North Hertfordshire (G-B): Bone fragments and burial goods of "wealthy and cosmopolitan" Roman found

Ben Miller

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Large glass bottle from 2nd century contained cremated bone and worn Roman coin - © Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews

Archaeologists who have been describing a metal detectorist’s discoveries in a North Hertfordshire village to experts across the world say the bottles, bones and bronze artefacts date from more than 1,800 years ago and include dishes made in Alexandria.

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© Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews

A complete Roman jug was the first discovery of a dig which led to a burial from more than 1,800 years in a field in Kelshall, where cremated bone fragments, attributed to a “wealthy and cosmopolitan” individual, sat in a large hexagonal glass bottle alongside a 2nd century bronze coin.

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© Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews

Once the dig was underway, glass bottles, an iron lamp and wall mounting bracket, two layers of hobnails from a pair of shoes and a box with bronze corner bindings were uncovered,” said Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, the Archaeology and Outreach Officer for North Hertfordshire District Council, who was alerted to the jug, two further vessels and a bronze dish by the detectorist in a field.

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© Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews

Two shattered but otherwise complete mosaic glass dishes stood on top of a decayed wooden box which held two broken clear glass cups and a pair of blue glass handles.

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© Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews

The largest glass bottle was hexagonal, and contained cremated bone and a worn bronze coin dating from AD 174-5. A rare octagonal bottle stood next to it. A major find was mosaic glass dishes likely made in Alexandria, Egypt, around AD 200.

"After 1,800 years, finds like these still impress us with their workmanship.”

The North Hertfordshire Museum Service hopes to raise the money to buy the finds before displaying them later this year.