Posts Tagged With: Roman

Gravedigger finds ‘Roman child’s coffin’ with metal detector….


A child’s coffin believed to date back to the 3rd Century AD is being examined by archaeologists in Warwickshire.

It was found beneath a Leicestershire field by two men, one of whom is a Nottingham gravedigger, using metal detectors.

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JRR Tolkien ring goes on display at The Vyne exhibition…..


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An ancient gold ring thought to have inspired JRR Tolkien to write The Hobbit is on display at a Tudor house.

The ring, which is inscribed in Latin and has been linked to a Roman curse tablet, is being exhibited for the first time at The Vyne, in Hampshire.

Archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler is believed to have discussed the ring with Tolkien after realising its connection to the curse.

It was found in a farmer’s field in Silchester in 1785.

The ancient artefact is also inset with an image of the goddess Venus, and lay forgotten in the library of the National Trust property for several years.

‘Incredible story’

It is believed Sir Mortimer asked for Tolkien’s expertise in 1929. Tolkien was Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University.

The ring has been linked to a curse tablet found at the site of a Roman temple dedicated to the god Nodens in Gloucestershire.

Tolkien worked on the etymology of the name Nodens and repeatedly visited the temple.

His fantasy novel The Hobbit was published in 1937. The “One Ring”, which plays a central role in Lord of the Rings, is also gold and contains an inscription in a fictional language called the “Black Speech of Mordor”.

A “Ring Room” has been created at The Vyne in association with the Tolkien Society.

A spokesman said it told the “incredible story of this ring, the Roman tablet inscribed with a curse on the man who stole it, and its fascinating connections with Tolkien.”

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England…King Charles chessboard sells for over £600,000……


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Normally, the tale of a chess game ends with the capture of a king.
The story of this unique piece of gaming history, however, starts with the execution of one.
Chess enthusiast King Charles I of England, to be precise, who went to see the executioner in January of 1649 after being found guilty of high treason. When he went to meet his maker, he took with him two treasured possessions: his Bible, and this amber chessboard, which this week sold at a London auction for a record £601,250 — almost $970,000.
Made in Prussia in 1607, the board passed into the hands of the English Royal Family and found its way to Charles I via either his father, James I, or his brother, Henry Frederick. After Charles’ execution it was taken by Bishop William Juxon, who ministered to Charles after his death. It remained in the Juxon family until the 1700s.
Sculpture expert Erik Bijzet of London auction house Sotheby’s described the board as “a tour-de-force of amber working,” in an interview with The Daily Mail.
“We only know of four comparable boards, none of which have seemed to survive in good condition,” he said.
In addition to being a chessboard, the object also unfolds into configurations allowing it to be used to play backgammon, one of the oldest known games in the world, and Nine Men’s Morris, a simple strategy game of Roman origins.
Here’s hoping its new owner, an unnamed private collector, has better luck than Charles

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England…Metal Detectorist…’curious’ treasure


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A gold earring disc, found in Norfolk by a metal detector enthusiast, has left treasure experts baffled as to the exact meaning of its decoration.
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Discovered in Keswick, near Norwich, the disc “is an unusual find for the Roman period”, said a Norwich Castle Museum spokesman.

It features a scorpion, phallus, snake and crab, but the meaning of the combination “is lost” an expert said.

The Norwich museum hopes to acquire the disc for its collection.

The value of the item will now be determined by experts at the British Museum.

Erica Darch, from Norfolk Historic Environment Services and the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), said: “The thin sheet and repousse decoration [a technique used in metal work to decorate the surface of an object] resemble modern pressed sheet objects, but as I looked more closely it was obvious it was Roman.

“The exact significance of this combination of symbols is lost to us now although they are individually familiar.

“Phalli are fairly common as decorative motifs on Roman artefacts and are associated with good luck.

“This find almost certainly represents an accidental loss and it is easy to imagine the annoyance of the wealthy Roman woman who owned it when she realised it was missing.”

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Water mains work unearths Roman cemetery in Somerset……



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A Roman cemetery containing several human burials has been found during work on a new water mains in Somerset.

The finds were made by archaeologists during the laying of a four-mile (7km) long mains between Banwell and Hutton.

Among the skeletons, which have been exhumed for further study, there was one in a partially-preserved coffin.

A Bristol Water spokesman said the excavation had been described as “potentially the most important for 100 years in North Somerset”.

The cemetery was discovered “isolated from the surrounding landscape” in a curved water-filled ditch.

Roman cemeteries, according to Neil Shurety from Border Archaeology, are generally sited outside settlements and away from areas of human habitation.

