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Crossbow Fibula

Short Spring Crossbow Fibula

All of these fibula types have a short bilateral spring - usually only two or three winds each side.  Because of the short spring, theses fibulae do not actually look like a crossbow.  However, they are considered part of the crossbow fibula family.   Short spring crossbow fibulae are Germanic in origin.  They are descended from the early bent foot fibula.  Many short spring crossbow fibulae are made of iron.

Viminacium Type Short Spring Crossbow Fibula

Typology: Genceva 7a

Dates:  c. AD 450 - 525.  Alternately AD 375 - 500.

Distribution:  Middle Danube.  Used by eastern German Foederati in Byzantine Army.

Notes:  Has a short foot with small catch.

Invillino Type Short Spring Crossbow Fibula


Dates:  c. AD 475 - 525

Distribution:  Eastern Alps.  Used by the Vandals and Scirii and some Romanized Germanic populations.

Notes: Has a long square-end foot, short catch near bow.

Lauriacum Type Short Spring Crossbow Fibula


Dates:  c. AD 450/470 - 500

Distribution:  Eastern Alps

Notes:  Resembles the Invillino type but with upward curl at the end of the foot and triangular section bow.

Siscia Type Short Spring Crossbow Fibula


Dates:  c. AD 475 - 525

Distribution:  Eastern Alps.

Notes:  Has a pointed foot and a conical catch.

Gurina Type Short Spring Crossbow Fibulae


Dates:  c. AD 450 - 525.

Distribution:  Eastern Alps and Spain.

Notes:  Resembles Invillino type but with knobs on foot and head.

Altenerding Type Short Spring Crossbow Fibula


Dates:  c. AD 475 - 525

Distribution:  Eastern Alps.

Notes:  Resembles Invillino type but with pointed foot and triangular section bow.

Desana Type Short Spring Crossbow Fibula


Dates:  c. AD 490 - 525

Distribution:  Eastern Alps, Noricum.

Notes:  Has a short but large bow, long foot with solid catch, and knob on head.

Early Spring Crossbow Fibula with Rectangular Foot

Typology:  Genceva 21a

Dates:  c. AD 250 - 350.  Flourished AD 300 - 350.

Distribution:  Origin with Elbe Germans but spread southeast.  Found in Barbaricum from the Caucasus to eastern Hungary.  Used by Chernyakhov (Gothic) and Sarmatian cultures.  

Notes:  This type has a much wider spring and thus looks somewhat like a crossbow.  The head ends in a flattened section with a hole pierced in it for the spring-axis to pass through.

Early Spring Crossbow Fibula with High Catch

Typology:  Genceva 21b

Dates:  c. AD 180 - 200.  Alternately to AD 300.

Distribution:  Free Germany (Barbaricum) and the German Limes.

Notes:  This type has a much wider spring and thus looks somewhat like a crossbow.  It has two knobs on the bow similar to the Black Sea double knot kraftig profilierte type.

T-shaped Hinged

This group of crossbow fibulae have a short to medium length crossbar with a hinge in the middle.

Short Arm T-shaped Hinged Crossbow Fibula

Typology:  Bojovic XXXV.1-7; Genceva 23a

Dates:  c. AD 175 - 325/350, flourished c. AD 200 - 300.

Distribution:  Rhine and Danube Limes, likely Pannonia Limes origin.

Notes:  The type is found in many sub-types.

- with no head knob (Bojovic XXXV.1), late 2nd to early 3rd century AD.

- with a very small square or flat head knob  (Bojovic XXXV.2)

- with round knob (Bojovic XXXV.3)

- ends in blunt foot (Bojovic XXXV.4)

- knob on end of small triangular head-plate (Bojovic XXXV.5), mid-late 3rd century, Pannonia-Moesian.

- tall thin bow, small triangular head-plate without knob (Bojovic XXXV.6)

- flat bow, round knob (Bojovic XXXV.7) 

Others divide the type more simply into: head plate and head knob, head knob only and neither head knob nor head plate.

Image:  In this series of images, taken from the forum shop,  the short-arm T-shaped crossbar with hinge is clearly visible.  This example has a single small head knob.  Where the bow merges into the foot there are two triangular-shaped flanges with traces of copper wire.  This may be an imitative vestige of the ties used on bent-foot fibulae as the form of the foot is very close to the early bent-foot fibulae.  The head knob is like Bojovic XXXV.5 but the rest of the fibula, including the overall form, the foot and the flanges on the bow are like Bojovic XXV.1.  Likely a late XXV.1 type dating to circa AD 200 - 225.

