The Hoxne 'Empress' pepper pot / Hoxne
- The Hoxne 'Empress' pepper pot
Silver pepper pot in anthropomorphic form. The hollow vessel is designed as a female half-figure soldered to a separate base. It depicts a woman with an elaborate fourth-century hairstyle: the hair is parted in the middle, with rolls at the sides. The back hair is worked into a flat series of twisted locks at the neck that are drawn up over the back of the head, turned under at the front, and held in place with hairpins. Three knobs at the front and another at the crown of the head represent the hairpins: they are ungilded, while the hair itself is gilt. The woman wears a sleeved undergarment with tight gilded cuffs at the wrists, and a wide-sleeved tunic with stripes of gilded and engraved decoration over the shoulders representing applied bands of embroidered or patterned textile (clavi). In her left hand she holds a gilded scroll, to which she points with the index finger of her right hand. Almond-shaped earrings and a necklace of large beads are depicted in relief and gilded, and there is additional gilding on the face, covering not only the eyes but the entire eye sockets, and the mouth. The rectangular base plate with slightly convex sides is raised on four small baluster feet. The central area is recessed and has two large heart-shaped apertures flanking the projecting central catch, which turned the assembly. The catch is almost square, and its sides are indented to follow the shape of the saltire engraved on each side. The bottom edge is serrated. The internal turning disc has two large arcs cut out for the filling holes and two groups of perforations designed for dispensing pepper or another spice at the dining table.
- Excavated/Findspot: Hoxne (Hoxne hoard)
- (Europe,British Isles,England,Suffolk,Hoxne (parish))
- Height: 103 millimetres
- Diameter: 33 millimetres (internal disc)
- Weight: 107.9 grammes (approx)
- Width: 57.9 millimetres
'Empress' pepper pot from the Hoxne hoard
Roman Britain, buried in the 5th century AD
From Hoxne, Suffolk
The Hoxne (pronounced 'Hoxon') hoard is 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.
2015-2016 May-May, HOTW, tbc. PROMISED
2014-2015 Dec-Mar, HOTW, tbc. PROMISED
2014 Mar-Jun, HOTW, tbc. PROMISED
2010-2011, London, BM/BBC, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
1994-1995 Oct-Jan, Ipswich Museum, The Hoxne Treasure
Prehistory and Europe
- T304 (Treasure number)
Silver pepper pot in form of hollow silver bust of Imperial lady of late Roman period, with gilded details on clothes and jewellery. 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.
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Object reference number: BCB90832
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