MIRROR FROM DESBOROUGH
Northamptonshire, bronze, late first century bc
The Celts acquired their taste for richly designed mirrors from the classical world, where they were prized, in particular, by the Etruscans. By the time of the Roman occupation, the fashion had spread to Britain. Some three dozen mirrors have been discovered in southern England.
The general format of these mirrors - their traditional kidney shape and their engraved backs - followed classical models, but their style of decoration was distinctive. The ornamental effect was achieved by the contrast between the smooth, polished bronze and the 'basketry' patterns engraved with the use of a tracer. Most of the designs were tripartite, built up from a basic structure of three linked circles. However, the Desborough mirror, whiich was found near a hillfort in 1908, is one of the most sophisticated examples. Here, the pattern has evolved into two reversed lyre-scrolls, linking a series of smaller spheres. At the outer edges of the design, there are two small triangles within circles. These may have been added as a symbol of good luck, or less probably, as a craftsman's mark.