Long Arm T-shaped Hinged Crossbow Fibulae

Typology:  Bojovic XXXV.8; Genceva 23b

Dates:  c. AD 300 - 325 (Bojovic), c. AD 225 - 275 (Genceva).

Distribution:  southern Pannonia and Moesia

Notes:  T-arms are long.  Bow is trapezoidal cross-section with ridging along top. 

T-shaped Hinged Crossbow Fibulae with 90° Angles and Wolf-Head above Foot

Typology:  Böhme 29

Dates:  c. AD 200 - 250

Distribution: Military sites, in Raetia and the upper Danube in particular.

Notes:  The bow has two 90˚ bends making it rectangular from the side.  Some exist with VTERE FELIX along the bow.

Trident-Head Crossbow Fibulae

Typology:  Hattatt xxx; Schmid # 217, Petkovic T.31E, Kovacevic T.47

Dates:  late 3rd to mid 4th century AD, but used into early 5th century.

Distribution:  Middle Danube origin - Upper Pannonia, Moesia Prima and Dacia.

Notes:  The head plate is wide and has three points or small knobs thus somewhat resembling a trident.  The head-plate covers a wide spring.  It is sometimes known as a Neptune trident fibula or Neptune fibula.  The trident-like head plate has led some scholars to believe that the type was used by the Upper Moesian Fleet (Petkovic).

Image:  Two trident head crossbow fibulae.  The upper example is complete though highly corroded.  It has no knobs on the head-plate and the join between the bow and the foot has two angular ridges.  The lower example is a different variant.  Though missing the right-hand side of the head-plate it is clear that the head-plate had three knobs on it (two remain).  There are also three small knobs at the back of the bow just before the foot.  Note that the foot of this type is quite short.  (SC Collection)

Multiple Bow Crossbow Fibulae

These small to medium sized fibulae have a bow divided into two or three parallel sections.   The bows can either be tall and thin, or wider and flat.

Dates:  c. AD 175 - 250.

Distribution:  Origin on the German and Raetian Limes.  Used widely in the western Empire with a spring and in the eastern (from Pannonia east) with a hinge.

with Thin Double Bow

Typology:  Böhme 26-27a; Bojovic XXXVI.1;

Dates:  c. AD 175 - 250

with Thin Triple Bow

Typology:  Böhme 27b-c

Dates:  c. AD 175 - 250

with Flat Double Bow

Typology:  Jobst 16c; Bojovic XXXVI.2; 

Dates:  c. AD 190 - 250.

Distribution:  Pannonia and Moesian Limes

Image: This divided bow fibula has double flat bow.  The wide head conceals a simple hinge mechanism.  It has the original pin.  (Berserker collection.) 

with Flat Triple Bow

Typology:  Böhme 27d

Dates:  c. AD 175/200 - 250

Image: Triple Bow Fibula. Variant with two flat and one tall bows.  (Quadrans collection.)

Round Knob Čausevo Fibulae

Typology: Genceva 24a

Dates:  c. AD 200 - 250.  Flourished AD 200 - 225.

Distribution:  Roman Limes

Notes:  Has no bow decoration and a short head-knob.

Crossbow Fibulae with Round Knobs (Keller 1)

Typology:  Keller 1; Pröttel 1; Soupault I; Nikolaevo; Genceva 24b

Dates:  c. AD 240 - 280 or AD 270/290 - 320/340.  (K: 290 - 320, P: 280 - 320, S: 270 - 340)

Distribution:  Western Empire and upper Danube.

Notes:  The foot is shorter than the bow.  The arms are shorter than bow, the side knobs are round or oval.  Has decoration on either the bow or foot, or neither.

