Abstract: In this thesis the author examines the evolution, manufacture, and societal significance of zoomorphic penannular brooches, a type of metal dress fastener used in early medieval Ireland that is often decorated. The brooches examined are dated to the 6th and 7th centuries, during which the Irish underwent a process of religious conversion from Celtic paganism to Christianity, and social rank was paramount. It is in this social context that the brooches are examined. Despite the significance of this time of social change, brooches from this period tend to be overlooked by scholarship in favor of the more ornate metalwork of the 8th and 9th centuries. The author begins by discussing the origin and evolution of the zoomorphic penannular brooch form, and the motifs used to decorate it. This is followed by an explanation of the brooch in early medieval Irish society, based on an examination of early Irish law and literature.
By Esther Ward, Master’s Thesis, University of Nebraska, 2012