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.

March - Holding it together 

Saturday, March 01, 2014 2:09:00 PM Categories: Accessories Brooch Clothing Copper Medieval Metal

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.

Photograph of copper alloy jetton brooch

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

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

January - Knights in shining armour 

Wednesday, January 01, 2014 11:10:00 AM Categories: Accessories Armour Clothing Copper Medieval Metal

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.

Photograph of medieval gauntlet

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?

Illustration of medieval gauntlet

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!

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