125 - 230. Flourished AD 150 - 200.

Distribution: Germany; eastern Noricum and western Pannonia

Notes: Usually has a small extension in centre of head plate.

Serrated Rectangular Head-Plate

Typology: Jobst 13b

Dates: c. AD 150 - 200

Distribution: Noricum, Pannonia, NE Italy, Slovakia, Free Germany

Small Rectangular Head-Plate

Typology: Bojovic XXI var. 1 to 4;

Dates: AD 200 - 230

Distribution: Dalmatia, Upper Moesia and Dacia; rare in Pannonia.

Notes: Bojovic divides them based on the head plate:

- small rectangular head plate, short and wide catch (XXI var. 1),

- small rectangular head plate, tall and narrow catch (XXI var. 2),

- medium rectangular head plate, faceted bow (XXI var. 3),

- thin but wide rectangular head plate (to cover wider spring), (XXI var. 4; Patek TXXIII/4).

Triangular Head-Plate

Typology: Böhme 20g; Cocis 19c; Bojovic 21.8

Dates: c. AD 125 - 225. Flourished AD 150 - 200.

Distribution: middle and lower Danube origin; Noricum, Pannonia, Moesia

Notes: Some have only a triangular head plate (Bojovic XXI var. 8), others a triangle over a rectangle.

Image: This knee fibula has a small triangular head-plate superimposed in a rectangular one. (SC collection)

Cylindrical Spring-Cover

Typology: Böhme 21; Jobst 12a; Almgren 248; Bojovic XIX; Genceva 16c

Dates: c. AD 175 - 250. According to other sources AD 110 - 250, especially AD 160 - 200.

Distribution: Noricum and Pannonia origin; also found in Upper and Lower Moesia, Dacia, with some in Raetia and Germany.

with Small Round Head-Plate

Typology: Jobst 13f

Dates: c. AD 150 - 225

Distribution: Pannonia

Image: The spring and spring cover of this massive knee fibula has been twisted somewhat during burial. The small circular plate has a toothed edge. (SC collection)

Image: This example has a round-section cylindrical spring cover and a very small round (or semi-circular) head plate. The catch is parellel to the bow direction. (SC collection)

Image: The same fibula from the side showing the highly profiled yet smoothly curved bow. (SC collection)

with Perpendicular Catch

Typology: Jobst 12b; Genceva 16d

Dates: c. AD 175 - 225

Distribution: Rhine Limes

with I-Bar Bow

Typology: Böhme 21a-c; Jobst 12c

Dates: c. AD 150 - 210

Distribution: Noricum, Pannonia; Raetia

Image: The side view shows how tall the I-form bow is. The spring cover is squarish, almost hexagonal, in profile. (SC collection)

Image: This top view of the same fibula shows how narrow the I-form bow is. The foot ends in a square form. (SC collection)

with Large Faceted Bow

Typology: Kropf/Nowak 7.22

Distribution: Pannonia, Rhine Limes

Ribbon Bow

Typology: Kovrig T XI.120

Dates: c. AD 125 - 225

Distribution: Danubian origin; Pannonia, Noricum.

Notes: The bow is flat and ribbon like. Divided based on head plate and direction of catch. Bows that are wider near the head are Bojovic XXI var. 6 (parallel catch) and far 7 (perpendicular catch).

Image: The bow is flat and wide, hence the ribbon name. The tall catch has been bent and so can be seen in this top view. (SC collection)

Image: Side view showing the thinness of the bow and the fairly sharp bend. (SC collection)

The ribbon bow knee fibula has a wide bow which widens further into rectangular plate to cover the spring (Bojovic XXI var. 6). (SC collection)

Image: Side view of the same fibula shows how thin the bow is. The semi-circular arch is advancing towards the volute form. The parallel catch makes it Bojovic XXI var. 6. (SC collection)

Cocis Type 19b8

Typology: Cociº 19b8

Dates: c. AD 175 - 250

Distribution: Dacia, Limes but Barbarian manufacture

Notes: 90° Bend in bow. Hole in head for pin end.

Volute Bow

Typology: Böhme 21d/g; Bojovic XXII var. 11 (parallel catch) and var. 17 (transverse catch); Genceva 16e

Dates: Dating is uncertain. Possibly as early as c. AD 175 - 225, but possibly not beginning until the 3rd century AD and possibly lasting into the early 4th century.

Distribution: Danubian origin, Upper and Lower Moesia. Bojovic divides them depending on whether the catch (which is always high and narrow) is parallel to the bow (XXII var. 11) or transverse (XXII var. 17). He also has a variant with a horizontal hole through the foot as well as the usual one through the head (XXII var. 16).

