PAS Review: week ending 23 April 2021

PAS Review: week ending 23 April 2021

A round-up of some of the finds recorded at the PAS for the week ended 23 April 2021. There were 204 finds recorded in this week

Featured Find

Seal Matrix – “I Crake Notis”

Photo: The Portable Antiquities Scheme CC By 2.0
Object type: Seal Matrix
Period: Medieval
Primary material: Copper alloy
Date found: 03/04/2021
Location: South Oxfordshire

The die depicts a red squirrel facing right with a bushy tail arching over its back and nut between its paws. It bears the legend “I CRAKE NOTIS” in Middle English. Several similar seals, with the same legend, are known. Various explanations have been offered for the imagery and and motto.

Scene from rural life

It could just be an scene from rural life which was amusing to landowners.

Reference to the family who owned the seal

It is suggested that the word “CRAKE” could refer to the Scottish surname Craik. Alternatively, the image could be taken from the owner’s coat of arms; the same image of a squirrel cracking a nut, was quite common in English coats of arms. However, the fairly stereotyped nature of these seals suggest that they were more “off the peg” rather than being personalised.

Pun

It could be a pun on the Middle English word notis (nuts) and and the Anglo-Norman word notes (written notes). The squirrel hoards nuts in a similar way that a landowner stores archival documents. Or the squirrel cracking a nut might allude to the breaking of the seal, to reveal the message inside.

Euphemism

In recent years, a popular explanation is that the motto is a sexual euphemism; animals would often play a sexual role in stories from that time. However, squirrels cracking nuts appear in illuminated manuscripts, simply representing part of God’s creation without any sexual innuendo. Another argument against this idea is that there are examples of members of the clergy using similar seals.

Selection of other finds

Photo: Bristol City Council CC VY SA2.0

Dress Hook

Dress hooks were often used in pairs to draw up skirts, either to keep them from getting dirty when outside or display the fabric of the garment beneath.
Photo: The Portable Antiquities Scheme CC By 2.0

Denarius of Hadrian

Obverse reads: HADRIANVS AVG COS III P P – Hadrianus Augustus, Consul Tertium, Pater Patriae, which translates to “Hadrian, emperor (Augustus), consul for the third time, father of the nation“. Reverse has Hadrian holding a scroll and raising a kneeling personification of Gaul. Legend reads: RESTITVTORI GALLIAE, “To the restorer of Galliae“. Hadrian was a restorer of many ancient remains in various cities. A similar image appears on various coins from his reign with the name of the place
Photo: Bristol City Council CC By SA2.0

Groschen of Cologne

The obverse bears the shield of arms, with three crowns, and the legend: IASPAR/MELChIO/BALThAS. These refer to the three holy kings; Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, whose bones are in a shrine in Köln, (Cologne). Emperor Friedrich III gave Cologne the right to begin minting these coins in 1474. This is only the second Groschen of Cologne recorded by PAS.
Photo: The Portable Antiquities Scheme CC By 2.0

Pilgrim’s ampulla

This ampulla dates from c AD 1300-1500. It is missing one of its attachment loops at the neck. Ampullae could be purchased outside the shrines of saints. They would be filled with holy water or oil.
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