Provincial Roman; Found in Vermand, France
Silver gilt inlaid with niello
Buckle: L. 2 3/8 in. (6 cm), Spear shafts: L. 1 1/8 in. (3 cm) (.143), 3 3/4 in. (9.4 cm) (.144), 4 3/4 in. (12.2 cm) (.145)
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.192.143–.146)
The Romans referred to the people living beyond their borders as barbarians and often employed them as mercenary soldiers to safeguard the empire's borders. This group of objectsa set of three mounts for spear shafts and a belt bucklewere found in the grave of a barbarian warrior stationed in the Roman province of Gaul. Though the tomb, located in Vermand, France, had been looted before its discovery by archaeologists in 1885, it remains unsurpassed among barbarian warrior graves in the number and quality of objects it held. Among its furnishings were an ax, spears, sword, and shield (the boss and handle of which also belong to the Museum's collection). The exceptional craftsmanship and rich design of the spear-shaft ornaments and buckle suggest they belonged to a high-ranking military leader. Cast into the pieces are intricate patterns of scrolls, rosettes, and fantastic animals. The surface is gilded, with vivid patterns created though niello inlays. The six-pointed interlaced star so prominent on one mount was not at this time a Jewish symbol; it appears as a decorative motif in both Roman and Germanic art.