PAS Finds

PAS Finds: week ended 15 April 2022

PAS Finds: week ended 15 April 2022

My selection of the detecting finds recorded at the PAS during the week ended 15 April 2022

Featured Find

Roman owl figurine

Photo: Bristol City Council CC BY SA2.0
Object type: Figurine
Period: Roman
Primary material: Copper alloy
Date found: 21/07/2021
Location: Cotswold

A Roman copper-alloy figurine of an owl standing on a pedestal with a hollow base. This would allow it to be mounted, perhaps on a ceremonial sceptre or mace. It has been designated a Find of Note.

In Roman culture, the owl was considered to be a harbinger of death and, through a connection with the goddess Minerva, a symbol of wisdom.

Owl as a harbinger of death

The deaths of Augustus, Commodus Aurelius, Agrippa and Julius Caesar were all thought to have been presaged by the hoot of an owl. In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar Act 1, Scene 3 “Yesterday the bird of night did sit, even at noon-day, upon the market place, hooting and shrieking“.

Minerva’s special bird

Minerva (from the Latin meminisse – to remember) was the Roman version of the Greek goddess Athena. She was the goddess of war, wisdom and healing. The owl is closely associated with Minerva as it symbolises wisdom and learning.

Temple for Minerva at Bath

The Romans built a temple for Minerva at the Roman Baths in Bath. They believed that she could be found in the hot springs. The Roman name for Bath “Aquae Sulis” translates as “The waters of Sulis”. Sulis was a local Iron Age goddess who the Romans linked with Minerva – Sulis Minerva.

The Temple Pediment of the Temple Sulis Minerva at Bath.
Photo: Joyofmuseums, CC BY-SA 4.0

This is the remains of the Temple Pediment that was above the entrance to the Temple of Sulis Minerva. At the bottom right of the larger central rectangular piece is the carving of an owl.

The find spot of this owl figurine is given as Cotswold and so there is a possible link with the worship of Sulis Minerva.

Selection of other finds

Photo: The Portable Antiquities Scheme CC By 2.0

Vervel of Sir Robert Henley

A silver hawking vervel with the inscription “* to robart * Henlye”. The style of lettering dates it to mid/late 17th century which gives the most likely owner as being Sir Robert Henley (1631-1692). He was an MP for Andover and, later, the county of Hampshire. It had been through the treasure process and disclaimed. Designated a Find of Note: County importance.

Halfpenny of Edward III as Duke of Aquitaine

A halfenny of Edward III dating to 1330-1344 from the mint of Aquitaine. The reverse legend reads DVX/AQV/ITA/[NI]E. Designated a Find of Note.
Photo: The Portable Antiquities Scheme CC By 2.0

Musket scourer

The Royal Armouries have verified the identification as the terminal from a musket accessory (scourer) used to clear out the barrel of a musket. The diameter suggests it was used with a “caliver” a form of the arquebus from the early part of the 17th century. Designated a Find of Note: County importance.
Photo: North Lincolnshire Museum CC By SA2.0

Medieval die

A lead die dating to 1200 – 1500. The die does not use the modern numbering scheme of opposite sides adding to seven. Instead, 1 is opposite 5, 2 opposite 4 and 3 opposite 6.
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