Roman Finds Group Meetings

Roman Finds Group  30th Anniversary Meeting
Friday 20th - Saturday 21st October 2017 at Salisbury Museum

New Research on Finds from South and South-Western  Britain

This year the Roman Finds Group is 30 years old. To celebrate, we’ve organised our 2017 Autumn Meeting in Salisbury, where there will be a special reception. It will be a two-day conference from lunchtime on Friday 20th October until late afternoon on Saturday 21st October and is to be held in the Lecture Theatre, Salisbury Museum ( The meeting is being organised jointly by Stephen Greep and Jörn Schuster. RFG are grateful for the support given to arrangements for the meeting by Salisbury Museum.
There are five sessions of papers, with nineteen illustrated talks, on various aspects of finds from British sites concentrating on recent work in south and south-western Britain. There will be one session concentrating on brooches, led by Justine Bayley, in memory of Sarnia Butcher.
Please note that numbers will be restricted so you are advised to book early. This is particularly important for the reserved accommodation (see below) which will be allocated on a first come first served basis! The cost of the meeting is the same as for both the York and Reading meetings last year: £40 for fully paid up RFG members, £30 for students, £48 non-members and a £25 day rate (students £20).
What’s included?

  •  Access to all conference sessions, finds and poster viewings. 
  • Teas and coffees as in the programme. 
  • Free access to the Museum. 
  • Private viewing of the Wessex Gallery and the Terry Pratchett Exhibition on the Friday evening after the Museum has closed to the public.
  • RFG 30th Anniversary drinks reception held at Sarum College.
  • Subsidised pre-conference guided tour to Salisbury Cathedral.

Finds Viewing/poster displays/book sales There is space adjacent to the lecture room for finds display and discussion during tea/coffee breaks. If you wish to bring along finds and/or a poster display please indicate on the application form or contact Stephen Greep separately. There will also be space for the sale of books etc.

Getting to Salisbury Museum It’s a 10 minute walk from the railway station to the Museum (The Kings House, 65 The Close, Salisbury SP1 2EN). Please note that there is no parking at the Museum. There are two trains an hour from London Waterloo. Parking in the Close is £6 per day but spaces are limited. There are NCP car parks a 10 minute walk away in New Street and Crane Street. The closest carparks apart from the Cathedral’s are Brown St and Millstream. There are four park and rides: For those staying at Sarum College there are some directions for parking on their website. There should be parking available at the College in the evening for anyone staying but not a lot of spaces for extras
Pre-conference guided tour of Salisbury Cathedral We have arranged a RFG only guided tour around Salisbury Cathedral immediately prior to the start of the meeting. This will take place from 11.00 and will last approximately one hour. There is a small (subsidised) cost of £5, and the tour will operate subject to demand. If you wish to attend please indicate on booking form. Access to galleries and roof through narrow spiral staircases with some uneven steps requires a certain level of fitness!
Roman Finds Group 30th Anniversary Reception, Friday evening 6-7pm Following the private viewing at the Salisbury Museum there will be a special reception to celebrate our 30th Anniversary. Taking place at Sarum College, there will be wine and soft drinks and some cake, together with a short presentation on RFG, past, present and future. There is no charge for this special event, but you must indicate on your application form that you are going to attend so we get the catering right!
Friday evening Conference Meal, 8pm We have arranged a meal at Prezzo, which is just a short walk from the Museum (52 High St, Salisbury SP1 2PF). We have reserved seats and there should be room for everyone. You will have to pre-order (via RFG) but pay on the night. The cost is £20, which includes a three-course meal, some wine and a small gratuity. You will be required to pre-order, but there will be something for everyone!
Accommodation We have reserved a number of rooms at Sarum College ( are £69 per night B@B. Sarum College is very close to Salisbury Museum. These rooms are available on a first come basis – please indicate on your meeting application form. You pay locally, please don’t send any money for your room with the application form.
Questions and further Information Any questions about the meeting should be made to Stephen Greep ( or Jörn Schuster (

New Research on Finds from South and South Western Britain Autumn 2017 Meeting Programme and Timetable 

Day One: Friday 20th October 2017

12.30   Registration. Welcome tea/coffee

13.00   Welcome and Introduction, Dr Stephen Greep, Meetings Co-ordinator, RFG
Session One

Chair: Dr Stephen Greep, RFG

13.05   Alyson Tanner, Portable Antiquities Scheme volunteer, Salisbury: Finds from three local sites in the Pitt Rivers Collection at Salisbury Museum

13.35   Sophie Hawke, Researcher, Bradford on Avon Museum: What a Relief: an assessment of the Romano-British relief fragment found in Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

14.05   Dr Eleanor Ghey, Project Curator: Romano-British Collections, British Museum: Recent Research on Coin Hoards from the South-West
14.35   Tea/Coffee – viewing of finds and posters
Session Two: Papers based on brooch research in the south-west: A Tribute to Sarnia Butcher

Chair:  Jenny Hall, RFG

15.15   Dr Justine Bayley, Chairman, Roman Finds Group: Sarnia Butcher: Brooches

15.30   Anna Tyacke, Cornwall FLO, Royal Institution of Cornwall, Truro: A Cornish Brooch type

16.00   Sally Worrell, Prehistoric & Roman National Finds Adviser, University College London: Mapping Polden Hill brooches: new evidence from the PAS brooches recorded in the South-west

16.30   Dr Justine Bayley, Chairman, Roman Finds Group: The Brooches from Nor'Nour
16.45   Louise Tunnard, The Salisbury Museum: How the Wessex Gallery was won
Special Museum Viewing
17.00   Private Viewing of the Wessex Gallery, Salisbury Museum     AND   An opportunity to join the exhibition curator Richard Henry on a tour of Terry Pratchett: His World. An exclusive major exhibition based on the extraordinary life of Sir Terry Pratchett, the creative genius behind the Discworld series
Reception at Sarum College
18.00   To celebrate thirty years of RFG there will be a drinks reception at Sarum College.  Justine Bayley, Chairman, RFG will give a short presentation on RFG past, present and future
Evening Social
20.00   For those who have booked, a meal at Prezzo’s, 52 High St, Salisbury SP1 2PF a short stroll away from the Museum.

Roman Finds Group Meeting Autumn 2017
Day Two : Saturday 21st October 2017

Please note there is no access to the Museum or the Lecture Theatre until 10.00
Session Three
Chair: Dr Jörn Schuster, RFG

10.15   Dr Bruce Eagles, Research Fellow, Bournemouth University, Salisbury: Penannular brooches in post-Roman Wessex

10.45   Rachael Seager-Smith, Finds Manager, Wessex Archaeology, Salisbury: Finds from the Roman Cemeteries at Amesbury Down

11.15   Dr Stephen Greep, RFG:  More Regionality? Weapon Terminal ‘spoons’ from Frocester Court, Gloucestershire and Needle Cases from Lankhills, Winchester, Hampshire.
11.25   Tea/Coffee – viewing of finds and posters
Session Four Chair: Dr Angela Wardle, RFG
11.50   Dr David Roberts, Archaeologist, Historic England: The Roman Villa in the Deverills

12.20   The Pewsey hoard of late Roman vessels: wrapping, contents and time of deposition Richard Henry, Wiltshire FLO, Salisbury and South Wilts Museum: The hoard’s discovery and archaeology   Dr Ruth Pelling, Senior Archaeobotanist, Historic England, Fort Cumberland: The hoard’s macro remains   Dr Michael Grant, Enterprise Fellow in Marine Archaeology, Southampton University: The hoard’s pollen evidence
13.10   Lunch
Session Five
Chair: Dr Justine Bayley, RFG

14.30   Dr Mike Bishop, Writer, Publisher and Archaeologist, Pewsey:  Lance, javelin, and spear: untangling the weaponry of Roman auxiliary cavalry

15.00   Owen Humphries, Department of Archaeology, University of Reading: Artefacts at work: The Tools from Roman London

15.30   Dr Miles Russell, Senior Lecturer in Prehistoric and Roman archaeology, Bournemouth University: The ‘Face’ of Roman Britain: establishing identity and context for Romano-British portrait sculpture

16.00   Tatiana Ivleva, Department of Archaeology, University of Newcastle. Glass adornments event horizon?: In search for the origins of Roman-period glass bangles in southern Britain
16.30   Dr Justine Bayley, Chairman, Roman Finds Group. Summary and Closing remarks

16.40 End

Download the programme and booking form here.

Download the abstracts here. (updated 29/09/2017)


Roman Finds Group Meetings

Roman Finds Group MeetingsRoman Finds Group Meetings Roman Finds Group MeetingsRoman Finds Group Meetings Roman Finds Group MeetingsRoman Finds Group Meetings Roman Finds Group MeetingsRoman Finds Group Meetings

Roman Finds Group meetings are held twice a year in varying locations, and provide a useful opportunity for presentation and discussion.

Roman Finds Group committee are always in the process of setting an exciting programme of meetings for the next year or two.


Previous Roman Finds Group Meetings


Roman Finds Group Spring Meeting 2017
Verulamium and the Romano-British South East
Friday 21st April 2017

The 2017 RFG Spring Meeting was based in St Albans on Friday April 21st, kindly hosted by the Verulamium Museum. The RFG would very much like to thank all those involved with arranging this event.

The conference comprised three sessions of papers with seven talks covering various aspects of finds from Verulamium and the Romano – British Southeast and is an excellent opportunity to hear about recent finds and research in this region, abstracts below. A quick-fire session entitled ‘Small Finds, Short Papers’ including three ten minute talks took place. Previous RFG meetings in Newcastle, York and Reading were oversubscribed so early booking was strongly advised. The cost of the meeting was £18 for fully paid up RFG members, £15 for students and £22 for non-members, and included access to all conference sessions, finds and poster viewings, as well as refreshments at the break and a visit to the Museum during the lunch break.

