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Unique ID: LON-E98F21

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find validated and published by finds advisers

A worn and corroded Roman copper alloy spintria, dating to the late first century BC to early first century AD. The object comprises a flat, copper alloy disc. On the obverse are two naked lovers engaged in a sexual act; the female lies on her front beneath the male who straddles her. They lie on a bed or couch decorated with a swag. The depiction is classifed as 'Scene V' by Buttrey 1973. On the reverse are the Roman numerals 'XIIII', with a dot above the last two 'I', inside a circumferential border. An exact parallel for this spintria exists in the Department of Coins and Medals' collection at the British Museum (R 4476). Although 'spintriae' are commonly identified as brothel tokens, due to the erotic nature of some scenes depicted on them, there is no evidence to suggest that they were used in such a manner. They are not mentioned in any ancient sources, nor have they been found in buildings identified as 'brothels'. It is equally likely that they acted as gaming counters, and that the erotic images on them were merely decorative. For a more detailed discussion of their function and dating, see Buttrey, T. (1973) 'The spintriae as a historical source' Numismatic Chronicle Vol. XIII, p. 52-68 and Chapter 8 in Clarke, J.R. (1998): Looking at Lovemaking: Constructions of Sexuality in Roman Art (Berkeley).


This is an important find and exciting find for London as the majority of spintriae are unprovenanced. However, as the spintria was not found in a closed context, it is impossible to determine whether the spintria was lost during the Roman period or more recently.

It transpires that a further spintria was discovered on Skegness beach. The SMR record can be accessed at:

However, this spintria shows no signs of wear or patination, suggesting that it was not an ancient loss. The Skegness example may be an antiquarian/modern loss or perhaps a modern forgery.

Subsequent actions

Current location of find: Museum of London
Subsequent action after recording: Donated to a museum


Broad period: ROMAN
Period from: ROMAN [scope notes | view all attributed records]
Period to: ROMAN [scope notes | view all attributed records]
Date from: Circa 27 BC
Date to: Circa AD 37

Dimensions and weight

Length: 18.9 mm
Width: 17.7 mm
Thickness: 2.5 mm
Weight: 3.85 g
Quantity: 1

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Miss Kath Creed - [ view all attributed records]
Identified by: Miss Kath Creed - [view all attributed records]
Secondary identifier: Dr Philippa Walton - [ view all attributed records]

Other reference numbers

Materials and construction

Primary material: Copper alloy [scope notes | view all attributed records]
Completeness: Complete [scope notes | view all attributed records]

Numismatic data

No numismatic data has been recorded for this coin yet.

A resized image of Roman spintria token

Image use policy

Our images can be used under a CC BY-SA licence (unless stated otherwise).

Spatial metadata

Region: London
County: Greater London Authority
District: Hammersmith And Fulham
Parish: Ravenscourt Park

Spatial coordinates

4 Figure: TQ2575
Four figure Latitude: 51.460183 Four figure longitude: -0.202123
1:25K map: TQ2575
1:10K map: TQ27NE
WOEID: 26352108
Grid reference source: GPS (From FLO)
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 100 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector [scope notes]
General landuse: Open fresh water[scope notes]
Specific landuse: Running water[scope notes]

Adjacent Domesday Book places

Domesday data within 2 km of discovery point is surfaced via the excellent Open Domesday website.

References cited

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Audit data

Created: Tuesday 26th July 2011
Updated: Monday 23rd January 2012

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