Mirrors (2001 guide)

Please note that this guide has not been fundamentally changed from the original print version of the Finds Recording Guide (Geake 2001), written when the database contained just 8,800 non-numismatic records.

Introduction

Mirrors could take the form of a flat, polished metal surface held by a handle (Leahy and Lewis 2018, 110-111); silvered glass as used in the medieval period tended to be held in a protective metal case, and these mirror cases are covered in a separate guide.

PAS object type to be used

Use MIRROR

Date

Mirrors of this manufacture tend to date to the late Iron Age and Roman period; medieval mirrors tended to be cased and often had romantic or religious connotations (Leahy and Lewis 2018, 110).

Iron Age Mirrors

Iron Age mirrors have heavy cast copper-alloy handles but very thin sheet plates which do not survive well.  A handle typology was constructed by Fox (1949, 24-44).  Although this has proved useful over the years as a basic guide, there is no substitute for detailed description, and Fox’s Groups are not helpful enough to merit a place in the classification field.

Roman Mirrors

Fragments of Roman circular or rectangular mirrors can be recognised by their dark grey, nearly black colour, their shiny surface and their decoration of engraved concentric lines and perforations close to the edge.  They are made of speculum, a brittle high-tin bronze.  Their description should cover the reflecting surface and the reverse, and say if there are any original edges present.  Handles were soldered on, and fragments of these should turn up. In addition, lead-alloy frames can also be found.

Examples

Mirrors: Late Iron Age mirror (left, BH-B85CF3); possible speculum Roman mirror (top right, LEIC-E77BF2); Roman lead-alloy mirror frame (bottom right, BH-584656). Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme; St. Albans District Council; CC-BY-SA licence)
Mirrors: Late Iron Age mirror (left, BH-B85CF3); possible speculum Roman mirror (top right, LEIC-E77BF2); Roman lead-alloy mirror frame (bottom right, BH-584656). Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme; St. Albans District Council; CC-BY-SA licence)

Search for all examples of mirrors

Key references

Leahy and Lewis 2018