The Roman Finds Group Spring Conference Organising Committee

The Roman Finds Group Spring Conference 2017
Verulamium and the Romano-British South East

Conference Schedule

Friday 21st April

10.00          Registration (with tea and coffee)

10.30          Welcome

Session 1 – Verulamium and surrounds

10.40                      Verulamium Revealed: recent geophysical surveys of the Roman town Kris Lockyear

11.10          How Hertfordshire joined the Roman Empire Isobel Thompson

11.40          The Sandridge hoard David Thorold

12.10          Finds from sacred places in the landscape around the Romano-British town at Baldock, Hertfordshire Gill Burleigh

12.40          AGM - Lunch

Session 2 – the Romano-British Southeast

14.10          ‘The Wight Stuff’: Assessing the potential of late Iron Age and Roman period PAS data from the Isle of Wight Stephanie Smith

14.40          The Beginning of the End of Roman Britain – Probably…? But the End…? Probably Not…the Story of a Byzantine Coin Simon West

15.10          A New Spin on Roman Slingshot from Britain John H Reid

15.40          Tea, coffee and biscuits

Session 3 - Small Finds, Short Papers

16.10          Priestly regalia in Roman south-east Britain. Biographies of use and depositional practices Alessandra Esposito

16.20          Putting faces to names Frances McIntosh

16.30          Grave goods and ritual deposition from The Goodmans Care Home and Epsom College sites, Ewell, Surrey Chris Faine

16.45          Closing remarks and departure

The Roman Finds Group Spring Conference
Verulamium and the Romano-British Southeast


Verulamium Revealed: recent geophysical surveys of the Roman town

Kris Lockyear

In 2013, a project funded by the AHRC’s Connected Communities scheme, was initiated to train local volunteers in magnetometry survey and to undertake work at a selection of Iron Age and Roman sites in Hertfordshire, including Verulamium.  The group completed the survey of Verulamium Park by the end of funding in early 2014.  The group, now called the Community Archaeology Geophysics Group, have continued to prosper and have undertaken surveys on 21 sites in Hertfordshire, Beds, Bucks, Essex and Cambridgeshire.  In the summer of 2015 they were able to begin survey of the half of Verulamium that lies within the Gorhambury Estate.  The survey continued in the summer of 2016.  The group has been able to borrow a GPR (from SEAHA) and a RM85 Earth Resistance meter (from UCL) to complement the magnetometry results.  This paper will review some of the major findings from these surveys, and show how the combination of techniques provides a much richer image of the subsurface features than one technique alone.  The paper will conclude with some thoughts as to the direction the project should be taking.

How Hertfordshire entered the Roman empire

Isobel Thompson

AD 43 was the year of invasion, not ‘conquest’. The process of transition in Hertfordshire from the ‘late Iron Age’ to being part of the Roman empire was a long one which began in the mid 1st century BC and lasted until the Flavian period. Some idea of this process can be gleaned from information on Verulamium collated for the St Albans Urban Archaeological Database in the mid 1990s, undertaken to establish a sound knowledge base for archaeological advice within the planning system. Verulamium has enough data for the 1st century AD to show how it persisted as a high-status late Iron Age central focus, with a client king, until after the king’s burial c.AD 55. His reign overlapped the foundation of Londinium in AD 48. Evidence of the relationship between Verulamium and Londinium is explored (through pottery supply and other themes), which shows that it was not straightforward or very obvious. The material character of Verulamium’s layout, settlement and burial customs before AD 60 can be seen as a mix of the insular and the continental, but not ‘Roman’. To an extent the same can be said of Londinium at this pre-Boudican date; it was a brand-new frontier town populated by immigrants. Detailed stratigraphy and goods in Londinium and Southwark at this period, when individual building plots could be redeveloped more than once before AD 60, make for interesting comparison with the client king’s power base and the rest of Hertfordshire.

The Sandridge hoard

David Thorold

In 2012 a metal detectorist testing out his first detector within the St Albans district happened upon a hoard of gold coins. Prior to this discovery only one gold Roman coin had been found at Verulamium. The detectorist reported his find to the museum service and we were able to carry out a rescue dig on the site. Eventually 159 solidii were recovered – the largest hoard consisting solely of these coins to be found in the country.

This talk will look at the coins recovered, and consider what the hoard can tell us about coinage in the late Roman empire and how it was transported, stored and spent.

Finds from sacred places in the landscape around the Romano-British town at Baldock, Hertfordshire

Gill Burleigh

A sacred landscape may be defined around Baldock by the presence not only of temples, shrines, elite burials, hoards, and boundary dykes, but also of natural features, such as springs, rivers and dry valleys, some of which appear to be associated with cultic activities. This presentation will define the area being examined, outline what we know about some of these monuments and natural features, and show examples of a range of finds that have come from them. Notable aspects of these sacred places and the rituals associated with them seems to be continuity from earlier periods, the veneration of prehistoric monuments and artefacts, perhaps connected with ancestor worship.

‘The Wight Stuff’: Assessing the potential of late Iron Age and Roman period PAS data from the Isle of Wight

Stephanie Smith

The Isle of Wight, Roman Vectis, has often been treated as an insular backwater in comparison to well-known Iron Age and Roman period settlements across mainland southern Britain.  Explorations on Wight in the late 19th-early 20th centuries failed to uncover evidence of major urban centres from this period and focused almost entirely on eight known villas, with inconsistent recording and retention of the related assemblages. Whilst modern discoveries confirm that the inhabitants of the Isle of Wight engaged in wider Channel activity from early prehistoric times and evidence suggests that this maritime network expanded to increasingly extensive trade relationships by Iron Age and Roman periods, few excavations have been fully published, making an assessment of supporting material culture from the Island difficult. 

Within this context, this paper will provide a preliminary exploration of the significance of more than 4,600 Iron Age and Roman period finds discovered by metal detector users on the Isle of Wight and recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). Although recent work on Roman coinage has illustrated Vectis’ importance within maritime trade networks, little work has been done to synthesise the wealth of material recorded from the Island.  This paper will investigate the potential of integrating PAS data with other available resources to rewrite our understanding of settlement on Vectis and its relationships with the wider Channel zone.

The Beginning of the End of Roman Britain – Probably…? But the End…? Probably Not…the Story of a Byzantine Coin

Simon West

In March 2012 a Byzantine coin was found by a detectorist in Colney Heath, St Albans. It was discovered in an area which had previously been trial trenched as part of an archaeological assessment prior to development; several archaeological field evaluations were also conducted as part of this planning process. A scatter of prehistoric and Roman material was recovered though the contemporary evaluation produced few archaeological features. The only identified feature which was datable was a narrow gully, crossing the evaluation trench. The gully was possibly Bronze Age, based on a pot sherd and the lack of other later features and finds. It may be that the archaeological features had been truncated or that the level of activity on site was limited, or ephemeral. Apart from the coin, the detectorist recovered twelve metal objects (6 Roman, 2 medieval, 4 post-medieval) and a Palaeolithic flint biface.

The single Byzantine coin from Colney Heath may not appear to be significant, but this one coin fits the distribution of other similar coins and has significance beyond its size. This study would appear to corroborate Pirenne’s view that the Arab invasion had a devastating effect on trade and that from this devastation grew a new network of trading links and that ‘without Islam, the Frankish Empire would probably never have existed, and Charlemagne, without Muhammad, would be inconceivable’. As yet, the precise purpose and distribution mechanism for the Byzantine coinage spread across England is not known. The next step would be to look at non-PAS/HER coin finds and to link these with other classes of Byzantine objects, and together these need to be considered within the wider political, economic and trading contexts of the time.

A New Spin on Roman Slingshot from Britain

John H Reid

It is not an exaggeration to describe the sling as the forgotten firepower of the ancient world. There has been a tendency by military scholars to overlook this weapon yet modern ballistic experiments provide startling evidence of its range and effectiveness.

We present a brief review of the ballistics of the sling and its place within the Roman army. By virtue of the finds of distinctive ammunition, we will show something of its distribution in Roman Britain.

Stephen Greep first described the important finds of lead sling bullets from St Albans in Britannia in 1987 and at that time offered a new typology. Based on his descriptions, we will review the fabric, manufacture and specialised nature of the weapon. We also have pleasure in presenting an updated and expanded typology of lead bullets which includes the recent work from Burnswark Hill.

Priestly regalia in Roman south-east Britain. Biographies of use and depositional practices.

Alessandra Esposito

Deposits of objects resulting from religious rituals are known in south-east Britain, but their consideration in the archaeological literature has often been affected by different biases. Greater attention has been given to the typology and iconography of specific objects, particularly the ‘priestly regalia’, less about their performative aspect. This address focuses on deposits that share the common denominator of containing one or more items recognisable as ‘priestly regalia'. These deposits offer contained collections of multiple items selected to be deposited together, thus creating different types of sets and providing a screenshot of ritual depositional practices in the region. After presenting the recently discovered deposit at West Stow, Bury St Edmunds, Norfolk (Worrell 2011; Esposito 2015), I will then consider it together with similar deposits found over the centuries in south-east Britain, to reflect on the physical transformations underwent by the deposited objects and deemed necessary to become part of a deposit. Finally, general considerations about the depositional practices of priestly regalia will be drawn thanks to the analysis of their distribution patterns in the region.

Putting faces to names

Frances McIntosh

Within the Clayton collection there are finds from all over the UK, some of these finds have notes to name the donors, but often I have not been able to find out who these people are. This quick-fire paper is a plea to see if anyone knows my donors. Who were they, why were they sending material to Clayton and was he sending them material in exchange?

Grave goods and ritual deposition from The Goodmans Care Home and Epsom College sites, Ewell, Surrey

Chris Faine

These 2 adjacent sites, dug in 2015 uncovered features dating from the Late Bronze Age to Saxon periods. Of most interest is a series of Roman inhumations (with associated goods) and a number large quarry pits. From these a total of 53 individual humans and over 70 animal burials, along with 80 Small finds and 59 coins were recovered. The assemblage consisted of a wide variety of material types and objects, many in extremely good condition. The talk will briefly examine the finds from the sites and consider them into a wider context of similar depositions from South-East Britain.

Roman Finds Group Autumn Meeting 2016
Town and Country in Southern Britain
Friday 9th – Saturday 10th September 2016 

The 2016 RFG Autumn Meeting was based in Reading  on Friday 9th and Saturday 10th September. It was hosted by the University of Reading’s Archaeology Department. The RFG would very much like to thank all those involved with arranging this event. 

The conference comprised five sessions of papers with eighteen talks covering various aspects of finds from the town and country in southern Britain and was an excellent opportunity to hear about recent finds and research in this region.. Research posters covering a wide range of topics and an artefacts table with finds from the excavations at Silchester were also displayed during tea and coffee breaks. The conference’s Keynote Presentation was given by Nina Crummy and Matt Phelps on Friday 9th who discussed their ongoing work on the Colchester Hoard.   

