Hunterston, West Kilbride
Late 7th-Early 8th Century, CE
Early Medieval, Celtic
Silver, gold, and amber
Edinburgh, The National Museum of Scotland
The Hunterston brooch is one of the earliest examples of decorative brooches from Britain and Ireland. Solid silver with gold and silver filigree and amber studs compose the head and pin of the brooch. The style of the brooch derives from the Pictish tradition in its presentation of zoomorphic creatures. At the center of the brooch, two abstract bird heads each with a large eye and a hooked beak face each other and enclose a rectangular panel inscribing a Celtic cross. The surface of the brooch is minutely detailed with gold filigree and wire. Interlaced edges further emphasize the intricacy of design.
The brooch manifests a synthesis of Irish, Pictish, and Anglo-Saxon elements. The animal designs recall the tradition of Pictish brooches. In addition, the presence of amber studs support the notion that the brooch probably derived from the Kingdom of Dalriada in Scotland, where amber was very popular. It has been suggested that the Hunterston brooch was taken from southern Scotland and brought to Ireland by Norse raiders. Lastly, it is suggested that the Hunterston brooch was produced by an Anglo-Saxon artist for a Celtic patron. The rigorous detail and attention to mathematical proportion indicate that the artist was trained in Germanic metalworking.
Finlay, p.121-125, pl. 72.
Laing, p. 148-150, pl. 151.