Image:  The foot of this Keller 1 fibula is decorated with long rectangular indentations and is significantly shorter than the bow.  The bow only has a simple line down the centre instead of any real decoration.  The cross bar is hexagonal in cross-section.  The knobs are round with slight faceting.  The front knob has a prominent flange behind it.  The entire fibula has traces of gold gilding.  (SC Collection)

Crossbow Fibulae with Onion Knobs and Short Foot (Keller 2)

Typology:  Keller 2; Pröttel 2; Soupault II; Genceva 24c (smooth knob) and 24d (facetted knob)

Dates:  c. AD 275/300 - 360/370 (smooth knob), 310 - 350 (facetted knob).  (K: 300 - 365, P: 300 - 370, S: 290 - 370)

Distribution:  Upper Danube

Notes:  The foot is equal to or slightly longer than the bow.  The arms are slightly shorter than the bow, the side knobs are round, oval, onion or facetted.  There is decoration on bow and foot.

Crossbow Fibulae with Onion Knobs and Long Foot (Keller 3/4)

Typology:  Keller 3/4; Pröttel 3/4; Soupault III; Genceva 24e

Dates:  c. AD 320/330 - 410/420.  Flourished AD 350 - 380.  (K: 330 - 415, S: 320 - 420)

Distribution:  Pannonia, Raetia

Notes:  The foot is longer than the bow.  Has onion knobs.

with Eyes on Foot

Typology:  Keller 4a; Pröttel 3/4a; Soupault III1

Dates:  P: 330 - 420, S: 320 - 390

Distribution:  Upper Danube, NE Gaul

Notes:  The foot has a center line with dots or eyes on either side.

with Crenelations on Foot

Typology:  Keller 4b; Pröttel 3/4b; Soupault III2a

Dates:  P: 330 - 420, S: 320 - 420

Distribution:  Upper Danube, Germany

Notes:  The foot has crenelations, square or trapezoidal, along each edge, possibly with a centre line.

Image:  The foot of this Keller 3/4 type crossbow fibula is longer than the bow and has a crenelation decoration consisting of incised V-shaped indentations, thus it is a 3/4 b.  (SC Collection)

with Volutes on Foot

Typology:  Keller 4c; Pröttel 3/4c; Soupault III2b

Dates:  S: 340/350 - 400

Distribution:  Upper Danube, Raetia, Germany

Notes:  The foot has volutes (usually four or six) along each edge, possibly with a centre line.

Image: Keller 4c crossbow fibula.  This example has six volutes on the foot. 80x43x28mm, 49,95g. (Quadrans collection.)

Crossbow Fibulae with Large Bow (Keller 5)

Typology:  Keller 5; Pröttel 5; Soupault IV; Genceva 24f

Dates:  c. AD 340/350 - 415/420 or later. (K: 350 - 415, P: 350 - 420, S: 340 - 420)

Distribution:  Western Empire.

Notes:  The foot and bow are similar lengths.  Has a thick bow and a wide foot, onion or facetted knobs, and crenelated or volute foot decorations.  This type is almost always gilded.

Crossbow Fibulae with Large Bow and Openwork Volutes on Foot (Keller 6)

Typology:  Keller 6; Pröttel 6; Soupault V

Dates:  c. AD 380 - 450, K: 390 - 465

Distribution:  Gaul, Moesia, Asia Minor

Notes: The foot is longer than the bow.   Has a tall narrow bow, and onion or facetted knobs.  The left knob usually unscrews.  The foot is decorated with openwork volutes.  The catch made of sheet metal.  This type is almost always gilded.

Image:  Keller 6 fibula with openwork volute design on foot.  The three head knobs and the bow are made of metal plate and are hollow.  (SC Collection)

Image:  Top view of the same fibula showing the openwork volutes design of the foot.  Traces of gold gilding can just be seen on the octagonal cross-section arms.  (SC Collection)

Image:  Underside view of the same fibula showing the rolled metal plate construction of the foot catch.  (SC Collection)

Late Large Bow Crossbow Fibulae

Typology:  Pröttel 7; Soupault VI

Dates:  c. AD 450 - 560

Distribution:  Gaul, Italy, Noricum.

Notes:  Has a thick but very short bow and a long flat foot - up to twice as long as bow.  The foot is flat on top and the catch is made of sheet metal.  Has facetted knobs.

Bugelknopf Crossbow Fibulae

Typology:  Bojovic XXXIV; Genceva 40

Dates:  Dating is uncertain.  The type was used in the 4th and 5th centuries AD.  It likely started c. AD 350, though some sources say as early as AD 250.  It is unclear if it lasted throughout the 5th century or only for the first part.

Distribution:  Origin in "free" Germany, found the south through the Balkans.  