Conference Schedule 

Day One: Friday 9th September 2016

12.30 Registration (with tea and coffee)  
13.00 Welcome   
Session 1 – Research at the University of Reading  
Chair Adam Sutton (PhD Student, University of Reading)  
13.10  Hella Eckardt (University of Reading), Writing power and identity: the material culture of literacy  
13.40 Tom Brindle (The Roman Rural Settlement Project, University of Reading), Country life: results from the Roman Rural Settlement Project  
14.10 Carolina Lima (PhD student, University of Reading), A girl’s best friend: the role of hairpins in defining female identity in Roman London  
14.40 John Ford (PhD student, University of Reading), Ringing the changes: the social significance of finger-rings in Roman Britain   
15.10  Tea, coffee and biscuits   
Session 2 – Finds from Urban Southern Britain  
Chair Sara Wilson (PhD student, University of Reading)  
15.40 Martin Pitts (University of Exeter), Funerary object-scapes in the Roman West  
16.10 Ruth Shaffrey (Oxford Archaeology), Understanding urban flour supply: the contribution of millstones and querns   
Keynote Presentation  
16.40 Nina Crummy (Freelance Small Finds Specialist/Silchester Town Life Project, University of Reading) and Matt Phelps (Institute of Archaeology, University College London), A hoard of military awards, jewellery and coins from Colchester 
17.40 Closing remarks   
Conference Dinner  
18.45 Bill’s Restaurant, Saint Marys Church House, Chain St, Reading, RG1 2HX 

Day Two: Saturday 10th September 2016

8.30  Registration  
9.00  Welcome   
Session 3 – Finds from Roman London  
Chair Victoria Keitel (PhD Student, University of Reading)  
9.10  Mike Marshall (Museum of London Archaeology), A city of merchants and traders or a city of soldiers? The 1st century AD military equipment from Bloomberg London in context  
9.40  Ben Paites (PAS, Essex), Roman city limits: finds from the Thames foreshore at the Tower of London  
10.10 Glynn Davis (Colchester and Ipswich Museums), The tears of the Heliades: investigating amber from Roman London  
10.40 Tea, coffee and biscuits   
Session 4 – Finds from Rural Southern Britain  
Chair Matthew Fittock (PhD Student, University of Reading)  
11.10  Diana Briscoe (Archive of Roman Pottery Stamps (ARPS)), Stamped pottery in Roman Britain  
11.40 Stuart McKie (PhD Student, Open University), Embedded magic: the sensory experience of cursing at the Temple of Sulis Minerva at Bath  
12.10 Richard Hobbs (The British Museum), New insights into the Mildenhall treasure  
12.40 Sian Thomas (PhD Student, Cardiff University), Objects and their place in ritual performances at Nornour in the Isles of Scilly  
13.10 Lunch with tea, coffee and biscuits   
Session 5 – Small Finds, Short Papers  
Chair Carolina Lima (PhD Student, University of Reading)  
14.20 Rachel Cubit (Museum of London Archaeology), Spoons, symbolism and survival. A new find from Roman London  
14.30 Peter Warry (Independent Researcher), The evolution of roof tile in Southern Britain  
14.40 Victoria Keitel (PhD Student, University of Reading), Small finds from Rockbourne Roman villa  
14.50 Philip Smither (University of Reading Alumnus), Roman weighing instruments from Britain  
15.00 Edwin Wood (PAS, Sussex), Portable Antiquities Scheme finds from Roman London with a focus on the Swan Lane area  
Closing Talk  
15.20 Hilary Cool (Barbican Research Associates), Approaches to writing finds reports; notes from Dr Cool’s casebook  
16.20 Closing remarks and departure

Conference Abstracts

Hella Eckardt (Associate Professor, University of Reading)
Writing power and identity: the material culture of literacy.

Literacy was a powerful but limited skill in antiquity. This paper explores what role one particular form of writing implement (the bronze inkwell) played in social practice. Together with other writing equipment inkwells are depicted on tombstones and wall paintings, and these images can be viewed in terms of ‘literacy as performance’ and explicit self-representation.

Writing equipment is deliberately used to signal high status identities but is the same true in burial contexts? The paper employs a life course approach to examine selected graves, considering the age and gender of those buried with inkwells. Overall, the paper aims to understand what inkwells ‘did’ in Roman society, and how their use related to expressions of identities and power.

Tom Brindle (Leverhulme Research Fellow, University of Reading)
Country Life: results from the Roman Rural Settlement Project.
Fifteen years ago Martin Millett was able to make the following statement regarding finds assemblages from sites in Roman Britain.

‘We cannot even yet assume that an assemblage from a nucleated site will be different from one found on a rural settlement’ (Millett 2001, 66).

Yet over the past four years the Roman Rural Settlement Project team have gathered finds data from over 3500 excavated Romano-British sites, predominantly from recent developer-funded excavations, relating to nearly 80,000 individual artefacts (excluding coins and bulk finds). These data are beginning to transform our understanding of rural finds assemblages, and we are now able to recognise marked distinctions in terms of the social and geographical distribution of all types of artefacts, enabling a more sophisticated understanding of the status, economic functions and connectedness of different classes of rural settlements than ever before. This paper will present an overview of the key findings from the Roman Rural Settlement Project, using the vast body of artefact data to consider what the variation in finds assemblages in different areas and across site types can tell us about the myriad ways of life of the occupants of Roman Britain.

Carolina Rangel de Lima (PhD Researcher, University of Reading)
A girl’s best friend: the role of hairpins in defining female identity in Roman London.

Roman hairpins are common Roman small finds, but are rarely studied in depth.  Likewise, the study of female identity in Roman archaeology has often been hindered by the historical male dominance over the primary sources.  This research project engages with the archaeological material from a specific region to examine the role of hairpins in defining female identity in Roman London.

The large collection of bone hairpins housed by the Museum of London and MOLA is first considered collectively to assess the various methods applied to the interpretation of hairpins, including the use of Crummy (1983) and Greep (1983) bone pin typologies and Cool’s (1990) metric analysis of metal pins.  After this, a more contextual approach is taken, with the use of case study sites in London.  Together, these methods are used to examine the issues of cultural change and personal adornment for women in London.

The data presented by this project shows the potential of hairpins in engaging with Roman women through the archaeological record.  It demonstrates the need to create a new typology before going more in depth with the metric, distribution and contextual analysis of hairpins in Roman London.

John Ford (PhD Researcher, University of Reading)
Ringing the changes: The social significance of finger-rings in Roman Britain.

Finger-rings are one of the most common types of personal ornament from Roman Britain, yet they have been the subject of relatively limited research.  Finger-rings were not commonly worn in Britain during the Iron Age, when they appear to have been limited to just a couple of different distinctive forms.  Unlike some personal ornaments, rings were worn by men, women, and children; and across all social strata. The popularity of rings in Roman Britain, suggests the large scale spread, and adoption, of this particular form of Roman material culture.

Previous research in Britain has been of limited scope, the majority of this work focusing on signet rings in particular.  My ongoing study engages with the full spectrum of ring types found in Roman Britain, sourced from The British Museum’s collection; the Portable Antiquities Scheme; published site reports; and the ‘grey literature’ identified by the University of Reading’s Roman Rural Settlement Project.

Finger-rings can tell us a great deal about people and culture: from social status to gender, trade and technology to religion. By studying finger-rings and the contexts where we find them, my research explores the different ways in which rings were used within Romano-British society.

Dr Martin Pitts (Senior Lecturer, University of Exeter)
Funerary object-scapes in the Roman West

This paper presents some preliminary findings from an ongoing project on standardised objects in motion (e.g. fine ware pottery, and fibulae) and their impacts on local communities in Belgica, Britannia and Germania, c. 100 BCE – 100 CE. Having amassed a database of artefacts from over 3000 graves from the period (plus equivalent settlement contexts), I ask if there was more to standardised material culture than simple likeness, exploring the dynamic between styles of objects, local uses, regional distinctiveness, and pan-regional practices.

To what extent can we speak of a shared cultural imagination in the early Roman West, and how did communities in Britain fit into this? To this end, the paper focuses on objects and mortuary practice in the late Augusto-Tiberian period (end first century BCE – early first century AD), when standardisation first became apparent on a large scale in the region, presenting the opportunity to contextualise object configurations at famous sites like Lexden, Welwyn and King Harry Lane (Verlamion) with equivalent continental developments.

Dr Ruth Shaffrey – (Project Officer (Publications), Oxford Archaeology (South))
Understanding urban flour supply: the contribution of millstones and querns

Quern studies have tended to focus on analysing typological variation, petrographical analyses and distribution studies.  Although such approaches are highly valuable, they should be seen as the foundations for further research.

Having accumulated 20 years’ worth of quern and millstone data and information on over 5000 examples, the time has come to start using this information to address broader research aims.
The topic to be considered here is flour supply.  How did the people living in towns obtain their flour?  A general assumption is that grain was produced in the countryside and transported to its place of use, where it was ground as required. But recent analysis has begun to suggest that we should be considering town flour supply on a case-by-case basis and that the dynamics of each town’s flour supply was directly determined by what was happening in the countryside and settlements around it.

This paper looks at the use of querns and millstones inside and around several case studies from the south of England. It uses this information to investigate how grain processing and flour supply was organised for each town and what factors influenced that organisation.


Nina Crummy (Freelance Small Finds Specialist/Silchester Town Life Project, University of Reading) and Matt Phelps (Institute of Archaeology, University College London)
A Hoard of Military Awards, Jewellery and Coins from Colchester

A hoard of objects found at the early Roman colony at Colchester in a small hole scraped into the floor of a house destroyed during the Boudican revolt includes a group of high-quality gold jewellery, three silver military awards, a bag of coins, an unusual silver-clad wooden box and other items.  Buried in haste as the British approached, they provide a remarkably clear image of one couple’s background, achievements, taste and social standing.

A bulla shows that the man was a Roman citizen, the awards that he was a veteran soldier of some distinction, while parallels for the woman’s jewellery suggest that it was acquired in Italy.  Technical analyses of the jewellery using a range of techniques (pXRF, SEM, OM, X-ray) revealed a range of metalworking processes as well as details on how the artefacts were constructed and the alloy compositions employed.  


Mike Marshall (Senior Specialist (Prehistoric and Roman), Museum of London Archaeology)
A City of Merchants and Traders or a City of Soldiers? The 1st century AD military equipment from Bloomberg London in context.

In recent years the role of the Roman army in London has been hotly debated, with new ideas and perspectives stimulated by synthetic work on the pre-Boudican city and by a string of important discoveries. These include ditches that are claimed to be a Claudian encampment, part of a Neronian fort at Plantation Place, and the discovery of more than 300 pieces of militaria, mostly from excavations in the Walbrook valley.

These new finds add significantly to the existing corpus of Roman military equipment from the city and include weapons, armour, elements of military dress, and cavalry equipment. This paper surveys some of these new discoveries of military equipment within their stratigraphic and historical context, and places them within the wider context of 1st century Londinium in order to better assess their contribution to our understanding of the military presence, and the significance of that presence for life in the early Roman city.

Ben Paites – (Portable Antiquities Scheme, Essex)
Roman city limits: finds from the Thames Foreshore at the Tower of London.

Since 2010, the Thames Discovery Programme (TDP) has conducted annual archaeological surveys and open weekends at the stretch of foreshore in front of the Tower of London. Representatives from the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) were present in 2010, 2012 and 2013, with finds from those years being recorded onto the PAS database. Of the 416 objects recorded, there were a total of 26 objects dating to the Roman period. However, when the finds from these surveys are supplemented with finds recorded generally from this area, the total is 185 objects of Roman date.

This part of London is relatively unexplored archaeologically, due to the nature of the buildings on the landward side (such as the Tower of London itself). Therefore, finds that have been recorded on the foreshore have the potential to provide some significant insight into the sorts of activities that were going on at the edge of the Roman town. The large quantity of coinage found in this area also indicate certain periods of particularly high activity in the area, when compared with the more general trends for London and Britain. This paper therefore attempts to highlight the importance of foreshore data in developing our understanding of Roman London as well as trying to identify how Roman Londoners interacted with this liminal zone, both between land and water and between the inside and outside of the city.

Glynn Davis (Senior Collections and Learning Curator, Colchester Museums)
The Tears of Heliades: Investigating amber from Roman London.

