Posts From April, 2014

May - Don't shoot the messenger 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 9:00:00 AM Categories: Copper Furniture Metal Religion Roman

This beautiful 2nd century copper alloy mount in the form of a youthful male bust has features which suggest a dual identity – a wreath of vine leaves indicating Bacchus, god of wine, and a winged cap indicating Mercury, messenger of the gods.

Picture of Roman mount

Although the mount clearly decorated a high status object it was discovered at a site with no other Roman finds and in an area with very little evidence for Roman activity, strongly suggesting it was accidentally lost in transit. An object produced with such fine artistic skill may have been imported from somewhere else in the Empire.

Illustration of Roman mount

Illustration by J. Gibbons 

Whoever owned this object valued Roman taste and fashion and could afford to buy good quality work, but we can’t know if they got to appreciate it, or if it was lost before it was even delivered.

HER51187. NMS-800B35.

April - Pulling your lead 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 2:01:00 PM Categories: Lead Medieval Metal Pilgrimage Religion

Photograph of lead ampulla

April's find of the month is a Medieval lead ampulla, found in Woodton.

Ampullae are small lead flasks that were produced in large numbers, filled with holy water at shrines and carried away by pilgrims as a souvenir of their visit. Once filled, the top of the soft lead vessel was sealed by crimping it closed, but many recorded examples were deliberately opened so the water could be used for its beneficial effects.

This 15thearly 16th century example was probably produced and sold at Walsingham, North Norfolk. It is decorated as a scallop shell on one side, and the other face shows an R beneath a lily in a lily pot.

The R may stand for the Lady Richelde of Fervaques, the 'founder' of the shrine at Walsingham, the lily symbolises the annunciation and the Virgin's purity, and the scallop shell represents pilgrimage.

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