Notes:  Has a square, or occasionally triangular, section bow and a short foot.  There is a hole in the head for the axis-pin of a long spring.  Has a knob at the head.  The type is a Barbarian imitation of Crossbow fibulae with solid cross-bars although they are found in Roman military contexts as well.

Image:  A bugelknopf fibula without its spring.  Note the head-knob and the hole in the single flange for the spring 's axis-pin to pass through.  There are still rust stains from the lost iron axis-pin.  There is a simple inscribed X on the side of the bow behind the knob.  (SC Collection)

Image: A bugelknopf fibula with spring.  The bilateral spring has a total of 13 or 14 winds.  Though the spring and pin is bronze, the axis-pin down the middle of the spring is iron and has caused rust staining.  (SC Collection)

Image:  A rare silver bugelknopf fibula.  There is still rust from the iron axis-pin of the missing spring.  Silver crossbow fibula such as this were generally worn by Roman military officers.  Though found at times on Roman military sites, bugelknopf fibulae are thought to be Germanic in origin.  This examples was likely from a Germanic officer in the Roman military and dates roughly to the Valentinianic and Theodosian eras. (SC Collection)

Crossbow Fibulae with small Semi-Circular Head and Narrow Bow

Typology:  Schmid 226.  

Dates:  c. AD 200 - 275

Distribution:  Middle Danube, Germanic

Notes:  Has a narrow bow and a short foot.  Has a long spring and a small semi-circular head plate.  There is a similar Germanic Peukendorf type  from c. AD 300 - 335.

Image:  The small semi-circular head plate is clear in this image.  Note also the tall bow.  The fibula is missing its spring.  (SC Collection)

Image: In this view of the same fibula the narrowness of the tall bow is clear, as is the form of the foot which widens and then comes to a point.  There is a small chip out of the upper end of the foot.  (SC Collection)

Crossbow Fibulae with small Peltaform Head and Triangular Section Bow

Typology:  Jobst 14b; Böhme 22-23

Dates:  c. AD 150 - 225

Distribution:  Rhine Limes, Soldier 's

Notes:  Has a narrow triangular section bow and a short foot.  Has a long spring and a small pelta shaped head plate.


Bojovic, D. Rimske Fibule Singidunuma. Muzej Grada Beograda Serija - Zbirke i Legati Katalog XII. (Belgrade, 1983).
Bohme, Astrid. "Die Fibeln der Kastelle Saalburg und Zugmantel" in Saalburg Jahrbuch, XXIX. (1973).
Genceva, E. Les Fibules Romaines de Bulgarie de la fin du 1er s. av. J.-C. à la fin du VIe s. ap. J.-C. (Veliko Trnovo, 2004). PDF
Hattatt, R. A Visual catalogue of Richard Hattatt 's Ancient Brooches. (Oxford, 2000).
Jobst, W. Die römischen Fibeln aus Lauriacum. (Linz, 1975).
Keller, E. "Die spätrömischen Grabfun-de in Südbayern" in Münchner Beiträge zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte 14 (1971).
Koscevic, R. Antičke fi bule s područja Siska. (Zagreb, 1980). PDF
Nutu, G & C. Costel. "Late Roman brooches from Dobroudja" in Editura Istros 18 (2012), pp. 199 - 212. PDF
Petkovic, S. "Crossbow Fibulae From Gamzigrad (Romuliana)." Institue of Archaeology Belgrade 2010. PDF
Pröttel, M. "Zur Chronologie der Zwiebelknopffibeln" in Jahrb. RGZM 35, 1989, p. 347 - 372.
Riha, E. Die römischen Fibeln aus Augst und Kaiseraugst. (1979). PDF
Schmid, S. Die römischen Fibeln aus Wien. (Wien, 2010).
Sedlmayer, H. Die römischen Fibeln von Wels. (Wels, 1995). PDF
Soupault, V. Les elements metalliques du costume masculin dans les provinces romaines de la mer Noire. IIIe-IVe s. ap. J.-C. BAR 1167. (Oxford, 2003).
Van Buchem, H. De Fibulae Van Nijmegen. (Nijmegen, 1941). PDF


Van Buchem Plate XVII - Crossbow Fibulae

Van Buchem, H. De Fibulae Van Nijmegen. (Nijmegen, 1941). PDF
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