Amber, alongside ivory, is one of Roman Britain’s more exotic imports, with the most important workshops operating from Aquileia in northeast Italy. Trade into the north-west provinces from the Flavian period onwards seems to be dominated by beads, with somewhat intricate and individualistic worked objects being incredibly rare.

Roman London has recovered some of the highest numbers and types of amber objects in Britain, but with over 8,500 archaeological interventions within the city and its suburbs, it is still comparatively scarce. This is compounded when we consider the individual nature of context against quantifying numbers of objects, an example being the iconic amber bead necklace from the bed of the Walbrook stream.

This paper investigates amber artefacts from Roman London as a case study, analysing functional categories of finds within a wider British context. It will discuss ancient literary sources, providing insight into the use of amber and its perceived amuletic virtues. Discussion will also focus on amber’s consumption through magical ritual, highlighting recent discoveries by MOLA and rediscoveries within the Museum of London’s Archaeological Archive.


Dr Diana C. Briscoe (Archive of Roman Pottery Stamps (ARPS))
Stamped Pottery in Roman Britain

Stamped pottery forms only a very small portion of the enormous amount made in Britain in the first to the fourth centuries and therefore is frequently undervalued by archaeologists. There were two major periods of production: c. AD 70 to c. AD 130 and c. AD 300 to c. AD 400. It is notable that the vast bulk of stamped wares dating from the fourth century have been found south of a line from the Severn Estuary to the Wash. Only a few of the large production centres from this period were manufacturing stamped wares, yet their stamped output was very varied and may well have been bespoken.

The motifs can provide additional interesting information about distribution and trading patterns and – in some rare cases – can demonstrate ongoing usage of certain motifs into the post-Roman period. The second section of my paper will focus on some key motifs – in particular the rosettes and demi-rosettes – which archaeologists should pay particular attention to, if such motifs occur on a site with which they are involved, because they can give the excavator a better insight into how that site relates to others in that area.

Stuart McKie (PhD Researcher, Open University)
Embedded Magic: The Sensory Experience of Cursing at the Temple of Sulis Minerva at Bath.

The dominant focus of almost all studies of Roman curse tablets published over the past 100 years has been the words written on them.  Linguists have used them to reconstruct vernacular language in the provinces, and ancient historians, classicists and archaeologists have noted the similarities and differences between them and other written evidence for ancient magic and religion from across the Graeco-Roman world.

Rarely, if ever, have scholars fully appreciated that curse tablets are not just what is written on them, but are the end products of a long series of ritual actions involving complicated and meaningful movements and gestures, as well as words both written and spoken.  Tablets were often mutilated before or after inscribing, or manipulated in certain ways that added magical power to them, with the intention of increasing their chance of success.  These actions were intimately bound to the spaces in which they were performed, and were governed by a complex network of local, regional and international traditions and conventions as well as individual creativity based on sensory perception.

This paper will use the theoretical model put forward by phenomenologists to examine cursing rituals from the perspective of the petitioners as embedded beings-in-the-world.  Using the temple of Sulis Minerva at Bath as a case study, this paper will consider how the sensory experience of conducting cursing rituals, including a wider sensorium than just sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, impacted on the petitioners, and influenced their actions in the moments of their ritual performance.

Richard Hobbs (The British Museum)
The Mildenhall Treasure

This year is the 70th anniversary of the acquisition of the Mildenhall treasure by The British Museum. It remains the only ‘complete’ set of Roman dining silver to survive from Britain, and is one of only a few such services to survive from late antiquity.

This paper will present the results of new research on the treasure, examining the importance of the service for understanding life in late Roman Britain and the wider context of the Empire. Who owned the silver service, how was it used, and why was it buried in rural Suffolk?

Siân Thomas (PhD Researcher, Cardiff University)
Objects and their place in ritual performances at Nornour, Isles of Scilly

Evidence from the site of Nornour suggests that it functioned as a shrine during the Roman period. Over 300 brooches have been found on the site making it the second largest collection from Roman Britain. This paper aims to explore what made Nornour so special through examination of the whole artefact assemblage, which includes coins, pipe clay figurines and miniature ceramic vessels that have often been overlooked in past discussions.

The question at the heart of the paper will be who the individuals using the site were, why they travelled such long distances and braved the often dangerous sea crossing to visit such a small site. Current interpretations are that many of the items were deposited by traders. However, the islands lie too far to the south-west of Britain for them to be a regular stopping off point. I would like to explore whether the range of artefacts deposited at Nornour and their origins suggest individuals other than traders were using the shrine? Many of the artefacts travelled hundreds of miles to be deposited at Nornour and I aim to show that they were carefully chosen, suggesting they were more than just offerings for safe passage and that Nornour was a place of special significance for a far wider audience.


Rachel S Cubitt (Trainee Finds Specialist - Museum of London Archaeology)
Spoons, symbolism and survival.  A new find from Roman London.

Recent excavations by MOLA at Sugar Quay, on the banks of the River Thames, have produced a lead alloy spoon fragment with a decorated pear shaped bowl.  The decoration shows a single bird sitting atop a cantharus, all within a pellet border.  This find has prompted a re-evaluation of other lead alloy spoons from the capital, with the intention of providing some context for this new discovery.

Approximately 25 spoons are known from previous excavations and private collections.  The collation of data pertaining to these existing finds shows they comprise a variety of bowl shapes and decorative designs, although some are undecorated.

Peter Warry (Independent Researcher)
The Evolution of Roof Tile in Southern Britain.

Romano-British excavations typically produce a greater proportion of roof tile than any other artefact class.

This paper will examine the evolution of roof tile in terms of both technology and style through the Roman period with particular emphasis on southern Britain. It will demonstrate the slow pace of change that occurred over the first 200 years of Roman rule and the transformation that occurs circa AD 250 with the introduction of new manufacturing methods and greater stylistic variation.

The different manufacturing methods will be demonstrated and the tell-tale features that these produce on the tiles will be shown.  The use of stone and subsequently slate tiles will be considered and the interaction with ceramic tiles will be discussed.  Later ceramic polygonal roof tiles will also be explored. Evidence will be taken from circa 40 sites across southern Britain.
Victoria Keitel (PhD Researcher – University of Reading)
Small Finds from Rockbourne Villa.
This paper examines the small finds from Rockbourne Villa (Hants.), which was inhabited from the first through fifth centuries AD. Because the site was excavated under the leadership of an enthusiastic amateur, there are some issues with the assemblage.

Nevertheless, it is possible to understand what types of industries the occupants pursued and the status of the inhabitants. The Rockbourne assemblage is analysed alongside other assemblages from villas in southern Britannia to understand how it compares or contrasts with these other sites.

Philip Smither (University of Reading Alumnus)
Romano-British Weighing Instruments: Weighing up the Evidence.

Roman weighing instruments is a heavily under-studied category in Roman material culture studies. This thesis presents the first provincial study of these in the Roman Empire, namely Britannia, and in total 481 objects associated with Roman weighing instruments were collected. The evidence for weighing instruments in Roman Britain suggests they are largely a Roman import from c.AD43 onwards with likely production in the province in the following centuries; however, there is evidence, particularly from coin weights for weighing in the Late Iron Age.

Three types of weighing instruments were used in Roman Britain: steelyards, equal balance and dual balances. This research has further developed the current typology of steelyards to include new types as well as incorporate equal and dual balances within the same typology. Within these there is much variation in form and shows that Britain has more in common with Gaul and the Germanic Limes. The spatial distribution is mapped across Britain exploring various site and context types in order to display patterns of use, with several trades including butchery, metalworking and cloth dyeing associated with weighing instruments.  Overall, use from the mid-1st - late 2nd centuries AD suggests use in the ‘Romanised’ areas of Britain with diffusion to more rural areas occurring later.

This project explores the variation among lead alloy spoons from Roman London, aiming to better understand why certain examples were chosen for use.  Consideration is given to the dates assigned to these spoons, the designs they carry, spatial distribution across the city, and their manufacture and use.  
All of this work is done with awareness of the pitfalls of studying lead alloy objects that tend only be preserved in certain burial environments, and keeping in mind that Roman spoons were also made of other materials.

Edwin Wood (Portable Antiquities Scheme, Sussex)
Portable Antiquities Finds from Roman London with emphasis on the Swan Lane assemblage.

The River Thames foreshore has produced a large number of Roman finds and over the years specific hotspots have emerged.  A trial investigation of one of these locations revealed a large assemblage of Roman material spanning the full lifespan of the Roman city of Londinium.  In excess of 1500 pieces of Roman ceramics ranging from locally produced coarse wares to high quality imported fine wares from central Gaul and the Rhineland as well as a large collection of mortaria were reported.  

Alongside the ceramics assemblage were a large number of significant Roman small finds, such as pipe clay figurines, hairpins, coins and an intaglio.  The assemblage, most likely represents a collection of excavated material redeposited in the 19th century and parallels with nearby waterfront sites excavated in more recent years support this hypothesis.  Investigation of other clusters has the potential to reveal the importance of regions such as Westminster, Putney and the eastern reaches of the Thames, and support further research into the wider Roman landscape and the role of the Thames within it.


Hilary Cool (Barbican Research Associates)
Approaches to writing finds reports: notes from Dr Cool’s casebook.

Specialist reports, be they about small finds, glass or pottery, are one of the foundations for building our understanding of the past. Over the past couple of decades or so, the study of material culture has become fashionable again academically. This has resulted in much discussion about theoretical approaches which can be helpful in interpreting the material we find. There has been much less discussion of the nature of the specialist report itself. It is as though it is an unproblematic given. Specialist reports have been the core of my existence for about forty years, both creating them and using those written by others. In that time, I have found that they are far from an unproblematic given.

So this paper will be an exploration of what is needed in a specialist report, and what its aims should be. It will also explore what is needed from the stratigraphic part of the project it belongs to, for the specialist reports to achieve their aims. It is written from a point of view that is firmly embedded in the commercial sector, and will consider what it is practical to achieve within that environment. It is hoped that the paper will provide a useful starting point for discussion.


Roman Finds Group Spring Meeting 2016
Finds from Roman York, Brigantia and Beyond
Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd April 2016

University of York, Philip Rahtz lecture theatre, Kings Manor, York

The 2016 RFG Spring Meeting was based in York on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd April and was held in the Philip Rahtz Lecture Theatre, Kings Manor, University of York, jointly hosted by RFG, the Department of Archaeology at the University of York and the Yorkshire Museums Trust. RFG are grateful for the support given to arrangements for the meeting by these organisations.

There were five sessions of papers, with seventeen illustrated talks, on various aspects of finds from British sites concentrating on York and Yorkshire, but with a range of papers from outside these areas. This was an excellent opportunity to hear about recent finds and research in the York area, as well as an opportunity to explore the Yorkshire Museum galleries and conference finds, book sales and poster displays. We were very pleased that Lindsey Davis, author of the well known Falco novels ( agreed to come and speak to us at the Yorkshire Museum event. There was also a Friday evening social event, and the 2016 RFG AGM.

