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Bronze handle in the shape of a bird


Length: 6.000 cm

P&EE 2001 7-1 1

Room 50: Britain and Europe

    Bronze handle in the shape of a bird

    Roman, about AD 1-100
    Found in Hampshire, southern England

    An unusual find close to the Winchester hoard

    This bronze bird head was once part of a shallow metal bowl with two handles. It was attached to the top of the bowl and held one of the handles. In form it is similar to the head of a duck, goose or swan. The eyes of the bird are silver niello. This bird was probably made in Roman Italy or another part of the Roman world some time in the first century AD. It is very like the birds that decorated the handles of bowls found in the ruins of Pompeii, which was destroyed in a natural disaster in AD 79. 

    But this bird was not found in Italy. It was found in a field in southern England, only a few hundred metres from where a hoard of gold Iron Age jewellery was found. Few other Roman vessels of this quality have been found in Britain. Unfortunately, the other parts of the urn have not been found. The urn might have come to Britain in the Iron Age, or soon after the Roman Conquest. This beautiful little bird is one of several Iron Age and Roman discoveries from area where the Winchester hoard was found. Together they tell us that important people were living in this area 2000 years ago.

    T.W. Potter, Roman Britain, 2nd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)


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