Monday, September 1, 2014 9:02:00 AM
This is a lead bulla, a seal attached to papal documents to prove their authenticity. One face gives the name of the Pope, the other reads SPA SPE above the heads of Saint Paul and Saint Peter. The design changed very little for hundreds of years and one bulla looks very like another except for the name of the Pope, which makes them easy to date. Unfortunately, lead is easily damaged and worn, so some are hard to read. This example is quite clear, and was identified by Dr Tim Pestell (Norfolk Museums Service) as a bulla of Boniface IX (1389 - 1404).
NMS-B74F61 / NHER 59724
Tuesday, June 3, 2014 10:18:00 AM
Roman brooches must be one of the most commonly recorded metal artefacts, and although there is a wide variety of types known including plate, penannular, disc and bow, within this variety huge numbers of very similar brooches are recorded. Roman brooches were both decorative and functional acting as a dress fastener to hold clothes in position.
This example is a well-known variety of zoomorphic (animal shaped) brooch in the form of a duck with brightly coloured enamelled decoration. The surface is now corroded to a dull green but the enamel would have stood out against a shining yellow-bronze surface when it was new. Other types of zoomorphic brooch depict animals including other birds, fish, horses, hares, lions and even flies.
Wednesday, April 30, 2014 9:00:00 AM
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.
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 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.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 2:01:00 PM
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.
Saturday, March 1, 2014 2:09:00 PM
In the late 13th and early 14th century it was a popular fashion to convert coins into brooches. Most medieval coins featured a cross as part of the design on the reverse (tails), and it was this face that was displayed as a symbol of Christianity and not the king’s head. Wealthier people used silver coins, sometimes gilded, with silver fittings on the back.
This brooch represents a cheaper version, with a copper alloy jetton (a kind of counter which also circulated as small change) with iron fittings riveted to it, and shows how the fashions of the rich were copied by people with more limited resources.
Find out more here
Saturday, February 1, 2014 11:08:00 AM
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
Wednesday, January 1, 2014 11:10:00 AM
Our first find of the month is a medieval gauntlet. It was worn by a very rich knight in the 14th-15th centuries, to protect his hands while charging into battle.
He was fashion conscious enough that even his finger coverings had to be highly decorated, which would have been an expensive commission. This gauntlet was found in the parish of Wymondham, perhaps he lost it while returning from a feast at one of the medieval manors?
Although the gauntlet is damaged, this appears to have happened after deposition, rather than when it was in use, so it is unlikely that this set of gloves was battered by an enemy sword.
The full record can be seen at the Portable Antiquities Scheme website, www.finds.org.uk by searching for the reference: NMS-A1E6E7
Check back in February for more finds from Norfolk!