Day One : Friday 1st April 2016

12.30 Registration. Welcome tea/coffee
13.00 Welcome and Introduction, Prof John Schofield, Head of Department, Department of Archaeology, University of York.

Session One : Papers based on current research in the Department of Archaeology, University of York
Chair : Justine Bayley, Chairman, Roman Finds Group

13.05 Dr David Roberts, Department of Archaeology, University of York and Richard Henry, Finds Liaison Officer, Wiltshire. Recent research on the artefacts and landscape of an unusual late Roman temple site in Wiltshire.
13.35 Rachel Wood, Department of Archaeology, University of York. Putting the Crambeck Ware Industry into its Landscape Setting.
14.05 Steve Roskams, Senior Lecturer, Department of Archaeology, University of York. The Site at Hesling ton East, York: the challenges of integrating finds assemblages with stratigraphic, spatial and functional information.
14.35 Tea/Coffee – viewing of finds and posters.

Session Two : Papers based on finds from the Yorkshire Museum
Chair : Steve Roskams, Senior Lecturer, Department of Archaeology, University of York

15.15 Adam Parker, Assistant Curator of Archaeology, Yorkshire Museum. Roman Magic: The Eboracum case study.
15.45 Dr. Andy Woods, Curator of Numismatics Yorkshire Museum. Coins from Roman York in Context
16.15 Dr Stephen Greep. Roman Ivories from the York and Brigantia in their Romano-British setting.

Keynote presentation

16.45 Lindsey Davis. ‘Whither Falco?’

Reception and Private Viewing

18.00 - Wine/soft drink reception. Yorkshire Museum and Gallery tour with an introduction to the galleries by 19.00 Natalie McCaul, Curator of Archaeology, Yorkshire Museum.
20.00 Evening Social.

Day Two : Saturday April 2nd 2015

Session Three : Papers based on finds from York and the Yorkshire Museum
Chair : Natalie McCaul, Curator of Archaeology, Yorkshire Museum

09.30 Thomas J. Derrick, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester. Containers and Culture: Perfume and medicine consumption in Roman North Yorkshire.
10.00 Mathew Fittock, Department of Archaeology, University of Reading. Pipeclay figures in the Yorkshire Museum.
10.30 Kurt Hunter-Mann, Post-excavation Researcher and Sandra Garside-Neville, Finds Researcher. The Driffield Terrace cemetery, York and the Ravenglass vicus, Cumbria : the finds and the interpretation of two sites excavated by the York Archaeological Trust.
11.00 Tea/Coffee. Annual General Meeting/ Tea/Coffee - viewing of finds for non RFG Members.

Session Four : Papers based on finds from Brigantia
Chair : Jenny Hall, Treasurer, Roman Finds Group

11.30 Barbara Birley, Curator, Vindolanda Trust. Scratching the surface; using artefact research to expand our understanding of Vindolanda .
12.00 Rebecca Griffiths, Finds Liaison Officer for North and East Yorks. 2015 in Yorkshire, Roman Finds from the Portable Antiquities Scheme.
12.30 Dr Sonia O’Connor, Post-doctoral Research Associate, University of Bradford and Dr Stephen Greep. Perforated bone spoons: a peculiarly Brigantian Form.
13.00 Lunch

Session Five. Papers based on finds from Brigantia and beyond.
Chair : Stephen Greep, Meetings Co-ordinator, Roman Finds Group

14.15 Colin Wallace, consulting archaeologist. The Duchess of Northumberland: A Fire and A Fake Excavation: Tales from the Lives of the Bartlow Hills Roman Finds.
14.45 Prof Jennifer Price Emeritus Professor, Department of Archaeology, Durham University. Special treatment of some fourth-century glass tableware - the case of the Colliton Park bowl.
15.15 Dr David Petts, Lecturer, Department of Archaeology, University of Durham. Finds from Recent Excavations at Binchester Roman Fort.
15.45 Dr Philippa Walton, Research Fellow, University of Oxford. Cataloguing and analysis of the Roman 'votive' assemblage from Piercebridge, County Durham : An Update.
16.15 Justine Bayley, Chairman, Roman Finds Group. Summary and Closing remarks
16.30 End

Abstracts for the Presentations

David Roberts and Richard Henry: Recent research on the artefacts and landscape of an unusual late Roman temple site in Wiltshire

Since 2010 metal-detecting in a landscape in south-west Wiltshire has revealed approximately 8000 artefacts of later prehistoric and Roman date, including several hoards. The Past Landscapes project was set up to investigate the landscape context of these finds. Extensive geophysics was followed by excavation and post-excavation analysis of one of the key sites. Alongside this fieldwork, extensive analysis of the metal-detected assemblages was undertaken, and it became clear that their character suggested a late Roman temple set within a Late Iron Age to Late Roman landscape with various areas of activity. These included a major furnace site and domestic settlements. Excavation evidence bore out these suggestions, and added a great deal of detail to our understanding of the landscape. This short talk will discuss the context and sequence of the temple at the centre of this landscape and two of the key categories of finds from the site, miniature iron hammers and spears.

Rachel Wood. Putting the Crambeck Ware Industry into its Landscape Setting.

The study of landscapes is key to many aspects of archaeology and our understanding of the past. In this talk I want to explore how examining a landscape can inform archaeologists about a pottery production industry, in contrast to some of the traditional approaches to the study of pottery. Crambeck is a key industry in the late Roman period and its continuation into the 5th century is likely. As such, its study has the potential to inform on a much debated period at the end of Roman administration in Britain.

I will give an outline of the history and study of the Crambeck site and examine the results from a survey and excavation conducted as part of my PhD research – the first such excavation in 95 years. My investigations have revealed some previously unknown features in the Crambeck landscape taking the known activity in this area back into the Bronze Age and have produced some interesting artefacts – not just pottery! I have drawn together existing information and recent discoveries to construct a new and more detailed story of this complex landscape. I would like to end the talk by considering what a landscape approach can do for our understanding of a pottery production industry and note the large amount of information that can be uncovered through using such an approach.

Steve Roskams : The Site at Heslington East, York: the challenges of integrating finds assemblages with stratigraphic, spatial and functional information.

In archaeology, artefact studies in all periods have gone through common phases of development: from collecting to typological ordering to analysis for social interpretation. It has long been acknowledged that, to fully exploit this final element, finds must be viewed in the context of other information, not in isolation. This need for context provided, after all, part of the rationale for the financial resources expended on fieldwork in the rescue movement from the late 1960s onwards. It was what allowed the creation of a fieldwork profession which differentiated its activities from simple treasure hunting.

Using information from recently completed work on the Roman finds assemblage from Heslington East, a site on the margins of Eboracum, this paper will consider how effectively thus far we have responded to the challenge of integrating artefact studies with stratigraphic, spatial and functional information. It aims to show that much of this endeavour has yet to confront, fully and systematically, the problems that arise in post-excavation analysis. It will finish, however, by suggesting that there may be some light at the end of the tunnel.

Adam Parker. Roman Magic: The Eboracum case study

‘Magic’, in the Roman world, is a catch-all term used to describe all of the supernatural elements of daily life that fall outside the scholarly definition of 'religion’. It has traditionally been studied alongside religion, both as a related phenomenon and as a standalone concept. As a concept, ‘magic’ is difficult to define, largely because of its complex relationship with religion and other forms of ritual practice.

This paper intends to examine the range of material culture which has been variously described as ‘magical’ within its geographical, chronological and material contexts in order to assess the implications of this interlinked approach and what it can tell us about the functions of magic in the Roman world. It will include phallic charms, gold lamellae, Gnostic amulets, jet pendants and amber carvings amongst other objects. 

The material evidence for ‘magic’ in Roman Britain is the subject of the speaker’s PhD studies. Eboracum will be used as a case study to show a microcosm of the potential results of this research.

Andrew Wood : Coins from Roman York in Context

Excavations over the past 200 years across the cityscape of York have produced thousands of Roman coins. Their interpretation has the potential to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the economic and social landscape of Eboracum. This paper will consider a small subset of this material, drawing upon coinage in the collections of York Museums Trust and York Archaeological Trust. It will compare the coins found at five sites, focused upon the colonia south of the river. These will be analysed with reference to larger regional and national datasets of material from archaeological excavations and metal-detected finds. This sample of coinage will be evaluated with reference to regional and national patterns.

Stephen Greep : Roman Ivories from York and Brigantia in their Romano-British setting.

Ivories have recently been described as exotic and rare and are generally considered one of the luxury products of the Roman world. But just how common and how luxurious were they?  This paper examines finds of ivories from throughout the Roman period, concentrating on those from York and the north, placing them in a British and wider context.

The frequency, form, chronology and distribution of Roman ivories are discussed placing the northern finds in their British context while examining the origins of the ivories themselves. Unsurprisingly, the largest concentrations of Roman ivories are found in the cities of Britannia - York has the largest concentration in the north; but there are ivories from smaller towns, forts, villas and even a Yorkshire cave.

Ivories are found throughout the Roman period, but are never common, with under 100 find spots so far recorded – around 10% of Roman ivories appear in the north. Manufactured from elephant ivory and first appearing in Britain in pre-flavian contexts, one of the earliest examples comes from the north on hilts on two swords at South Cave. The north also has the best known ivory from Britain in the form of the York fan handles and the largest, and maybe latest piece of ivory recovered from Roman Britain in the Goodmaham plane.

Thomas J. Derrick : Containers and Culture: Perfume and medicine consumption in Roman North Yorkshire

This paper explores the archaeological evidence for the consumption of Roman perfumes, medicaments, and cosmetics in North Yorkshire. Presented and discussed here is the local evidence which fits into my wider doctoral project on the use of glass unguentaria and the consumption of unguenta and medicamenta in Roman Britain. With a reasonably held starting premise that these vessels can be used as an indicator of the consumption of their assumed contents, we can begin to greater understand the role they had in society.

The context and frequency of these vessels at sites raises a number of questions. First and foremost; who used these vessels and why? Are these small flasks just part of a site’s ‘standard assemblage’ of glass or is their presence more indicative and suggestive of a wider engagement in new behaviours? The vessels are seemingly much more common at urban sites than at rural ones, although perhaps this might be expected given that glass is often more common at these sites. Is it the case, then, that unguenta and medicamenta are neither required nor desired at rural sites and that olfactory and facial beautification only make sense within the context of urban life and social emulation? If their use is indicative of a form of acculturation, what role may women have played in this process? To what degree were the military community engaged in this behaviour and its promotion? This paper aims to present a preliminary engagement with these questions (and their relevance to North Yorks.) and to discuss approaches which can be applied to these small glass vessels in order to shed light on the spread and engagement with Roman socio-corporeal behaviours in North Yorkshire, and Britain more widely.

