experimental archaeology/mucking about

I’m doing some Roman storytelling at Aldborough near Boroughbridge on Sunday. A few months ago I did a site visit and was introduced to a very nice gentleman called Aiden, who showed me some stuff he dug up from his garden, including this
aidens aldborough snakey

It’s bronze, and Aiden says brooch. It does have part of a broochy type fitting on the back, but all along I’ve been wondering if it might also have been some sort belt or harness adornment. Cavalry horses were even more lavishly bedecked than the average My Little Pony.

Aiden was joking that he keeps looking for the stone that goes with it every time he digs his vegetable patch, but I think he’s unlikely to find it for several reasons (apart from the obvious one of blind chance)

– The original artefact is bronze. People generally don’t mount precious stones in bronze, they use gold or silver. The best you could really hope for with this would be a low value stone like agate, or even glass.

-The more I think about it, the more I think the original “stone” may well have been organic. The snake is an amuletic symbol, and has strong apotrophaic value on it’s own, but that value could have been reinforced by setting a stone of percieved magical value, such as a toadstone or coral. Such a stone could easily have decayed in the ground, or the amulet have been discarded when the stone fell out because it lost some of it’s power.

-I think the orginal artefact was probably discarded, rather than lost per se, because the stone was missing. Once the stone was gone the bronze would have minimal value to it’s wealthy owner (ongoing research by the University of Cambridge is showing that Roman Aldborough was just as posh as it’s modern counterpart, if not more so). The stone in that case could well be miles away.

– Alternately, the artefactmight have been discarded because the pin was broken, in which case a stone of any value would have been prised out for re use elsewhere.

I will now stop thinking like an archaeologist (who knew any of that training had sunk in) because my brain hurts, and proceed with the pretty.

I asked Aiden’s permission to make a replica because I thought it wowuld be fun to wear to the event. Not having any toadstones to hand I’ve used some replica roman glass millifiori gaming counters. I bought them years ago from Mark and David – my very small art collection also contains two of thier replica millifiori dishes, aren’t they pretty?

Alas, due to the presence of the little cat of ultimate violence, they’re living in the cupboard at the moment, but I take them out and admire them from time to time. I keep telling Gareth I want a glass shelf in the kitchen window where I can display my prettiest glass.

Anyway, I don’t have any bronze, so I made mine out of silver. The first one wasn’t quite right (bending this thick wire is tricky)
aidenssnake eye

I honestly thought this brooch was going to be another installment in my series of jewels that are ugly but kind of interesting, but I have to admit I quite like both of these. It’s odd because snakes are really not my thing, I think with this first one I really like the eyeball in the middle.

However, I have just noticed there’s a little spot that needs taking off with a water of ayre stone (a problem because I was looking for those earlier today and can’t find them) because barreling often highlights minor faults.

I wasn’t sure I’d be able to barrel polish these as I’ve nver set glass before. Su from tillermans beads said that at worst the glass would get an opaque sheen like seaglass. However her theory that Mark and David use harder glass proved true, because as you can see the glass is still shiny after an hour and a half.

I must admit to cheating though. I really wasn’t confident about that sunray stone setting, so I did dab a little bit of completely inauthentic epoxy resin to hold the glass in better. I think there’s possiblya design flaw behind the original piece’s lack of stone.

The second attempt came out much better in terms of faithfulness to the original
aidens blue eye

There really wasn’t a lot of room on the back to put any sort of spring into the pin, so both have ended up with a fairly primitive bent pin instead. I had to touch solder the backs, and I have to admit touch soldering terrifies me because when I was learning silversmithing I burned myself rather badly touch soldering something – I concentrated so hard on getting the solder part right I didn’t realise the blow torch flame was centred on my thumb.

I will wear the blue one on Sunday, but eyeball snake is going to need a new home.

My main achievement working on these was actaully the simple act of changing the cd in my workshop stereo. I get so caught up in what I’m doing that I just press play without thinking. I’ve been listening to the same Pink cd for almost 18 months. Ok, so I changed one PInk cd for another PInk cd, but at least I changed it.

Note to self – stop eating Fabs whislt typing. the bobbly bits fall off and get lodged under the keys…

~ by opusanglicanum on July 17, 2014.

18 Responses to “experimental archaeology/mucking about”

  1. They are both beautiful!! I am impressed with your skills.

  2. They both turned out really well. I’m always impressed with anything that involves solder – it scares the living daylights out of me!

    • Ordinary silver solder is fine, it’s just touch soldering that gets scary cos you have to hold ( with tweezers) the wire you want soldering on. Made worse by the fact I don’t have the steadiest hands so it gets a bit hit and miss!

  3. Very interesting post! My husband and I used to be at the beginnings of making jewelry and lost wax casting. This is a very nice piece and I like the work you’ve done in both cases.

  4. They’re both fab – it’s really given me the itch to start playing with metal again.

    • I tend to have more time for it in summer, trouble is it means getting up early cos my workshops in the attic and becomes unbearable by one on a hot day

  5. The find is so cool. Your re-making of it is also very cool.
    What are Fabs?

  6. Stunning! You’re so talented and creative! I couldn’t even begin to try something like that.

    • These were relativey simple, they were just a bit of heavy lifting by jewellery standards, but once I figured out the best way to bend them in the vise it was ok

  7. I was just getting around to saying how marvellous the frock is in the previous post and then you show us this! As ever, I am seriously impressed!

  8. gorgeous as ever. BTW I spoke to the MH and we are going to plan a trip to Northumbria to see the castles – so we could come and get the embroidery etc. Is there a time that would suit you? Thinking of August obviously.

  9. I found a small silver pin of similar style in my late father’s “stuff.” There’s a vessel under sail, where yours has a mount.

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