The importance of provenance: a Roman votive hand from Lincolnshire

It is an all too common fallacy that archaeology is the search for objects. It isn’t. It’s the search for information about the past, of which objects are but one facet. Where an object is found is of paramount importance if it is to tell us all it can about its original function and social context. I was therefore saddened to come across a link today to an unusual Roman object from Lincolnshire being sold on a website with only the vaguest of provenances. Continue reading


Offerings for the smith god? Vulcan finger rings from Lincolnshire

Of all of the depictions of deities from Roman Britain, finger ring intaglios offer some of the greatest variety, but are also perhaps the easiest to overlook. These miniature works of art were extremely portable, cost effective to trade across large distances, but also easy to lose. The distribution of their findspots has therefore not typically been seen as a reliable indicator of the spread of religious belief. After all, a finger ring could easily slip off the finger while working, or as seems to have been the case at the baths at Caerleon, hot water could make the intaglio come loose from the ring itself. Apart from where they are discovered in a specifically religious context (for example the quantities found at Bath), the find of an intaglio depicting a specific deity cannot automatically be said to represent the worship of that deity in that vicinity, or even that the original wearer particularly venerated that deity. Continue reading

Media coverage of the Lincoln Eastern bypass excavations

I posted a little piece a few weeks ago on the discoveries at the ongoing excavations for Lincoln’s new Eastern bypass (read it here). I don’t remember noticing the local media covering it at the time, but it seems they have just caught on, so I thought I’d post links to their online articles here. Continue reading

Decapitation, infanticide, votive deposition and magical protection: infant burials in Roman Lincoln

Infant burials are some of the most emotive remains encountered in archaeology. The discovery of any ancient human remains can be an emotional, even profound, experience, and the remains of very young children particularly so. Nevertheless, with high infant mortality in the ancient world, the burial of stillborns and children who died in the days and weeks after birth was a common reality. How the burial of these unfortunate youngsters differed from the burial practices associated with older children and adults can tell us much about social relationships and religious belief. Continue reading