Matthew Fittock : Pipeclay Figurines in the Yorkshire Museum

The thirteen pipeclay figurines at Yorkshire Museum are a small but very interesting collection. Six of these come from sites in York while the other five were found during excavations of the settlement at Catterick. The group includes common deity types, such as Venus and Dea Nutrix, as well as a number of rarer types, including a bald-headed child (Risus), a large bird and a unique small, naked male. Most of these finds were discovered during late 19th and mid-20th century excavations and as such there is unfortunately very little detailed contextual information informing us about how they were used. The better recorded figurines from York are associated with the settlement’s cemeteries and this contrasts starkly with the figurines from Catterick that derive exclusively from habitation deposits. A number of additional finds from Yorkshire Archaeological Trust and existing publications will also be considered to give a more detailed impression of pipeclay figurine use and function in the region. After evaluating their iconography and distribution, this paper will conclude by contextualising the collection from Yorkshire in light of the larger assemblage of pipeclay figurines that is now known from Roman Britain.

Kurt Hunter-Mann and Sandra Garside-Neville, The Driffield Terrace cemetery, York and the Ravenglass vicus, Cumbria : the finds and the interpretation of two sites excavated by the York Archaeological Trust

This paper involves case studies of finds assemblages from two very different sites of Roman date, a cemetery at York and a vicus attached to the fort at Ravenglass on the Cumbrian coast, which were subject to different excavation strategies. The interpretation of the assemblages provokes consideration of the context of the finds, the reliability of the excavation samples and the relationship of the 'sites' to wider human land use.

Barbara Birley  : Scratching the surface; using artefact research to expand our understanding of Vindolanda

The Vindolanda collection expands every year with the ongoing programme of archaeological excavation and many of the recent finds have been highlighted at past Roman Finds Group meetings. But this has just been on the surface of what these objects can tell us. We have to go under that surface to begin to understand them: many artefacts have to wait for specialists to examine them and new projects and opportunities are always underway.  New scientific methods have been applied to certain finds, such as our Severan human skull found in 2001, and have shed a different light on their history. I will share this new research and I will also be highlighting other work, including information on our expansive footwear collection and use wear analysis on our recent cavalry sword. To conclude, I will share some initial thoughts on some of the objects from the 2015 excavation season.

Rebecca Griffiths : 2015 in Yorkshire: Roman Finds from the Portable Antiquities Scheme

The Portable Antiquities Scheme was established in order to record archaeological objects found by members of the public. Every year thousands of objects are discovered, primarily by metal-detector users, but also by people simply out walking or gardening, and the PAS records this information onto an online database where it is accessible to anyone who has an interest in the archaeology of England and Wales, including both academics and the general public. The vast and varied landscape of Yorkshire continues to generate a huge range of archaeological material and when these artefacts are found and recorded, their stories can be woven into the narrative of history.

From the abundant Roman coins found throughout the region to unique examples of brooches not recorded outside Yorkshire and perplexing oddities such as the mysterious dodecahedron, this presentation takes the opportunity to highlight some of the spectacular and the everyday finds which are helping to shed further light on Roman Yorkshire. It will also look at some of the ways in which the artefacts of the Romans have continued to influence the archaeology of subsequent periods.

Sonia O’Connor and Stephen Greep : Perforated bone spoons: a peculiarly Brigantian Form

Bone spoon-shaped objects with a central perforation to the bowl and sometimes a decorated terminal, were first identified as a British form by Curle in the Newstead report over 100 years ago, but their function has long remained a mystery. More recent studies have emphasized their geographical distribution which remains almost exclusively within the territory of the Brigantes, with a surprisingly large number coming from the Yorkshire caves, although they are present in towns, forts and villas as well.

The authors have conducted a new study personally examining almost every example so far known. This paper looks at the typology, chronology and distribution of the group. Zoom and wear analysis have been used to identify the type of material used and to attempt a more meaningful explanation of function.

Colin Wallace : The Duchess of Northumberland, A Fire and A Fake Excavation: Tales from the Lives of the Bartlow Hills Roman Finds.

Well-illustrated in the pages of the journal Archaeologia (25, 1834; 26, 1836; and 28, 1840), the finds from the Roman barrows at the Bartlow Hills, on the modern Cambridgeshire/Essex border – sets of glass, wood, pottery and metal vessels accompanying cremation burials (mainly) in wooden chests, under barrow-mounds – excavated in 1832, 1835, 1838 and 1840, are also reasonably well-known as being among the more notable ‘lost artefacts’ of Roman Britain, having been destroyed in a country-house fire in February 1847. Recent fieldwork has probed the landscape, structure and nature of the barrow-complex, with useful results (Eckardt et al, Archaeological Prospection 14:1, 2007, Britannia 40, 2009 and Proc Cambridge Antiquarian Society 98, 2009); here I present some material arising from a different resource assessment – one on the history of the archaeology of the Bartlow Hills – shedding light on the replication of archaeological artefacts before the advent of electrotyping, the accuracy (or otherwise) of what we think we know of the objects’ life-history since the 1830s and the social history of archaeology, whether choosing which aristocratic patron to gift a replica to or making an entire excavation up to help cope with severe embarrassment.   

Jenny Price : Special treatment of some fourth-century glass tableware; the case of the Colliton Park bowl

A fragmentary late Roman hemispherical glass bowl with incised figured decoration showing a Bacchic scene was found in a pit during excavations at Colliton Park in Dorchester, Dorset in 1938. The bowl has been published on several occasions since then and is widely accepted as one of the finest pieces of fourth-century glass tableware from Britain.

In 2006, this bowl was included in a major exhibition held in the Yorkshire Museum to commemorate the 1700th anniversary of the proclamation of Constantine the Great  as Emperor in York on 25 July 306, and it was then recognised that it had been divided into  two pieces before being deposited in a pit. This discovery has led to a reassessment of the significance of the Colliton Park bowl, and of some other decorated late Roman glass vessels also showing evidence of deliberate separation.

David Petts : Finds from Roman Binchester

Excavations on the fort and vicus at Binchester (County Durham) has been underway every summer since 2009. This work has provided valuable insights into the development, and in particular, the final phases of activity at this important Dere Street fortification.

In the fort, we have excavated most of a cavalry barrack. This has shown activity continuing into not only the sub-Roman period, but also the later 5th century, from when we have a substantial faunal assemblage. A range of material culture has been recovered including the usual range of ceramics and metalwork. We also have some interesting features including a crudely carved figural slab seemingly embedded in the barrack floor, and an interesting early 4th century ring with Christian imagery on the intaglio. 

In the vicus, we uncovered an exceptionally well-preserved bath block, which had been infilled with a massive dump of rubbish in the mid/late 4th century. This has produced substantial assemblages of domestic material, including metalwork, glass (vessel and window) and worked bone. There is also evidence for a range of craft and industrial activities in nearby structures, including a well-preserved non-ferrous metalworking area and jet working.

This paper will take a broad overview of the range of material recovered from both areas- including looking at both the high profile finds, as well as considering a cross-section of other material. It will also address some of the key research questions and challenges that face us, as we commence post-excavation work.

Philippa Walton :  Cataloguing and analysis of the Roman 'votive' assemblage from Piercebridge, County Durham : An Update

As regular attendees at RFG meetings will know, over the past twenty years, more than 5,000 Roman objects have been recovered from the bed of the River Tees at Piercebridge, County Durham, by two divers. The objects include, amongst other things, jewellery, military artefacts, coinage, medical instruments and figurines and appear to represent the remains of nationally significant Romano-British votive deposit. This paper will give an update on the progress of the project and will concentrate on an investigation of items of personal adornment (brooches, bracelets, finger rings etc) and what they might be able to tell us about the identity of devotees, their motivations for making offerings of objects and actual processes of deposition

The Celts Conference 2015The Celts Conference 2015

Roman Finds Group Autumn Meeting 2015

6th November 2015 The British Museum

The British Museum stagied an exhibition on the Celts in autumn 2015. The RFG, in conjunction with the LPFG (Later Prehistoric Finds Group), hosted a 1-day conference in association with the exhibition. It was held in the Stevenson Theatre of the British Museum on Friday November 6th 2015. Speakers included British Museum curators involved in the exhibition and free entry to the exhibition on the day/evening.

The Celts: Art & Identity

A major Later Prehistoric Finds Group & Roman Finds Group conference in collaboration with the British Museum and including entry to the temporary exhibition

The Stevenson Theatre British Museum Friday November 6th 2015 10am-4.30pm

10.00-10.20 Registration

10.20-10.30 Welcome & introduction

10.30-11.00 Keynote: Who were the Celts and what is Celtic Art?
Dr Jody Joy, Senior Curator (Archaeology), Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, University of Cambridge

11.00-11.30 ‘Those singularly beautiful curves’: Art and identity in Iron Age Europe
Dr Julia Farley, Curator of the European Iron Age Collections, British Museum & lead Curator, The Celts exhibition (BM)

11.30-12.00 'A material girl in a material world?’ Cartimandua, Stanwick and the Roman Iron Age in north-east England
Professor Colin Haselgrove, Professor of Archaeology, University of Leicester

12.00 – 1.45pm LUNCH
- 12.10-13.10 TOUR 1
- 12.20-13.20 TOUR 2
- 12.30-13.30 TOUR 3
[booking essential]

1.45-2.15 Refresh, renew, reinvent: the transformation of Celtic art in Roman Britain
Dr Fraser Hunter, Principal Curator, Iron Age & Roman Collections, National Museums of Scotland & Curator, The Celts exhibition (NMS)

2.15-2.45 Numina Britannorum: Celtic deities in a Roman world Professor Miranda Aldhouse-Green, Professor of Archaeology, Cardiff University

2.45-3.15 TEA

3.15-3.45 A monumental difference in Early Medieval Insular art Dr Martin Goldberg, Senior Curator, Early Historic & Viking Collections, Dept of Scottish History & Archaeology, National Museums of Scotland & Curator, The Celts exhibition (NMS)

3.45-4.15 The art of the chariot: martial mobility and meaning in Iron Age Britain
Dr Melanie Giles, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, Archaeology: School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, University of Manchester

4.15-4.30 Close
- 4.40-5.40 TOUR 4
[booking essential]

Roman Finds Group

Annual Roman Finds Group membership is now £12 pa (£15 for joint membership). For details, please see: /join-us
[Would RFG members please note that members rate applications only apply to those who have paid their 2014/5 subscriptions!]

The Later Prehistoric Finds Group

The Later Prehistoric Finds Group & Roman Finds Group would like to thank the British Museum’s Dept. of Britain, Europe and Prehistory for their support in organising this conference.
There are 4 timed entries to the exhibition with 40 places booked for each tour for which delegates will need to book:

There was also be the opportunity to buy the paperback edition of the exhibition publication at a discounted price.


Roman Finds Group Spring Meeting 2015

Centre for Interdisciplinary Artefact Studies, Newcastle University

Finds from the Roman North and Beyond
16th - 17th March 2015

Read the Synopsis of Papers.

The 2015 RFG Spring Meeting was based in Newcastle on Monday 16th and Tuesday 17th March and was jointly hosted by RFG and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Artefact Studies of the University (

There were four sessions of papers, with fourteen illustrated talks, on various aspects of finds from sites throughout the north, and an organised visit to Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum. This was an excellent opportunity to hear about recent finds and research in the north, as well as to view one of the major museums along Hadrian's Wall which has undergone major work in the last few years. There were also recent finds from Vindolanda and South Shields and poster displays and the sale of books etc.

