Roman Britain, 2nd century AD
From a grave at Elsenham, Essex
Superbly preserved enamel millefiori decoration
We cannot be certain of the precise function of this pyxis, but it is most likely to have been an ink-pot. It belongs to a rare type made in the Rhineland or the Low Countries. Examples have been found as far afield as Greece and Syria, but this is the only one which may be dated from the context in which it was found: a grave containing pottery, glass, a set of gaming pieces and other items, including coins which indicate that the burial took place around the middle of the second century AD.
It would originally have had a small round lid and chains attached to the loops on the top plate for hanging. It is constructed of bronze panels decorated with millefiori enamel. Its manufacture required the specialist skills of the bronzesmith, the glassworker and the gem-cutter.
T.W. Potter, Roman Britain, 2nd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)
C. Johns, 'An enamelled bronze pyxis from a Roman grave at Elsenham, Essex', The Antiquaries Journal, 73 (1993), pp. 161-65