Sunday, 26 June 2011

Bone pins and Samian Ware

These bone pins are from Roman times are to be found in Chester museum which has a host of Roman artefacts from its archeological excavations. They were used for fastening clothes or holding up women's hair.

Viewers of Time Team will recall frequent refernces to Roman Samian Ware pots. Here are a few examples from Chester.

There are a number of Roman tombstones from nearby excavations in Chester's Grosvenor Museum. This one is dedicated "To the spirits of the departed, Curatia Dionysia. She lived 40 years. Her heir had this made." The name, like that on a number of Chester tombstones, is of Greek origin suggesting she came from the East of the Roman Empire where Greek rather than Latin was the common language.

When we see the stones in a museum we tend to forget how they would have looked in their original state when brightly painted. The following is an original altar stone and a replica showing how it would have looked in its heyday.

The inscription reads "Aelius Claudianus, optio, fulfilled his vow to the scared Genius of his Century (by setting up this altar)."  (Ooops - one of my better typos - as Librarian points out I should have written sacred not scared!!)It was found in 1861 at a depth of 13 feet - about 4 metres - on the North side of Eastgate Street. An Optio held a rank just below that of Centurion. Genius means Guardian spirit. On one side of the altar an axe and knife have been carved and on the other there is a jug and a patera (a small round metal saucepan).  All these would have been used in the religious ceremonies which took place at the altar.


  1. The pins are very beautiful! The inscription on the stone reads not to the "scared" genius, but to the "sacred" ;-)

  2. Until I saw that at the museum I had never realised that the plain carved stone was not how it would have looked originally.

  3. Thanks Librarian - one of my better typos!


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