New Year’s Resolutions

It’s January. Christmas is over and thoughts begin to turn to the coming year. For many people this is a time for reflection and with it an opportunity to make changes. New Year, new you and all that! With this in mind, we’ve taken inspiration from the most common New Year’s resolutions for our first blog post of 2020. So whether or not you’ve made any resolutions, we hope you enjoy this selection of finds from the database!

1. Exercise More

Copyright: South West Heritage Trust, License: CC BY-SA.

Exercise is a popular New Year’s resolution, whether to get healthy or to set yourself a challenge. Who knows, perhaps you could become the next cross country champion, like the original owner of this medal (SOM-5CB66C). It dates to 1930 and was awarded to E. Barnes of the Stockport Harriers Club. The medal was made by Lloyd, Paine and Amiel and the hallmarks indicate that it is made of 9 carat gold. Stockport Harriers Club was formed when the Reddish, Marple and Davenport Harriers decided to amalgamate in 1911. The medal was found a long way from home, all the way down in Somerset!

2. Get Organised

Copyright: Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC BY-SA.

If your goal for 2020 is to get your life more organised, then you’ll need a good calendar. This Roman example is sadly incomplete but nonetheless an important find (SUSS-BA3CBE). It bears the inscription “AVGVST” (August) and would once have formed part of a larger bronze disc. At the time of recording it was only the fourth example of a calendar/time piece of this type to be documented from the Roman world.

3. Learn a New Skill or Hobby

Copyright: Museum of London, License: CC BY-SA.

There are so many to choose from! Knitting, cycling, baking, golf – the list is endless. Maybe a musical instrument beckons? Beginners could try a simple flute, like this one found on the Thames Foreshore in London (LON-58D1C9). It is carved from the tibia of a sheep or goat so, on second thoughts, perhaps not! The style and material are typical of the Medieval period so this flute has been dated to AD1100-1300. It also gives us the opportunity to use the delightful word “fipple” – a plug stopping the end of a pipe that has a thin slit through which the player blows. This example is unusual in having a cork fipple, more so because the fipple is still in place.

4. Save Money

Copyright: The British Museum, License: CC-BY.

A good resolution at any time of year! We don’t suggest burying it for safe-keeping like the owner of this coin hoard (HAMP-8B9913) did though. The coins – all 345 of them – were found inside a 17th century stoneware vessel of the “Bartmann” type, a brown stoneware fabric with mottled orange-brown glaze. The name Bartmann is German for “bearded man” and comes from the fact that many of these vessels were decorated with the face of a bearded man. The coins were all silver issues of the English monarchs Edward VI, Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I. The hoard was most likely hidden for safekeeping during the English Civil War and represents several months wages for a soldier or a whole year’s pay for a labourer.

5. Quit Smoking

Copyright: Lincolnshire County Council, License: CC BY-SA.

These days we’re most likely talking about cigarettes but a century or so ago you’d be hanging up your clay pipe. Tobacco was first brought to Europe in the early 16th century, along with the means of smoking it and so a new industry of clay pipe making was born. By 1650, smoking was so popular that there were over a thousand pipe makers in London alone. Early pipes were quite plain and functional but later improvements in technology allowed for more decorative pieces to be created, transforming the clay pip into a fashion piece. By the Victorian period there were some very elaborate pipe bowls such as this one (LIN-E78777) which is a portrait bust of the artist Peter Paul Rubens. It is of French manufacture and dates to AD1840-1920.

6. Travel More

Copyright: Somerset County Council, License: CC BY-SA.

Travel and change of place impart new vigour to the mind. So said Roman philosopher Seneca and what better excuse to get out there an explore the world? You can start with the local heritage on your own doorstep or you could try further afield like the previous owner of our next find (SOM-18AD04). It is an ancient Egyptian statuette of the god Osiris and dates to around 700-100BC. These votive figurines were produced in their thousands during the Ptolomeic period and became a popular collectors’ item during the 18th and 19th centuries when wealthy Europeans travelled the world on their “Grand Tours”. This object is most likely one that was collected as a souvenir and subsequently lost which explains how it ended up in a field in Somerset. We are, of course, not advocating bringing artefacts back from your travels – please stick to the souvenir shops and leave the archaeology where it belongs!

7. Read More

Copyright: West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service, License: CC BY-SA.

Sometimes there is nothing better than settling down with a good book. These days it is easy to take the written word for granted but in the past books and manuscripts were highly valued items. This is perhaps not surprising when a single manuscript could take several years to complete. During the Medieval period the manuscript pages were kept between two covers which were held tightly together by a book clasp, like the one featured here (SWYOR-D9A074). This kept the pages flat and secure, and provided a measure of protection. The covers and indeed the clasps themselves were often highly decorated which is indicative of the value placed on the pages contained within. The clasp pictured here is brightly enamelled and was once gilded so would have looked quite splendid when first made. It dates to AD1150-1300.