Brooches were worn by the Romans to hold their clothes on. They did not have buttons, zippers or Velcro like we do, and the brooches were used to gather up cloth and hold it in place. They used different metals like gold, silver, bronze and iron to make the brooches.

Zoomorphic (zoo = animal and morphic = shape) brooches were also used for clothing but some of them had deeper meaning. They could relate to a god or symbolize a specific purpose for the Romans. Find out more here.

Many of the zoomorphic brooches were enamelled, so they would have had bright colours used on them. This would help add colour to what could be quite drab clothing.

Replica of a dragonesque brooch and one from the Vindolanda collection 

Sometimes it is hard for archaeologist to guess the animal that the brooch is trying to show. This can be due to the condition of the brooch. Often after being buried for a long time, the once bright and shiny brooch will look dull and the enamel can sometimes come off. But we can make replicas to show what it might have looked like when new.

Would you like to try to guess the animal? 

Take the quiz

The Romans also used decorative styling to make an object pretty, but this can make it hard for us to know its true meaning. One good example of this is the dragonesque brooch. It is a double headed animal that is usually highly enamelled. Dragonesque brooches are found in many parts of Roman Britain but very rarely found in Europe suggesting that it was of Romano-British design. Even though many have been found archaeologist still don’t know what their meaning is. What do you think?

Try decorating your own dragonesque brooch here.