Leaping into the Easter spirit… ๐Ÿ‡

Roman hare brooch returns from conservation…

This little Roman hare brooch from one of our Oxfordshire sites has leapt to our attention this Easter, having recently returned from the conservators. Hares have historically been used to symbolise fertility, spring and renewal, likely due to their excited behaviour throughout their breeding season which led to the medieval idiom โ€œas mad as a March hareโ€. Some traditions link the hare with the Germanic spring goddess Eostre who is thought to give her name to Easter.

Hares had already been introduced to Britain before the Romans arrived and Iron Age attitudes towards them appear to be of respect. Julius Caesar observed in the 1st century BC that the Britons โ€˜do not regard it lawful to eat the hareโ€™. In contrast, by the Roman period the bones of hares are often found with domestic waste assemblages, suggesting consumption. Hare coursing seems to have been common in the Roman world and hunting scenes including hounds and hares were a popular theme used to decorate Roman objects. Images of hares at rest, for example the Corinium hare mosaic, are rare.

This brooch is one of a series described by the late brooch expert Donald Mackreth as the โ€˜OBJECTโ€™ class, which depicts animals on objects such as tools or even shoes. This example takes the form of a running hare, the body of which has been decorated using enamel. It is a relatively uncommon, but widely-distributed type which was probably made in the 2nd century AD. Two brooches of the same type are listed in Donald Mackrethโ€™s 2011 โ€˜corpusโ€™ of brooches, these coming from Salisbury and Dorchester. Other similar enamelled hare brooches are known from Suffolk and two from Lincolnshire. Their details can be found on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database (click the photos below, for more info).

Claire Collier-Jones
Assistant Finds Officer

Suffolk example
Birmingham example
Lincolnshire example
Share this!