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Silver plaque and gold disc from the Water Newton treasure


Diameter: 4.900 cm (disc)
Height: 15.700 cm (plaque)

Treasure Trove

P&EE 1975 10-2 11;P&EE 1975 10-2 18

Room 49: Roman Britain

    Silver plaque and gold disc from the Water Newton treasure

    Roman Britain, 4th century AD
    Water Newton, Cambridgeshire

    The earliest Christian silver yet found in the Roman Empire

    These objects are part of a hoard of silver vessels and plaques which is the earliest group of Christian liturgical silver yet found in the Roman Empire. It was discovered in a recently ploughed field at Water Newton, Cambridgeshire, the Roman town of Durobrivae, in February 1975. The hoard was much damaged by the plough. It consists of nine vessels, a number of silver votive plaques, and a gold disc. This type of plaque is well known from pagan temples bearing dedications to deities such as Mars, Minerva and Jupiter, but the examples found at Water Newton are the first to demonstrate the practice within a Christian congregation.

    Many of the objects bear the monogram formed of the Greek letters chi (X) and rho (P), the first two letters of Christ's name, and the symbol most commonly used by early Christians. Two bowls and one plaque have longer inscriptions in Latin. One of these, on a bowl, may be translated as 'I, Publianus, honour your sacred shrine, trusting in you, 0 Lord.' Other inscriptions give the names of three female dedicators: Amcilla, Innocentia and Viventia, who must also have belonged to the congregation.

    K.S. Painter, 'The Water Newton Silver: votive or liturgical?', Journal of the British Archa-1, 152 (1999), pp. 1-23

    K.S. Painter, The Water Newton early Christi (London, The British Museum Press, 1977)