While excavating a privy on AgHb-676 last summer a portion of a “Snake Buckle” was recovered. The initial design date of the double headed snake clasp is uncertain, but this serpentine form may have existed as far back as medieval times (Caulkins 1979:57). For centuries it has been utilized worldwide within a variety of vocations, such as on the belts of British school uniforms, prison wardens, police, the RAF, firemen, and the Freemasons(4)
Within the British commonwealth the British rifleman’s belt buckle first appeared in c.1800 with elite rifle regiments using Baker rifles in the Napoleonic War. The 95th Rifles and the 60th Rifles, and the KGL (King’s German Legion) were some of the units that used this buckle. These units were “chosen men”, and wore a green uniform with black buttons and engaged in skirmishing and sniping the French. This “snake” pattern continued in use throughout the 19th century and is seen in popular use by Confederate Troops in American Civil War, as British military equipment was supplied to them through “running the blockade”. It was widely used by the North West Mounted Police who had adopted British/Canadian military kit of the day (Stetsons and red coats). It was also standard issue to Canadian Troops as part of the hated leather “Oliver Pattern” belt, harness, and cartridge box kit used until about 1914. Post-World War One it was used by various police services and cadet units till about the mid-20th century (1, 2, 3).
As this site dates from the mid-19th century and was still in use into the 20th century this buckle could have been part of the uniform of a soldier in the Boer War, or WWI. It may even have been from the uniform of an RCMP or police officer.
(1) Personal Communication with Douglas Sweiger (2018)
(2)Dave the Snake Guy (DSG)
2010 Snake buckle belt. Gentleman’s Military Interest Club. Accessed at: http://gmic.co.uk/topic/8636-snake-buckle-belt/
(3)Canada War Museum (CWM)
2018 Uniforms & Equipment-Oliver Pattern Equipment. Canada & the South African War, 1899-1902. Accessed at: https://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/boer/boerwarequipment_e.shtml
(4) Archaeology on the Frontier
2019 Snake Buckles on the Frontier. Accessed at: https://archaeologyonthefrontier.com/2017/12/19/snake-buckles/
(5) Calkins, R.G.
1997 Monuments of Medieval Art. New York: Cornell University Press.