Joint Roman Finds Group Centre for Interdisciplinary Artefact Studies Meeting Spring 2015

Meeting Programme and Timetable

Day One : Monday 16th March 2015

Pre meeting

13.00 Registration. Welcome tea/coffee
13.25 Welcome and Introduction, Dr James Gerrard, Department of History, Classics and Archae ology, University of Newcastle.

Session One : Current Finds Research at The University of Newcastle

Chair : Dr Jane Webster , Senior Lecturer in Historical Archaeology and Head of Archaeology, De partment of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Newcastle.

13.30 Dr James Gerrard, Lecturer in Roman Archaeology, Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Newcastle. ‘Rethinking the Irchester bowl, again’
14.00 Emma Gooch, MA Student, Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Newcastle. ‘A load of old bulls: ‘phallic horns’ in bovine imagery’
14.30 Evan Scherer, PhD Student. Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Newcastle. ‘The Use and Abuse of Late Roman Artefacts in Transylvania’
15.00 Tea/Coffee – viewing of finds and posters.

Session Two : Finds from South Shields

Chair : Dr Mark Jackson, Lecturer in Archaeology, Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Newcastle

15.30 Dr Stephen Greep ‘A very late Roman furniture makers workshop from Arbeia’
16.00 Matt Fittock, PhD Student, University of Reading ‘Pipeclay Figurines from South Shields in their wider setting’
16.30 Alex Croom, Keeper of Archaeology, Tyne and Wear Museums Service ‘Finds from recent Vicus Excavations at Arbeia’
16.50 Keynote Speaker: Lindsey Allason-Jones ‘Working with Roman Finds’
17.30 Wine/soft drink reception (with snacks)
18.00 Close
19.30 Evening dinner at the Ottoman Turkish Restaurant (details on booking)

Day Two : Tuesday 17th March 2015

Session Three : Finds from the North

Chair : Justine Bayley, Chairman, Roman Finds Group

09.00 Dr Philippa Walton, ‘Research Fellow, University of Oxford . ‘Cataloguing and analysis of the Roman 'votive' assemblage from Piercebridge, County Durham : An Update.’
09.30 Dr Rob Collins Research Associate on the Frontiers of the Roman Empire Digital Humanities Initiative (FREDHI) at Newcastle University ''Great Whittington: New finds identifying a new site in the Wall corridor'
10.00 Frances McIntosh, Curator of Roman Collections, English Heritage /PhD student, Newcastle University’ ‘Clayton; Collector, Conservator and Curator’
10.30 John Cruse, ‘Independent Researcher and York Archaeological Society Quern Co-ordinator ‘Roman Querns in the North – Some Distinctive Regional Types’
11.00 Annual General Meeting/ Tea/Coffee - viewing of finds for non RFG Members

Session Four. Finds from the North and Beyond

Chair : Sally Worrell, PAS National Finds Adviser, Roman Artefacts, UCL

11.30 Barbara Birley, Curator, Vindolanda Trust, ‘From tablets to toilet seats – an update on the recent finds from Vindolanda
12.00 Jenny Proctor, Post Excavation Manager Pre-construct Archaeology, Recent finds from Be dale, N. Yorks’
12.30 Dr Hella Eckardt, Associate Professor, Department of Archaeology, University of Reading‘ Literacy and power: Bronze inkwells in the Roman Empire?’
13.00 Meeting Close

Session Five : Visit to Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum

13.15 Transport to Wallsend Museum (lunch available)
14.15 Alex Croom: Introduction to the Wallsend Museum
15.00 Nick Hodgson: The Bath-house and Wall reconstructions
16.00 Transport to Newcastle Railway station will depart from Wallsend (15/20 minute journey— timed to meet the 16.59 departure from Newcastle Central Station)

Synopsis of Papers

The Irchester Bowl, again
James Gerrard

The Irchester Bowl is a relatively well known late Roman and early medieval bronze vessel form. They are usually hemispherical with an inturned rim and an omphalos base and have typological links to the famous early medieval series of hanging bowls.

This paper examines the typology, distribution and date of these vessels and draws on new discoveries and forgotten information to present an up-to-date review of this interesting vessel.

A load of old bulls: ‘phallic horns’ in bovine imagery
Emma Gooch

Bovine imagery was a relatively common feature of zoomorphic ‘Celtic’ art and bovine finials from both the pre-Roman Iron Age and the later Romano-British period are comparatively well attested, most especially as finds recorded on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database. The ‘phallic’ – and thereby symbolic – nature of the horns upon a copper alloy bucrania excavated during the 2005-2006 Pre-Construct Archaeology fieldwork at Grange Farm, Gillingham in Kent, however, is not common. This unusual example of a well-known artefact type therefore represents an interesting case study upon which to base a consideration of the potential symbolism of such artefacts and their associated imagery.

This paper presents a contextual find spot analysis of the Grange Farm find and a comparative contemplation of it relative to similarly styled vessel escutcheons, firedogs and cosmetic mortars in an attempt to postulate its potential function, chronological placement and cultural affiliations. This comparative analysis is then expanded to consider the potential symbolic significance of bovine depictions, especially the small minority with ‘phallic’ horns, in ‘Celtic’ and Romano-British art.

The Use and Abuse of Late Roman Artefacts in Transylvania
Evan Scherer

The presence of early Christianity in Transylvania has been a hotly-debated topic over the last two centuries.  The evidence has been displayed mainly through a Late Roman numismatic presence in the region, as well as a disparate assemblage of finds ranging from hand-made objects to so called "high-status" finds imported from the far reaches of the Empire.

This paper examines "high-status" finds through a case study of Pilgrim Flasks from the monastery of Abu-Mina in modern-day Egypt.  By deconstructing the historiography surrounding these artefacts, as well as placing them in their larger context, an attempt is made to re-address aspects of the material evidence of early Christianity in Transylvania.

A very late Roman furniture makers workshop from Arbeia
Stephen Greep

During Excavations of the Commanding Officers house in the south-east corner of the Roman fort at South Shields (1986-91)  a considerable quantity of waste and worked red deer antler was recovered - the largest quantity (at least 22 antlers; around 12kg of material) so far recorded from Roman Britain. Although the deposits were disturbed and the waste occurred over a fairly wide area of the site, it clearly represents waste products from the manufacture of wooden furniture. All stages of production are represented, although the major (but not only) final product was small, two-grooved strips well represented from sites elsewhere in Britain. The workshop is dated on coin evidence to post c. AD388 and represent the latest evidence of furniture manufacture yet recorded from Roman Britain.

This presentation will examine the working techniques, implications for late fourth/early fifth century cultural and industrial practices and place this find in the context of decorated furniture making throughout the Roman period in Britain.

Pipeclay Figurines from South Shields in their Wider Setting
Matthew Fittock 

Pipeclay figurines are an important yet under-examined category of artefacts that provide a valuable insight into the religious lives of those who inhabited Roman Britain. Produced in terracotta workshops located in the Allier Valley and region around Cologne during the first and second centuries AD, the figurines from South Shields comprise an important part of the finds recovered from the north of the province. The range of figurine types from the site is limited and includes common depictions of Venus, Dea Nutrix and Minerva, but also an interesting plinth base inscribed by the craftsmen Servandus that is particularly rare amongst the wider material now available from the country.

This paper will assess the social distribution and contextual deposition of the collection of pipeclay figurines from South Shields alongside a wider corpus of discoveries from nearby sites, like Benwell and Wallsend, to evaluate the possible function and social significance of these objects across the region. Comparison with other pipeclay figurine assemblages recovered from London, wider Britain, and Gaul will also highlight any distinctive patterns of regional consumption and use, while subtle fragmentation patterns additionally provide an insight into beliefs and ritual practices that help further explore the nature of religious life in these areas of the Western Provinces.

Finds from the recent excavations in the vicus at South Shields Roman Fort
Alex Croom

The area currently under excavation at the site was placed just outside the south-west corner of the extended fort, with the aim of looking at the defences of the supply base, to see how close the vicus came to them, and to find out if the area had been in use before the supply base. Activity in the area continued from the late second until the fourth century, although most of the small finds come from third-century deposits. There was a workshop for gold- and silver-working close to the fort defences that was in use until the mid-third century. Most of the other finds of interest came from the fill of the supply base ditch.

Working with Roman Finds
Lindsay Allason-Jones

Everyone expects to see a report on the finds from an excavation in its final report. To many people the production and publication of a catalogue is the end of the process; for many finds specialists, however, this is merely the end of Stage One.  In recent years, much synthetic work has been done on finds and this work is shedding considerable light on the way people lived in the past but occasionally offers insights in to life in the present.

Newcastle University has a long track record of working with artefacts and in 2008 set up the Centre for Interdisciplinary Artefact Studies (CIAS) to take this work further. Much of this activity has involved contributions by scholars from different backgrounds; some, such as conservators and metallurgists, have traditionally worked with archaeologists; some, such as psychiatrists and musicians, have not. This paper explores some of the unexpected byways the speaker has wandered down whilst pursuing knowledge about artefacts

Cataloguing and analysis of the Roman 'votive' assemblage from Piercebridge, County Durham : An Update.
Philippa Walton

RFG members will probably already be familiar with the assemblage of approximately 4,000 Roman objects which has been recovered from the bed of the River Tees at Piercebridge, County Durham. The assemblage includes a diverse range of material from jewellery to military artefacts, coinage to medical instruments and appears to represent a large ‘votive’ deposit dating predominantly to the mid Roman period.

At present, the assemblage is being processed as potential Treasure before possible museum acquisition. In addition to my continued efforts to package, photograph, catalogue and analyse its contents, 2014 saw specialist reports completed on the pottery and leatherwork.  This paper will therefore provide an update on current work and outline some exciting new discoveries. It will also aim for the first time to give an overview of the entire assemblage and tentatively to ask what it represents, who put it there and why?

You can follow the progress of the project on Facebook. You do not need a Facebook account to access the page:

Great Whittington: New finds identifying a new site in the Wall Corridor
Rob Collins

Roman artefacts are a staple of the PAS' Find's Liaison Officer's diet, and has been amply demonstrated by Tom Brindle, new Roman sites can be documented through objects recorded by the PAS. However, these sites tend to be more common south and east of the Fosse Way, with fewer new sites identified in the north and west of Britannia, let alone north of Hadrian's Wall. Yet, intriguing discoveries around the village of Great Whittington in Northumberland point to an interesting and important new site in the Wall corridor.

Located approximately 1 mile north of the Wall, the modern village is just south of the Devil's Causeway Roman road, and approximately 1 mile east of Dere Street where it crosses through the Wall at the Portgate. Discoveries have included a vessel hoard, a small purse hoard of 5th century date, and a rather diverse array (for Northumberland) of small finds and coins. An overview of these discoveries will be offered, and a tentative interpretation of the site provided.