Image: This knee fibula has a very simple volute bow design (Bojovic XXII var. 17). It results in only one opening through the bow. (SC collection)

Image: Top view of the same fibula showing how wide the bow is. (SC collection)

Image:  Another similar volute bow knee fibula, this one with dot and eye decoration on the bow.  (Quadrans collection)

Image above: This knee fibula has a later and fancier volute bow (Bojovic XXII var. 17). The hole though the bow is an intricate trefoil form. The bow itself is much narrower. (SC collection)

No Head-Plate

Typology: Genceva 16f

Dates: c. AD 150 - 250

Distribution: Moesia


Knee fibulae with hinges are divided according to the form of the catch, which either runs parallel to, or along, the bow, or perpendicular to the bow. The perpendicular catch is of Rhine region origin. There is also a type with a long lateral hinge plate.

Parallel Catch

Typology: Bojovic XXII var. 1 to 4; Genceva 17a

Dates: c. AD 175 - 275. According to other sources AD 150 - 300.

Notes: Round plate on wide hinge. The tall catch is parallel to the bow. Bojovic divides them based on the profile, or curve, of the bow:

- near 90° bend (XXII var. 1) usually large faceted bow;

- tight S-curve (XXII var. 2) usually large wide faceted bow;

- lazy S-curve (XXII var. 3) usually semi-circular section bow; and

- slightly arched (XXII var. 4) usually narrow faceted bow.

Image: Three views of a parallel catch hinged knee fibula. 29x19mm, 9,20g. The bow has a near 90 degree bend and is Bojovic XXII var. 1. (Quadrans collection)

Image: Seven views of a parallel catch hinged knee (Silver) fibula. 29x19mm, 11,80g. The bow has a near 90 degree bend and is Bojovic XXII var. 1.  (Quadrans collection)

Image: This knee fibula has a semi-circular head-plate on a wide hinge bar. The bow is narrow and has a slight arch and is Bojovic XXII var. 4. (SC collection)

Perpendicular Catch

Typology: Bojovic XXII var. 5 to 10; Genceva 17b (hinge in medium ) + 17d (hinge in wide T);

Dates: c. AD 200 - 300

Distribution: Upper Moesia origin.

Notes: Round, small round or tiny rectangular plate on wide hinge. Tall catch is perpendicular or transverse to the bow. Bojovic divides them based on profile, or curve, of the bow and bow form:

- slightly arched bow (XXII var. 5), like XXII var. 4 but with perpendicular catch,

- near 90° bend (XXII var. 6), like XXII var. 1 but with perpendicular catch,

- tight S-curve (XXII var. 7) usually large, like XXII var. 2 but with perpendicular catch,

- lazy S-curve (XXII var. 8) facetted, like XXII var. 3 but with perpendicular catch,

- triangular cross-section bow that curves tightly to 90° (XXII var. 9) tall wide catch in form of 'G',

- large semi-circular head plate over short catch bar (XXII var. 10) thick faceted bow.

Image: This knee fibula has a wide T-shaped bar housing the hinge. The faceted bow and curve makes it Bojovic XXII var. 6. (SC collection)

Image: The knee fibula has a similar cross-bar for the hinge but a very different bow form. The triangular for of bow makes it Bojovic XXII var. 9. (SC collection)

Image: The knee fibula has a similar cross-bar for the hinge but another different bow form. 37,5x21,5x18mm, 8,68g. (Quadrans collection)

Dolphin Form Knee Fibulae

Typology: Bojovic XXVIII.2

Dates: 1st half of 3rd century AD (c. AD 200 - 225/250)

Distribution: Origin in upper Danube region.

Notes: Found with hinge or spring.

Image: This bow of this fibula resembles a Dolphin. The spring is covered by a semi-circular head-plate with a triangle superimposed on it. This fibula is made out of billon - a bronze with a significant quantity of silver, perhaps 20%+. (SC collection)

Image: Top view of the same fibula. The Dolphin form is more prominent in this view.  The tips of the head plate, which was once almost anchor shaped, have been broken.  (SC collection)

Image: Roman Bow, Dolphin Fibula, This is a type of knee fibula. This one is a variation of the knee type with covered spring.
size: 37x117x17mm, weight: 12,89g, date: mid-2nd to early 3rd c A.D., ref: Bojovic typ:28, var:2, Tabl-XXX/293, (Quadrans collection)

Horse Form Knee Fibulae

Dates: c. AD 200 - 300

Distribution: lower Danube, including Military camps.

Twin Bow Knee Fibulae

Typology: Gugl 13d; Genceva 17c

Dates: c. AD 125 - 225. Other sources give AD 200 - 250.

Distribution: Pannonian origin

Image: Seven views of a Twin Bow Knee fibula. Pannonian origin, 27x19mm, 14,84g. (Quadrans collection)

Twin-Bow Knee fibula variation, a twin-bow version of a "Knee fibula with hinge and perpendicular catch".

Best described as a twin variant of Bojovic XXII.6