- Museum number
Silver cup of cantharus form with two ogival handles, found detached, but now reattached. There is no decoration, but the external surface appears to have been burnished. The interior shows hammer marks and the position of the handles is indicated by solder marks on the cup. The rim is thickened and neatly finished. The foot is of a low conical form, also has a thickened rim, and is attached to the body by a square-ended rivet. The slight knop between base and cup shows some green corrosion. The handles are of simple, flat section; but the basal attachment is formed to a simple drop-shape.
Diameter: 110 millimetres
Height: 125 millimetres
Weight: 315.70 grammes
- Curator's comments
This cup is part of a hoard of silver vessels and plaques which forms 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.
Though the form of this handled cup resembles later Christian chalices, we cannot make any assumptions about the function of the vessel. It has no inscriptions. However, many of the objects in the hoard bear the monogram formed by the Greek letters chi (X) and rho (P), the first two letters of Christ's name, a symbol commonly used by early Christians. Two bowls and one plaque have longer inscriptions in Latin. One of these, on a bowl, can 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.
Individual pieces in the treasure were probably made at different times and in different places, and it is impossible to establish accurately the date at which they were hidden. The treasure may have been hidden in response to specific persecution of Christians or to more general political instability.
K.S. Painter, 'The Water Newton Silver: votive or liturgical?', Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 152 (1999), pp. 1-23
The goblet had been raised, scraped and polished. The rim was thickened and may have been sawn or filed towards the inside to neaten it. The top and bottom are attached by means of a rod passing from one to the other via a hollow bead with flared ends. This may be of different composition from the rest of the goblet. It has not been possible to discover whether the rod is square sectioned throughout its length or only at the ends.
The shape of the cup seems familiar; but only one precise parallel is known so far, which was pointed out by Dr D. B. Harden. The vessel is a cup found in 1871 at Mzechta, 24 versts north of Tiflis. The cup is of silver with a glass lining and is decorated with a hunting scene. On the basis of the scene Kisa dated the cup to the late-second or early-third century AD.
Pedestalled silver cup
This two-handled cup (cantharus) is plain and undecorated. Although it resembles later chalices, it was probably not made for this purpose. However, like the other three bowls or cups, it is likely that it was used in a church at, or near, Water Newton, perhaps for communion.
P&E 1975 10-2 6
- On display (G49/dc18)
- Exhibition history
2018-2019 25 Aug-Jan, Peterborough, Peterborough Museum & Art Gallery, Peterborough Treasures: Coming Home
2013 26 Jul-16 Oct, Germany, Paderborn, Diozesanmuseum, Christianisation of Medieval Europe
2007 2 Jun-4 Nov, Germany, Trier, Bischöfliche Dom und Diözesanmuseum, Constantine the Great
2006 31 Mar-29 Oct, York, Yorkshire Museum, Constantine
1996 30 Mar-13 Nov, Italy, Rimini, Sala dell’Arengo, Dalla Terra Alle Genti
1989 23 Jun-31 Aug, Durham, Durham Cathedral Treasury, The Anglo-Saxon Connection
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number