The Backworth treasure

Roman Britain, 1st - 2nd century AD
Possibly from Backworth, Tyne & Wear

A treasure from a pagan shrine

Inscriptions on the silver pan and on one of the rings indicate that the treasure was probably a votive deposit at a shrine of the Mother-goddesses near the eastern end of Hadrian's Wall.

The silver pan was probably the container for most of the objects. The decorated handle has a gold-inlaid inscription in Latin reading MATR.FAB DVBIT, signifying that it was a gift from Fabius Dubitatus to the Mothers. The three spoons are typical forms of the first or second centuries. The two gilded silver brooches are of a type known as 'trumpet brooches', but also sometimes Backworth brooches, after this pair. The necklaces have solar wheels as clasps and pendants in the shape of lunar crescents. This type of necklace was widespread in the Roman world. The rings include standard early-Roman gem-set rings and two snake-rings, one in gold and one in silver, of a form that we know was made in Roman Britain. One ring has no gem, but there is a dedication to the 'Matres' (Mothers) inscribed within the hollowed bezel. This may have been made specifically as a votive object.

The jewellery may be compared with rings and necklaces, which we know were made in Roman Britain, from the Snettisham jeweller's hoard from Norfolk.

The history of this hoard is obscure. We know that it was found around 1811, but not where it was found. The hoard was said to have included about 280 coins, but all but one of these, and probably other objects, were dispersed before The British Museum was able to acquire what was left of the treasure in 1850. The surviving coin is a denarius of Antoninus Pius (reigned AD 138-161) issued in AD 139.

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More information

Bibliography

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

Dimensions

Length: 10.300 cm (brooches)

Museum number

P&EE 1850 6-1 1-17

BCB60435;BCB60436;BCB60437;BCB60438;BCB60439;BCB60440;BCB60441;BCB60442;BCB60443;BCB60444;BCB60445;BCB60446;BCB60447;BCB60448;BCB60449;BCB60450;BCB60451

Location

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