The original of this dove clasp fibula would have been cast in galvanised bronze or silver. A fibula is an ancient piece of jewellery which had a dual function as both a pin (to fasten a coat or a cloak) and a brooch (to decorate the same piece of clothing).
Its use as a brooch became more frequent in Roman times and many highly ornate variations appeared. Amongst these, the ornithological theme was fairly prevalent, and fibula decorated with peacocks or doves, whose grace in flight fascinated Gallo-Roman craftsmen, became popular. Other animals including stags, wild boar, hares, panthers, lions, dolphins and frogs were used to decorate fibula.
Some of these «zoomorphic» (animal-shaped) fibulas could have been made in Bourgogne, and perhaps even in Alesia, where this piece was found. A mere village during the siege of 52 BC which saw the defeat Vercingetorix, during Roman times, Alesia became a large population centre renowned for its craftsmanship. The latin historian, Pliny the Elder, who died in 79 AD, was amongst those who celebrated the skills of the bronze-founders of Alesia. These artisans developed techniques for silver-plating objects, particulary saddlery, to give them the appearance of silver at minimal cost.
The dove clasp fibula was discovered in a sanctuary in Alesia, and may have been lost by a worshipper. It may equally have been left there deliberately for the god Apollo Moritasgus, as fibula were often included amongst the offerings made to gods in Roman Gaul.