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Enameled Bow Fibulae

There are two broad types of enameled bow fibula. The first (bow fibula with enamel pieces) have a bow mostly, or entirely, decorated with many small recesses filled with enamel. These fibulae are the earliest and dating to the first ½ of the 2nd century AD. The second (bow fibula with enameled plate) have one, or rarely more than one, plate with enamel work while the bow proper is plain metal. These fibulae date to the mid to late 2nd century AD and are often found with Knee fibula (especially the type with large semi-circular head-plate). The foot of both of these types often has an animal-head motif. The division into types and sub-types is based on the work of Exner (1941).

Early Bow Fibula with Enamel Pieces

These fibulae are a predecessor to the normal Bow Fibula with Enamel Pieces.  They occur in Britain and have a trumpet shaped bow with panels of enamel work usually arranged in a Celtic design.

Celtic Trumpet Fibulae

Dates:  1st century - 1st half of 2nd century AD

Distribution:  Britain

Notes:  Trumpet type fibulae with enamel-work along the bow.  They usually have a spring (often with four winds) at the head.  These fibula are often silver though bronze examples are more common.

Bow Fibula with Enamel Pieces

These fibulae have a bow decorated mostly, or entirely, with small enamel panels.  There are many shapes of bows and many enamel designs.  Most have a hinge at the head, sometimes in a wide T-shape.

Dates: circa 100 - 150 AD

Narrow Simple Bow Fibula with Enamel Pieces

Typology:  Exner I.1

Distribution:  Britain and Gaul.

Notes:  This type has a long tall, but narrow, bow decorated with small enamel panels  - usually in triangle and diamond shapes.  The type sometimes ends in a foot knob.  The head usually has a narrow spring located under a short rectangular plate, though hinges are known.  There may be a ring at the end of the head.  There is often a round dot-in-ring design, with some enamel, at the top of the bow.  

Hinge:  This is a fan-tailled variation of the narrow bow fibula with enamel pieces.  The round disc on the top of the bow has red and white (or light green) enamel as does the centre of the fan-tail foot.  The head has a T-bar hinge.  (SC collection)

Hinge:  Side view of the same fibula showing the long triangular catch and broad-headed pin.   (SC collection)

Wide Simple Bow Fibula with Enamel Pieces

Typology: Exner I.2; Böhme 17e-f

Distribution:  Gaul and Rhine Limes.

Notes:  This type has a wide flat bow, usually in a long rectangular shape, decorated with enamel panels.  These panels, though still small, can be larger than those found on the Narrow Simple Bow type fibulae.  In addition to triangles and diamonds enamel panels are found in square, rectangular and circular shape.  The foot can end with no knob, with a simple button knob or with an animal head knob.  These fibulae usually have a hinge in a medium to wide T-shape.  While most bows are in the shape of a simple rectangle some can converge or widen slightly, others can incorporate a few other elements (circles or mouldings).  However, to remain a Simple Bow type they majority of the bow must be made up of the rectangular enamelled part.

Image:  Top view of a simple bow fibula with enamel pieces (Exner I.18).  The bow has a central rectangular depression filled with enamel.  It once had dark blue and likely red and green enamel.  The foot ends in a large round knob which was silvered.   (SC collection)

Image:  Front view of the same fibula showing the head portion which flares to a wide hinge bar.   (SC collection)

Image:  Side view of the same fibula showing triangular catch at foot, flat bow, and 90 degree bend at head.   (SC collection)

Bow Fibula with Enamel Plate

These fibulae have one, or more rarely more, plates with enamel decoration.  There is no other enamel work on the bow. 

Dates:  c AD 140 - 200

Trumpet-Head Fibulae with Enamelled Plate

Dates:  c.  AD 100 - 200

Distribution:  Britain, Gaul.

Notes:  Trumpet type fibulae with a small enamelled plate on the top of the bow.  The plate is usually round.

Image:  Side view showing the trumpet form of the head and the bulge on the bow of the round plate.  The foot is likely missing a small knob.   (SC collection)

Image:  Top view of the same fibula showing the round plate.  The ring depression in the round plate was once filled with enamel.  The ring on the head was for a chain.   (SC collection)

Image:  Bottom view of the same fibula showing th small bilateral spring in a housing and the original pin.   (SC collection)

Complex Bow Fibula with Semi-Circular Head Plate and Enamelled Plate

Typology:  Exner I.25 - 28

Notes:  These, usually small, fibula have a semi-circular head-plate (usually without enamel), a short narrow arched bow, and wide foot with small enamel panels.  The foot can be rectangular, trapezoidal or oval shape.  Usually with a short spring under the head-plate.

Complex Bow Fibula with Enamelled Plate

Typology:  Exner I.29-42

Notes:  These fibulae have one or more plates with enamel.  The bow sometimes extends beyond the plate and there is sometimes a foot knob - sometimes a plain knob, often an animal-head knob.  They usually have a hinge in a medium or wide T-shape, though spring examples are known.

They are sub-divided based on the same of the plate.

Triangular Plate  

Typology:  Exner I.29-34; Böhme 17g-j; Ettlinger 37; Feugere 26b1; Riha 5.17.5; 

- Variation with triangular plate and triangular enamelled foot (Exner I. 32-33)

Image:  Complex enamelled bow fibula with triangular plate - variety with triangular foot (Exner I.32).  The enamel consists of three triangles and the outside of the trapezoid in a yellowish colour and one triangle and the centre of the trapezoid in light green.  The fibula once had a hinge in the short T-arm.   (SC collection)

Image:  Side view of the same fibula.   (SC collection)

Image:  This triangular plate type has an animal head foot.  (Quadrans collection)

Image:  Another  plate type has an animal head foot.  (Quadrans collection)

Round plate  

Typology:  Exner I.36-38; Böhme 17m

Diamond plate  

Typology:  Exner 39-42; Böhme 17l; Riha 5.17.5; 

Image:  Complex enamelled bow fibula with diamond plate.  The plate has four diamond-shaped depressions each once filled with enamel.  The remains appear to be red.  The head had a hinge in a short T-arm.  The foot has a plain, acorn-shaped knob.   (SC collection)

Image:  Side view of the same fibula showing the trapezoidal catch and the hinge housing at the head with rust stains from the axis-pin.   (SC collection)

Complex Bow Fibula with Enamelwork

Typology:  Exner I.45-55.

Notes:  This type differs from the previous in that the shape of the bow is very complex and almost always incorporates a ring at the head, and possibly another at the foot.  The bow may also have other openings.  The actual enamel plate can be round, square, triangular or annular.  


Bohme, A. "Die Fibeln der Kastelle Saalburg und Zugmantel" in Saalburg Jahrbuch, XXIX. (1973).  Ettlinger, E. Die römischen Fibeln in der Schweiz. (Bern, 1973).
Exner, K. "Die provinzialrömischen Emailfibeln der Rheinlande" in Bericht der Römisch-Germanischen Kommission, 1941.
Feugere, M. Les fibules en Gaule meridionale de la conquite a la fin du Ve sicle apres J.-C. (Paris, 1985).
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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