“In this case, the cemetery is evidently associated not with a town but with a villa site and it could thus represent a private burial ground serving a wealthy landowner and his immediate family,” he said.

The human remains were orientated north-south “with the head to the north, which suggests a pre-Christian burial practice,” said Mr Shurety.

Pottery and brooches

“One of these individuals seems to lie within a partially-preserved wooden coffin – constructed from timber planking,” he added.

He said the site provided evidence of a “landscape almost continually in use for the last 5,000 years”.

“It covers a period ranging from an intriguing prehistoric timber structure to a Roman cemetery and defensive ditches through medieval land management features to today’s agricultural activity,” he said.

The finds, which include an estimated 9,000 pieces of pottery, brooches, a coin of Constantine the Great and a pin of Roman date are due to go on display at Banwell Village Hall on 19 November.

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England….amateur metal detectorist find….Leaping dolphin & Lover’s Bust Among Trove of Roman Art



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Amateurs using metal detectors have discovered a trove of Roman artifacts, including a bust possibly depicting a male lover of a Roman emperor, a silver and gold brooch of a leaping dolphin and a penis-shaped animal bone.
The wide array of art, found across Britain, dates back about 1,600 to 2,000 years, when the Romans ruled the island.
This art is among almost 25,000 Roman artifacts (the bulk of them coins) reported in England and Wales in 2011. They were documented as part of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and published recently in the journal Britannia.
In the journal article, Sally Worrell, a prehistoric and Roman finds adviser with PAS, and John Pearce, a lecturer in archaeology at King’s College London, analyze a small selection of the Roman artifacts.
The leaping dolphin
The silver, gold-gilded dolphin brooch is one of the most unusual examples. Found in Essex County, northeast of London, Worrell told LiveScience in an interview that it is a rare piece. “Something that sort of depicts a three-dimensional dolphin is a bit rare, should we say,” she said. “I certainly had a look at all the publications from this country and I couldn’t really find another one like it.”
Worrell believes the artifact was likely created on the European mainland and brought to Britain in Roman times. “We can’t say if it was worn by a man or woman, it could have been either, but I think it was a special sort of brooch.”
Worrell and her colleagues also describe a finger-ring that British Museum analysis determined was 90- to 93-percent gold. Coincidentally, it was found in Nottinghamshire, the legendary stomping grounds of Robin Hood (he lived long after Roman times).
Incised with decorations, it has a “tiny oval gem” at its center and is so small it was likely worn by a child or woman, Worrell said. It may have been given as a betrothal ring. “It’s a very small but very attractive piece,” she said. “It might have been a symbol of high status if you like.”
How a rich, ancient find like this ended up buried in Nottinghamshire is a mystery. It could simply have been lost. Or, Worrell said, “They might have deposited an object like that as a gift to the gods. We just don’t know.”
Dazzling & alluring
Another new artifact, this one from Northumberland, highlights the colorful enamel work that was carried out on the island around 1,800 years ago. In it, detailed rosettes are shown amid shrinking circles drawn in blue, white and red. It would have decorated the harness of a Roman rider’s horse. “It’s very pretty and it would have looked quite dazzling,” Worrell said.
Even more alluring, arguably, was a copper alloy bust that depicts a bare-chested young man that could be Antinous, the male lover of Emperor Hadrian.
The hollow bust, found near Market Rasen in Lincolnshire, appears to be a furniture fitting, perhaps part of a furniture chest. Researchers can’t be certain that this is Hadrian’s lover but its hairstyle closely matches other statues known of him.
Hadrian ruled between A.D. 117 and 138 and focused on consolidating the Roman Empire. He authorized construction of a system of fortifications in Britain known as Hadrian’s Wall. Homosexuality was not viewed negatively in ancient Rome and the emperor’s affair with Antinous, a Greek man, was not unusual.
However, when Antinous died in Egypt in A.D. 130, while Hadrian was touring the province, the emperor took it very hard. He ordered the deification of his dead lover, and the Antinous cult spread throughout the empire with statues of him being erected and a city, in Egypt, being named after him.
John Pearce told LiveScience that, if the newly found bust is Antinous, it would be only the third example known from Britain. “If it is Antinous, it’s quite interesting because it’s one of the few pieces of evidence that we have for the cult of Antinous extending beyond the Mediterranean.”
Erotic discoveries
A few artifacts show the erotic side of Roman art. The most explicit object is a copper alloy knife handle found in North Yorkshire and showing a man and woman having sex.
“The man lies on a couch and is straddled by a woman who faces his feet, which she holds, while the man’s left hand rests on her left buttock,” write Worrell and Pearce in the journal article.
“It’s not uncommon to find sexually explicit iconography in the Roman household complex generally,” Pearce said in the interview, noting that Pompeii, a city in Italy buried in a volcanic eruption, has explicit murals.
“One theory is that those scenes that show sexual activity have an apotropaic power, because they make you laugh so that wards off the evil eye,” he said. A knife with a handle like this could be carried around, protecting the user. “It’s a kind of insurance policy.”
Another risqué item is a penis carved out of animal bone with two wings on it, a common motif in Roman times, Pearce noted.
Yet another item is a hollow pendent in the shape of a penis, this one made out of gold. The use of the precious metal to make a penis is “probably telling you mostly about the status of the person who commissioned it,” Pearce said.

