Roman shrine Rutland Water
LOW This shallow gr ave containing the remains of a man in his early 30s was found in the centre of the shrine – typically, at the end of the excavation. He had been buried in the 5th to mid-6th century.
small fragments of tile, and 4th-century coins, including one of Constantine I dating to AD 313-314. Two of the pits, though, received more distinctive ritual offerings. One contained three pristine 4th-century Nene Valley colourcoat beakers, which were probably backfilled immediately after deposition. The other pit was packed with ironstone cobbles, and contained pottery, animal bone, glass, and five coins. Spanning a period of over a century, the coins include a silver denarius of Septimus Severus, dating to AD 197-198, and bronze issues of Claudius II Gothicus (a posthumous issue of AD 270 or later) and Licinius, AD 313-316.
Further treasures lay scattered across the floor of the shrine. The wealth of finds included 50 coins, fragments of vessel glass, a black glass gaming counter, items of jewellery including bronze armlets, finger rings and black glass beads, toilet instruments, two iron spearheads, and a lead curse tablet. One of the spearheads, a distinctive small-bladed type, belongs to the mid-1st century AD and may have been an old family heirloom by the time it was deposited, as the other floor finds generally range from the 2nd to 4th centuries AD. Sadly, the curse tablet, which had been rolled three times to form a tube and then folded in half for good measure, was too fragile to unroll. The toilet instruments were a complete set comprising a pair of tweezers, flanked by matching nail cleaner and scoop, all connected by a decorative U-shaped suspension loop. These artefacts were concentrated in the western half of the interior, suggesting that this was the ceremonial focal point. Perhaps an altar stood here, where supplicants could place their votive gifts.
The shrine yielded a total of 218 coins, which create a series that begins in the mid-2nd century, although the majority of issues date from the mid-3rd to later 4th century. Most of the coins either lay on the floor of the refurbished shrine or among debris that formed on top of it, but they may originally have been contained in a vessel before being dispersed around the building. The overall character of the pottery deposited in and around the shrine was fairly rural, with more exotic imports only forming a minor component. The vessel repertoire was also quite restricted but, unusually, bowls and dishes were more common than jars, while beakers were well-represented.
A mixed layer of debris accumulated on the floor in the late 4th century. This testifies to a period of neglect and perhaps abandonment, when patches of plaster and mortar were peeling away from the walls. Stone debris lying on the western half of the floor and around the doorway hint that the superstructure was crumbling, while patches of burnt cobbles and charcoal indicate that small fires had been lit. The roof – or at least its timbers – may still have been intact, however, as concentrated pockets of mouse and vole bones appear to come from owl pellets, suggesting that these predators were roosting in the derelict shrine.
Despite its decrepit state, the site had yet to completely lose its draw. The final event was the burial of a man in his early 30s in a shallow grave at the centre of the shrine. His body was lying on its back with its arms flexed at the elbow. Several cattle bones, including part of an articulated spinal column, were found within the grave,
current archaeology | www.archaeology.co.uk
December 2013 |
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