Hoxne hoard pepper pot

'Empress' pepper pot

  • View of pepperpot facing right

    View of pepperpot facing right

  • Sprinkler


  • Sprinkler



On display

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.

Read the full article

Roman Britain


Towards the end of the fourth millennium BC independent city-states unified to begin of over 3,000 years of pharaonic civilisation in the Nile Valley.

Roman Britain world culture

Ancient Rome world culture

Related products


A History of the World in 100 objects

By Neil MacGregor

Accompanies the BBC Radio 4 series

Object details

Height: 10.3 cm
Width: 5.79 cm
Depth: 4.29 cm


P&EE 1994 4-8 33

Room 49: Roman Britain


    Acquired with assistance from The Art Fund, the British Museum Friends, the National Heritage Memorial Fund.


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

    C.M. Johns and R. Bland, 'The Hoxne late Roman treasure', Britannia, 25 (1994), pp. 165-73

    R. Bland and C.M. Johns, The Hoxne Treasure, an illustr (London, The British Museum Press, 1993)

    See this object in our Collection database online

    See also the feature quality article about the Hoxne hoard in Wikipedia

    Further Reading

    H. Cool, Eating and Drinking in Roman Britain (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006)

    S. Moorhead, and D. Stuttard, AD 410: The Year That Shook Rome (London, The British Museum Press, 2008)

    P. Guest, The Late Roman Gold and Silver Coins from the Hoxne Treasure (London, The  British Museum Press, 2005)

    R. Hobbs, and R. Jackson, Roman Britain (London, The British Museum Press, 2010)

    C. Johns, The Hoxne Late Roman Treasure: Gold Jewellery and Silver Plate (London, The British Museum Press, 2010)

    D. Mattingley, An Imperial Possession: Britain in the Roman Empire, 54 BC - AD 409 (London, Penguin Books, 2007)

    R. Tomber, Indo-Roman Trade: From Pots to Pepper. (London, Duckworth, 2008)