Clayton; Collection, Conservator and Curator
Frances McIntosh

John Clayton (1792- 1890) was a wealthy lawyer and businessman who used much of his money to purchase stretches of Hadrian’s Wall. Once in his possession they were protected from stone robbing and quarrying, were often restored and many parts were excavated. Through his excavations he accumulated a large collection of Roman material from the Central Sector of Hadrian’s Wall. This collection is now cared for by English Heritage and displayed at Chesters Museum (built by Clayton’s heir in 1895). My PhD aims to look at the history of the collection, as well as to investigate specific aspects of the collection to see what can be gained from studying an antiquarian collection.

This paper will focus on the coins within the Clayton Collection as a case study for the challenges involved in working with antiquarian collections. The low number of coins has meant numismatic analysis has been limited however research into the reason for the low number has helped illuminate differing practices, as well as the antiquarian networks in existence in the 19th and early 20th century. This research helps to put John Clayton into the context of his time, and shows just how many people have been linked to this Collection. Items from the Clayton archive have been used to get an insight into Clayton’s interests and expertise, as well as the specialists he consulted. In order to analyse material collected in the 19th century, and understand why certain finds were collected or not, the processes at play must be considered, and the coins offer an example of this methodology.

Roman Querns & Millstones with Double, Opposed Perforations
John Cruse

This paper investigates two groups of Roman querns and millstones, which in addition to the customary central perforation, also have two opposed, often D-shaped, openings.

One group are hand querns, with diameters up to 50-55cm, with their opposed openings set within D-shaped hoppers. They were first noted in 1892 and have been discussed as ‘distinctive group’ by David Buckley & Hilary Major in 1998 (1). As more examples have been recorded (~50 are now known), a clearer picture is emerging of their chronological development, of the restricted regional distribution in northern England of their two variant types and of their likely mode of manufacture.

In addition, there is another group of larger diameter examples, lacking the distinguishing D-shaped hoppers, with a range of individual features which identify them as upper stones of powered millstones. In the absence of intact published examples, the presence of an off-centre perforation on a fragmented millstone often goes un-remarked. With over 20 examples now known, including the first complete stone, it can now be shown that this previously unrecognised millstone design is largely a Later Roman phenomenon, with a far wider distribution than the above hand querns. We will also explore how these three perforations functioned and examine the possible advantages of this design.

  1. Buckley DG & Major H (1998), The Quernstones, in Cool HEM & Philo C, Roman Castleford :Excavations 1974-85: Volume 1: The Small Finds, p244-7

From tablets to toilet seats – an update on the recent finds from Vindolanda
Barbara Birley

2014 was an exceptional year for the Vindolanda excavations, producing a wide range of wonderful, rare and beautifully preserved artefacts from the site. The archaeological work took place in three areas and all the following locations produced something special.

The excavations in the field to the north of the Stanegate Road uncovered an impressive Roman military kiln site and although we are just beginning to understand this area, we have recovered a large amount of brick and tile and evidence for the manufacture of coarse ware pottery. Three of the most outstanding artefacts were a very fine appliqué mould of Apollo, a wooden potter’s wheel and an enamelled seal box.

Inside south east quadrant of the 3rd-4th century fort, the second year of excavations revealed the last layers of occupation on the site. A gold aureus of Nero was found in this area as well as a host of late Roman and post-Roman artefacts and building levels.

The final area included some of the pre-Hadrianic anaerobic levels below the later 3rd century vicus buildings. These are the places where the organic objects survive and produced some of the best preserved finds. Leather boots and shoes, wooden objects including bowls, part of a wagon wheel, stylus and ink on wood tablets and a toilet seat to name but a few. The metal objects from these excavations were generally in pristine condition and included many personal artefacts.


A ditched enclosure and villa at Bedale, North Yorkshire: finds from the Bedale, Aiskew and Leeming Bar bypass excavations
Jenny Proctor

Pre-Construct Archaeology began a series of excavations ahead of the construction of the Bedale, Aiskew and Leeming Bar Bypass in North Yorkshire in November 2014. Work is continuing into March 2015 on two major sites which are impacted by the road scheme, and thus any observations are, of necessity, preliminary.

The earlier of the two sites is represented by a ditched sub-square enclosure measuring c. 50m internally, located towards the southern end of the bypass. Sections across the ditch on its most substantial side have revealed it to be up to 6.80m wide and 1.80m deep, and recut on at least one occasion. The interior of the enclosure has been badly damaged by ploughing with only a few pits and a possible large hearth surviving. Small quantities of handmade Iron Age tradition pottery as well as a few sherds of wheel-thrown Romano-British pottery and samian ware demonstrate that the enclosure was in use into the Roman period. A beautifully preserved bone weaving comb, along with fragments of quernstones, are perhaps indicators of the type of activities being undertaken. The well–preserved animal bone assemblage is dominated by cattle and sheep, with bones from very young calves suggesting that the settlement was involved in animal husbandry. Pig and horse are also present along with wild species such as red and roe deer. As well as evidence for butchery, the animal bone assemblage includes material indicative of craft working, while slag, fragments of hearth lining, hammerscale, copper-alloy waste and crucible fragments indicate working of both iron and copper in the vicinity.

The 3rd- to late 4th-century Aiskew Roman villa is located on a ridge of higher land defined by Scurf Beck to the west and Dere Street, just over 1km to the east. Catterick lies c. 10km to the north and Alborough around 25km to the south. Geophysical survey indicates that the villa is of substantial size and is set within a landscape of enclosures and field systems.

Within the area investigated a range of rooms adjoins a 4m-wide north-south aligned tessellated corridor. In most areas the stone wall foundations have been robbed with only very small areas of coursed stone wall surviving, but an intact concrete floor surface overlain by collapsed painted wall plaster gives an insight into the finish and decoration of rooms.

A small room, around 4m square and apparently added onto the north-west side of the complex, has now been fully excavated. This was heated as demonstrated by the bases of pilae stacks, and demolition debris including box-flue tiles. Painted wall plaster in many different colours demonstrates that this was a well-appointed room.

Large quantities of animal bone along with oyster and mussel shell give an indication of the inhabitants’ diet. Personal items include bone pins, copper-alloy brooches, glass beads and jet and shale bracelets. Well-preserved iron tools include knives and a cleaver.

Writing power: inkwells and identities
Hella Eckardt

It is generally thought that only relatively few individuals could read and write in antiquity, with literacy being essentially limited to the elite and the army. Crucially, literacy relates to power, in terms of ‘power over texts and power exercised by means of their use’ (Bowman and Woolf 1994: 6). Writing enabled a form of domination to be imposed and sustained even on illiterate individuals (Pearce 2004: 44).

Previous research has focused on the most obvious evidence (e.g. stone inscriptions) and overall levels of literacy in the Roman world. This paper will examine one particular category of writing implement (bronze inkwell) as a case study of how contextualised and theoretically-informed finds analysis can be applied even to relatively rare objects that have never been studied as a group. I have compiled a substantial corpus of ca. 400 bronze inkwells gathered from dispersed publications in order to address the question of how they were used to express identities across the Roman Empire. The distribution and contexts of bronze inkwells are compared to other writing equipment, and a close study of their depictions on wall paintings and tombs gives an insight into symbolic and cultural meanings. The paper aims to understand what inkwells ‘did’ in Roman society, and how their use related to expressions of identities and power.


  Roman Finds Group Meeting at TRAC2015


TRAC 20145TRAC 20145Following the success of last year’s Roman Finds Group session at TRAC, we were very pleased to sponsor a session on ‘Interdisciplinary Approaches to Roman Artefacts’.

Ellen Swift, University of Kent

Interdisciplinary Approaches to Roman Artefacts

The Roman Finds Group has an eclectic base comprising field archaeologists, materials scientists, museum curators and educators, experimental archaeologists, academics, and many others. As such we would like to promote an interdisciplinary approach to Roman artefact studies, drawing on the diverse range of knowledge and expertise that exists in material-based studies. The contribution of anthropology is long-standing in the interpretation of archaeological artefacts, however, many other disciplines also have a material focus. This session particularly encourages theoretically-informed contributions that consider the material of Roman artefacts from a wider perspective, e.g. that of art and design, museum studies, materials science, craft experience, or experimental reconstruction.







Roman Finds Group Autumn Meeting 2014

Finds from Manchester and the North West

8th October 2014, Manchester Museum

Click here to read a review of this meeting, written by Bryan Sitch (Deputy Head of Collections and Curator of Archaeology at Manchester Museum).

Staffordshire Pan - ‘Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery Trust, Carlisle’Staffordshire Pan - ‘Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery Trust, Carlisle’

Staffordshire Pan - ‘Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery Trust, Carlisle’

9.30-10.00 Registration + Tea/Coffee

10.00 Paul Holder (University of Manchester) – Recent finds of Roman Military Diplomas from Britain

10.30 Norman Redhead (Greater Manchester Archaeology Advisory Service) – Finds from Castleshaw Roman Fort

11.00 Vanessa Oakden (Portable Antiquities Scheme) – Finds beneath our Fields: The Knutsford Hoard

11.30 Bryan Sitch (Manchester Museum) – Manchester Museum collections

12.00-1.30pm Lunch (will feature visits to Museum store) 

A relatively long lunch break is planned so there will be time to see material in the reserve collection as well as exxploring the museum and finding something to eat.

1.30-2.00 Barbara Birley (Vindolanda Trust) – Keeping up appearances: the wooden hair combs from Vindolanda

2.00-2.30 Gill Dunn – Recent finds from Chester focusing on finds from the amphitheatre

2.30-3.00 Justine Bayley – Enamelled Roman objects

3.00-3.30  Tea

3.30-4.00 Matthew Ponting (University of Liverpool) – Recent analysis of Roman coins (title tbc)

4.-4.30 Rob Philpott – Roman finds from Meols on the North Wirral shore

4.30-5.00 Discussion and closing remarks




Roman Finds Group Meeting at RAC 11/TRAC 24


27th–30th March 2014

Roman Finds Group joined the Study Group for Roman Pottery in sponsoring a session at the Roman Archaeology Conference at the University of Reading. Our session was titled Roman Metal Small Finds in Context:

Ellen Swift – Design, function and everyday social practices: a case study on Roman spoons

Emma Durham – Metropolitan styling. The figurines from London and Colchester

Michael Marshall, Natasha Powers , Sadie Watson – ‘Treasure’, ‘trash’ and taphonomy: Approaches to the excavation and interpretation of Roman finds from the Walbrook valley

Martin Pitts – First generation urban communities: comparing ceramic and brooch assemblages in Roman Britain

Tatiana Ivleva – What’s in the name? ‘Britishness’ of British-made brooches abroad

Hella Eckardt – Immigrant soldiers at Hollow Banks Quarry, Scorton? New work on crossbow brooches, burial rites and isotopes

There were many other sessions of interest to members of the group including:

  • Insularity and Identity in the Roman Mediterranean
  • Small Finds and Ancient Social Practices
  • Return to the Sauce: new investigations concerning amphorae and their contexts
  • ‘Deposits Full of Character’
  • Clay and Cult: Roman terracottas and their production and use in domestic, religious and funerary contexts
  • Continuity and Change – the impact of foodways on provincial pottery traditions

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