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Roman marble coffin sells for £96,000…was used as a flower pot



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A Roman marble coffin has sold at auction for £96,000.

The 7ft (2.1m) sarcophagus was being used as a trough to stand flowers in in the garden of a house in Dorset, where its significance was recognised by Guy Schwinge, a Dorchester auction valuer.

Mr Schwinge described how he spotted the coffin “peeping out from under some bushes” during a routine valuation.

“As I drew closer I realised I was looking at a Roman sarcophagus of exceptional quality,” he said.

Mr Schwinge, of Duke’s in Dorchester, discovered the family had acquired the sarcophagus almost 100 years ago at auction.

‘Utterly delighted’

An auction catalogue from 1913 shows the coffin was imported to Britain by Queen Victoria’s surveyor of pictures, Sir John Robinson, who lived at Newton Manor in Swanage, Dorset.

“When I saw the name Duke’s on the front (of the catalogue) I couldn’t believe it,” Mr Schwinge said.

The rectangular sarcophagus is carved from fine quality white marble, said a spokesman for Duke’s, who sold the coffin for a second time.

The quality of the carving suggests it was made for a high status individual.

Experts from the British Museum have estimated the sarcophagus dates from the 2nd Century.

The owners were “utterly delighted” with the sale, Duke’s said.

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Roman Ring…900BC


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Roman altar found at Maryport dig


An altar has been discovered at the site of a Roman fort in Cumbria, the first such find for 142 years.

The inscribed artefact was uncovered intact during an archaeological dig on the edge of Maryport.

It was described as in “beautiful condition” and because it was face down in a pit its dedication to the god “Jupiter Optimus Maximus” was intact.

The altar will join 17 others unearthed by landowner Humphrey Senhouse in 1870 which are in the town’s Roman museum.

The manager of the Senhouse Roman Museum described the altar as “rare and special”.

Dated to the 2nd or 3rd Century AD, it was inscribed on behalf of Titus Attius Tutor, commander of the First Cohort of Baetasian, which came to Maryport from what is now the Netherlands.

‘Over the moon’

It was found on Wednesday by John Murray, a volunteer on the dig, who said it “felt fantastic” to be the first person to touch it for at least 1,600 years.

The location was in a large pit which would once have underpinned a massive timber edifice, occupying the highest point of the ridge overlooking the Solway Firth and Maryport’s Roman fort.

Professor Ian Haynes, from Newcastle University, said the find confirmed the theory that at some point the altars lost their significance and were used by the Romans in building work.

Previously, it was thought that the altars were ritually buried.

He added: “Finds like this don’t come up very often, so I think people are over the moon actually.

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Roman-era shipwreck reveals ancient medical secrets….



A first-aid kit found on a 2,000-year-old shipwreck has provided a remarkable insight into the medicines concocted by ancient physicians to cure sailors of dysentery and other ailments.

A wooden chest discovered on board the vessel contained pills made of ground-up vegetables, herbs and plants such as celery, onions, carrots, cabbage, alfalfa and chestnuts – all ingredients referred to in classical medical texts.

The tablets, which were so well sealed that they miraculously survived being under water for more than two millennia, also contain extracts of parsley, nasturtium, radish, yarrow and hibiscus.

They were found in 136 tin-lined wooden vials on a 50ft-long trading ship which was wrecked around 130 BC off the coast of Tuscany. Scientists believe they would have been used to treat gastrointestinal complaints suffered by sailors such as dysentery and diarrhoea.

“It’s a spectacular find. They were very well sealed,” Dr Alain Touwaide, from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington DC, told The Sunday Telegraph. “The plants and vegetables were probably crushed with a mortar and pestle – we could still see the fibres in the tablets. They also contained clay, which even today is used to treat gastrointestinal problems.”

The pills are the oldest known archaeological remains of ancient pharmaceuticals. They would have been taken with a mouthful of wine or water, or may have been dissolved and smeared on the skin to treat inflammation and cuts.

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