Ashwell Roman treasure and excavation

Project team



  • GC Burleigh, archaeologist

Supported by

  • The Art Fund
  • British Museum Friends, Townley Group
  • The Roman Research Trust

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Discovered in 2002 the Ashwell hoard of Roman-British temple treasure is an exceptional find which sheds new light on the ritual of Roman religion, both in Roman Britain and the wider Roman world.

This project combines research on, and conservation of, the treasure with archaeological fieldwork and wider research devised to explore and elucidate the context of the find. It also includes displays, both at the British Museum (Room 49) and at the Ashwell Village Museum. These, together with full publication of the Treasure and fieldwork, will be the principal outcomes of an integrated community project.

The hoard comprises some 27 gold and silver objects and was buried in the later third or fourth century AD, evidently in a structured deposit, concealed in a small hole in the ground in a compact and ordered manner. Objects include a silver figurine, a suite of gold jewellery and at least 20 votive ‘leaf’ plaques of gold and silver. Of the plaques, 10 are inscribed, the majority with votive dedications to the hitherto unknown goddess Senuna.

The prompt reporting of the hoard allowed a full investigation of its context, both by excavation and other fieldwork. This linked an important find to its archaeological setting, which proved to be equally rich in information.

The results of geophysical survey have clarified the distribution of Iron Age and Roman surface finds by revealing rectilinear (Romano-British) and curvilinear (Iron Age) settlement complexes linked by a road. The hoard had been concealed immediately outside an isolated sub-circular enclosure midway between the settlements.

Excavations between 2003 and 2006 demonstrated that the enclosure was not the shrine of Senuna - which must lie elsewhere, perhaps within one of the settlement complexes – but a ritual site used for feasting and other activity associated with funerary practice from at least the early first century AD to at least the third century AD.

This project is now complete and published in the British Museum's Research Publication series.

Votive plaques, gold clasp and cast silver female fore-arm and hand from the Ashwell treasure

Votive plaques, gold clasp and cast silver female fore-arm and hand from the Ashwell treasure


  • Jackson, R., forthcoming, ‘Dea Senuna and the Ashwell hoard of gold and silver votives’ in A Kaufmann-Heinimann and J-P Guillaumet (eds) Objets figurés en métal dans les dépôts des sanctuaries à l’époque romaine. Autour du dépôt de Neuvy-en-Sullias. Mélanges à Claude Rolley (EUD de l’université de Bourgogne)
  • Burleigh, G and Jackson, R, 2009, ‘An unusual Minerva-Fortuna figurine from Hinxworth, Hertfordshire’, Antiquaries Journal 89, 63-7
  • Tomlin, RSO, 2008, ‘Dea Senuna: a new goddess from Britain’, in M. Hainzmann and R. Wedenig (eds) Instrumenta Inscripta Latina II: Akten des 2. Internationalen Kolloquiums, Klagenfurt, 5. – 8. Mai 2005, «Aus Forschung und Kunst» Band 36 (Piccottini, Klagenfurt, 2008)
  • Burleigh, G, 2007, ‘Ashwell, near Baldock’, in ‘Roman Britain in 2006’, Britannia 38, 278-80
  • Jackson, R and Burleigh, G, 2007, ‘The Senuna treasure and shrine at Ashwell (Herts.)’, in R Haeussler and A C King (eds) Continuity and Innovation in Religion in the Roman West Vol. 1 (Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Series No. 67), 37-54.
  • Burleigh, G, 2006, ‘Near Baldock’, in ‘Roman Britain in 2005’, Britannia 37, 411-13.
  • Tomlin, RSO, 2005, ‘Roman Britain in 2004. II. Inscriptions’, Britannia 36, 489.
  • Jackson, R and Burleigh, G, 2005, ‘From Senua to Senuna’, British Museum Magazine 52, 32-35.
  • Jackson, R, 2004, ‘A hoard of Roman gold and silver votives found near Baldock (G- B)’, Instrumentum 20, 10-11.
  • Jackson, R., 2004, ‘Baldock area, Hertfordshire: about 25 votive finds, including statuette, 19 plaques and jewellery (2002 T215)’, Treasure Annual Report 2002, (DCMS), 38-43.
  • Jackson, R, 2003, ‘A new goddess for Roman Britain’, Hertfordshire Life November 2003, 52-4.
  • Jackson, R, 2003, ‘A new treasure and a new goddess for Roman Britain’, Lucerna 26, 2-4.
  • Jackson, R, 2003, ‘A new goddess for Roman Britain’, British Museum Magazine 46, 7.