Roman Finds Group Meetings

The Celts Conference 20156th November 2015 - AUTUMN MEETING The British Museum

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

The Celts

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

The Celts: art & identity 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]

Please note:
There are 4 timed entries to the exhibition for which delegates will need to book and while every effort will be made to accommodate applications, tickets will be allotted on a first-come, first-served basis (see booking form below).
Please note that we are unable to give any form of discount to those who are also British Museum Friends


Stevenson Theatre, British Museum,
Friday November 6th 2015
The cost (with afternoon tea) also includes entry to the exhibition:

LPRG & RFG members: £25
Students: £30
Non-members: £37

Ticket applications and general enquiries should be addressed to:

Mrs Jenny Hall,
Hon Treasurer, Roman Finds Group,
26 Park Hill Road, WALLINGTON,
Surrey SM6 0SB

Or by e-mail and re online payments, contact:

Roman Finds Group

Annual Roman Finds Group membership is now £12 pa (£15 for joint membership). For details, please see:
[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:

Tour 1 begins at 12.10pm
Tour 2 begins at 12.20pm
Tour 3 begins at 12.30pm
Tour 4 begins at 16.40pm

Please indicate which tour you would prefer on the booking form. Confirmation will be either by e-mail (and tickets will be e-mailed out) or by enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope with your application and tickets will be posted out from early October onwards.

New publication

There may also be the opportunity to buy the paperback edition of the exhibition publication at a discounted price. Please indicate if you would like further information.

Download the booking form here.

Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd April 2016 - Spring Meeting - University of York

Philip Rahtz lecture theatre, Kings Manor, York

The 2016 spring meeting which will be jointly hosted with the Department of Archaeology, University of York.


Finds from the Roman North and Beyond


Joint Roman Finds Group and Centre for Interdisciplinary Artefact Studies
Spring 2015 Meeting 16th - 17th March
, Newcastle University

Update! We have received a synopsis of the papers that will be presented. You can read these below by clicking here: Read the Synopsis of Papers.

The 2015 RFG Spring Meeting is based in Newcastle. It will be a two day conference from lunchtime on the Monday 16th to late afternoon on Tuesday 17th March. It will be held in Rooms 1.04 and 1.06 of the Armstrong Building, University of Newcastle Upon Tyne and is being jointly hosted by RFG and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Artefact Studies of the University (

There are 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 is 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.
Space is limited so early booking is strongly advised. The cost of the meeting is £30 for fully paid up RFG members, £20 for students, £35 non members.

What’s included

  • Access to all conference sessions, finds and poster viewings.
  • Teas and coffees as in the programme.
  • Wine, soft drinks and snacks at the evening reception
  • Finds Viewing/poster displays/book sales

There is space in the Armstrong Building for finds display and discussion—during tea/coffee breaks. There will be recent finds from Vindolanda and South Shields but further displays are welcome—please indicate on the meeting application form. There will also be space for poster displays and the sale of books etc.

Getting to the Armstrong Building

From Newcastle Railway Station a taxi will cost approximately £5. Transportation from and to Newcastle Railway Station is easiest by Metro (to Haymarket Station) or by any bus to Eldon Square. A city centre map showing the University Campus is on the RFG web site. Travelling by car is not encouraged, but the Armstrong Building is opposite the RVI Hospital and the carpark off Claremont Rd usually has spaces and is not too expensive. Trains to Newcastle are, of course very regular (e.g. Monday 09.00 from KX arrives Newcastle 11.51; Tuesday 16.59 Newcastle arrives KX 19.51 - subject to timetable change). Download the Campus Map here.

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

Monday Evening Reception and Conference Dinner

There will be a reception for delegates at 17.30 . Following this, at 19.30, there will be a Conference meal, held in ‘the Ottoman Turkish Restaurant’. This must be pre booked. (details on booking). The menu for Monday evening will be placed here in due course.

Annual General Meeting

There will be a short Annual General Meeting for RFG Members on the Tuesday morning. There are three main items for discussion: an RFG Constitution, Establishment of a RFG Grant Fund and future RFG subscriptions. Details will be circulated to all RFG Members prior to the AGM so that those members not able to be there can still have a say in these matters!

Museum Visit

On the Tuesday afternoon there is an opportunity to visit Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum ( including an opportunity to scale (or take the lift!) the viewing platform for an excellent view of the remains of the Roman fort and to watch the time lapse video of the building history of the site. There will then be a guided tour of the full scale reconstructed bath house (current repairs permitting) and Hadrian’s Wall reconstruction. There is an additional charge for this event of £6, which includes transport from the Armstrong Building, return to the railway station and admission to the Museum. There will be an opportunity to purchase a snack lunch at the Museum.

Questions and further Information

Any questions about the meeting should be made to Stephen Greep at

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 to be Presented

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.

Conference Dinner Menu

Please Download The Conference Dinner Menu Here, make your choices, and send the completed form to

Meeting Booking Form

Please Download, complete and print the form below and return with a cheque made payable to the Roman Finds Group to :

Dr Stephen Greep
6 The Redwoods,
Willerby, Hull,
HU10 6DQ

If you require additional information or wish to clarify anything about the meeting please email Stephen at:

  TRAC2015 Call for Papers

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

Proposals for papers are invited by October 31st. Proposals should be sent to Please include either ‘paper’, ‘poster’ or ‘lightning round’ in the subject line of your submission. All submissions will go through a peer review process.

We look forward to seeing you there.

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 Conference: Finds from Manchester and the North West

8th October 2014

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

Manchester Museum

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

There will be an opportunity to see material in the reserve collection. For more information and bookings please contact Bryan Sitch, Deputy Head of Collections, Manchester Museum, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL ( All bookings must be made before 3rd October 2014, but as places are limited, early booking is advised.

Cost: £15 for RFG members and students, and £20 for others (includes tea and coffee but not lunch). Cheques should be made payable to the Roman Finds Group.

RFG Meetings

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

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

We are in the process of setting an exciting programme of meetings for the next year or two.

Our Spring 2014 meeting will be part of the Roman Archaeology Conference at the University of Reading, 27-30 March. Hella Eckardt is leading the session "Roman metal small finds in context" on the afternoon of Friday 28th March. Early bird booking rates should hopefully be in place before Christmas, and a provisional programme is here:

We shall visit Exeter's revamped RAM Museum during the Summer of 2014. We also hope to host an Autumn meeting in Manchester, to coincide with the British Museum's touring exhibitionEmpire, Power and People.

RAC 11/TRAC 24

27th–30th March, 2014

This spring we are joining the Study Group for Roman Pottery in sponsoring a session at the Roman Archaeology Conference being held at the University of Reading. Our session is titled Roman Metal Small Finds in Context. The speakers are:

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 are many other sessions that will be 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

The basic conference fee is £98 including lunches on

Friday and Saturday, and there are discounts for students (‐£20) and Society members (‐£5). Delegates can also book in for the Conference dinner on the Friday night and a guided tour around Silchester on the Sunday afternoon. Conference details, including abstracts of all papers, can be found at: RAC2014

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