The dense animal patterns that cover many Anglo-Saxon objects are not just pretty decoration; they have multilayered symbolic meanings and tell stories. Anglo-Saxons, who had a love of riddles and puzzles of all kinds, would have been able to “read” the stories embedded in the decoration.
The early art style of the Anglo-Saxon period is known as Style I and was popular in the late 5th and 6th centuries. It is characterized by what seems to be a dizzying jumble of animal limbs and face masks, which has led some scholars to describe the style as an “animal salad.”
Trewhiddle-style animals feature in the roundels of the Fuller Brooch, but all other aspects of its decoration are unique within Anglo-Saxon art.
At the center is a man with staring eyes holding two plants. Around him are four other men striking poses: one, with his hands behind his back, sniffs a leaf; another rubs his two hands together; the third holds his hand up to his ear; and the final one has his whole hand inserted into his mouth.
Together these strange poses form the earliest personification of the five senses: Sight, Smell, Touch, Hearing, and Taste.
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