Hoxne hoard pepper pot
From Hoxne, Suffolk, Roman Britain, buried in the 5th century AD
This piperatorium is from the Hoxne (pronounced 'Hoxon') hoard, the richest find of treasure from Roman Britain.
Alongside the approximately 15,000 coins were many other precious objects, buried for safety at a time when Britain was passing out of Roman control. This pepper-pot was one of four in the hoard.
Pepper was first imported into the Roman world from India in the first century AD, but piperatoria, the special containers for this expensive spice, are very rare finds. This example takes the form of a hollow silver bust of an Imperial lady of the late-Roman period.
Bronze steelyard-weights of similar appearance are well known in the late-Antique period and though many attempts have been made to see in them a portrait of a specific empress, it is more likely that they simply represent a generic imperial image.
Details of the Empress's jewellery and rich clothing are gilded, and she holds a scroll in her left hand. The pot has a disc in the base which could be turned to three positions, one closed, one with large openings to enable the pot to be filled with ground pepper, and a third which revealed groups of small holes for sprinkling.
The Hoxne hoard
As well as gold and silver coins, the hoard contained gold jewellery and numerous small items of silver tableware, including ladles and spoons, as well as the remains of a large wooden chest and smaller caskets with tiny silver padlocks.
It was discovered in November 1992 by Eric Lawes, who immediately reported the find and did not remove all the objects from the ground.