Posts in Category: Grooming

November - Broaching the subject 

Monday, October 10, 2016 11:26:00 AM Categories: Accessories Bronze Brooch Grooming Metal Roman

Photo of fragment of enamelled Roman chatelelaine plate brooch

Our object this month is a rather nice red, yellow and blue, enamelled fragment of a Roman chatelaine plate brooch found in Great Melton. 

These types of brooches were probably worn exclusively by women and as well as being an adornment the brooch was multifunctional, in that they were also used to suspend a variety of useful toilet or cosmetic implements, made up of such things as tweezers, ear scoops and nail cleaners.  A more complete example is shown below (image courtesy of the British Museum) and illustrates how the various utensils were suspended from a bar that was fixed by perforated lugs at either end of the bottom edge.

 

Photo of complete Roman chatelaine brooch from the British Museum

This bar is missing on the Norfolk-found example, as of course are the various instruments that would have been suspended from it. The utensils attached to a brooch in this way are highly impractical for use and they are presently believed to have served more as status symbols or statements of personal hygiene.

Chatelaine brooches of this type typically date from the 3rd to the early 4th century AD.  A full description of this Norfolk example can be found on the Portable Antiquities website (www.finds.org.uk) using the reference number NMS-2B9212.

July - Hold your horses 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016 10:25:00 AM Categories: Animals Copper Grooming Iron Metal Roman Tool

July's Find of the Month is very unusual in several respects. First, we are breaking the mould slightly as, in our enthusiasm to show it to you, the Portable Antiquities record is not yet complete and the object is still undergoing research.  Secondly, because of its rarity and the circumstances under which it was recovered.

It was found with a metal detector in a field in North Norfolk buried in a hoard together with a number of Roman pots.  It was included within a concretion of tools, soil and iron oxide that was excavated complete. The object was then fully revealed in a controlled off-site stage excavation of the concreted assemblage.  Shown in figure 1 below is the mass from which the object emerged, a tiny part of it can just be seen at the edge in the one o’clock position.

Concretion of tools, soil and iron oxide which contained the find

Figure 1

Projection of the butteris

Figure 2

The find that emerged is shown above in figure 2 and below in figure 3, and along with the other artefacts that emerged is now undergoing further research before being recorded onto the Portable Antiquities Scheme database. It has been identified as a Roman farrier’s tool called a Butteris and it was used to maintain and pare horses’ hooves.

Three quarter view of the butteris

Figure 3

The more usual form of a Roman butteris is a plain construction of iron, but this example has a wonderful composite design with a copper alloy moulded handle and an iron blade. The copper alloy handle appears to have some associated symbolism, as the eagle terminal and the projecting human head are repeated on other examples such as the smaller butteris handle shown in figure 4 that was found in Belgium.


A similar example from Belgium

Figure 4

As a result of a much worn Roman nummus coin found in the assemblage, the deposition of the hoard can be placed right at the end of the Roman occupation of Britain.  Credit is due to the finders who realising the significance of what they had found contacted the Historic Environment Service to enable a controlled excavation to be carried out.

February - Getting to the point 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016 2:59:00 PM Categories: Bronze Age Copper Grooming Metal Metal working Tool

This month we are going back to the Bronze Age to a time when the production, fabrication, development and use of metals was very much in its infancy.  The late Bronze Age knife or razor shown below was found near Swaffham and was probably cast in a two-piece clay mould around 800 to 700 BC.


Photograph of Bronze Age knife

The metal is Bronze which is comprised of copper and tin alloyed together, but it probably also contained a deliberate addition of lead, as the metal-workers of the time had already discovered that this made the metal more fluid when molten and therefore improved the casting process (1).  As the drawing shows the leaf-shaped blade is still in surprisingly sharp condition.


Illustration of Bronze Age knife

Full details of the knife can be seen at www.finds.org.uk using search reference NMS-5BFE67.

 

Ref 1: A Sample Analysis of British Middle and late Bronze Age material using Optical Spectrometry, M Brown and A Blin-Stoyle.

February - Dressed to impress 

Saturday, February 01, 2014 11:08:00 AM Categories: Accessories Copper Grooming Metal Roman

Photograph of Roman cosmetic set

Cosmetic sets were used in the Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Medieval periods and were made up of several personal grooming tools hung from a ring so they could be carried around conveniently.

This Roman example, which is probably 3rd or 4th century, has a nail cleaner with two prongs to scrape under the finger nails, tweezers for removing unwanted hair and a third, broken tool which was probably a tiny spoon called an ear-scoop for removing wax from the ears. Some cosmetic sets also included a straight tool with a pointed end for use as a toothpick.

We might not carry around ear-scoops with us today, but modern manicure sets are not so different from these 1600 year old tools and almost every bathroom contains cotton buds, dental tape and tweezers.  

The full find record can be found on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database here: NMS-4FE992

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