A Roman fibel (Latin fibula) is a metal cloak pin or buckle, which resembles a cross between a safety pin and a brooch.
It was usually cast or (rarely) forged in one piece.
Fibulae are found from the late Bronze Age to the Middle Ages, and were the only commonly-used clothing fasteners. In the 14th century they were replaced, firstly by hook and eye fastenings, and later by buttons.
Roman fibulae were used to attach materials together or as hairpins, for fastening headgear and so on. Roman fibulae were worn throughout the Roman Empire by both men and women to fasten robes, togas and tunics, whilst giving elegant shape and decoration to clothing.
- 2nd / 3rd century A.D.
- original size; approximately 4.7 x 8 cm
- solid metal casting
Archaeological significance and types
The oldest fibulae consisted of two parts. Later the needle and clip were connected by means of a spiral spring or hinge. Roman fibulae not only had an important practical function, but were also high value jewelry. They were made from various metals such as bronze, and also gold and silver. The bow is often decorated with elaborate ornaments, beads, stones, inlaid mother of pearl etc. Shapes and decorations of Roman fibulae were subject to changes in fashion over time.
The various fibula forms serve modern archaeologists as a kind of "index fossil", providing important clues for the dating of finds and associated archaeology from a particular era, as well as information about early trade routes, because their typical style and its detailed decoration are characteristic of each period. Many Roman fibulae show evidence of high craftsmanship. They are usually named according to their shape; key, onion, arch, boat, drum, bird's head, knee, crossbow, mask, disc, snake etc.
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