WMID-F70F42: Roman spoon (illustration view)

Rights Holder: Birmingham Museums Trust
CC License:

Rights Holder: Birmingham Museums Trust
CC License:

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Unique ID: WMID-F70F42

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Awaiting validation Find awaiting validation

A slightly incomplete cast tin-plated bronze Roman spoon, dating to the second half of the 4th century between AD 350-400 (overall length: 152mm; length of bowl: 46mm; width of bowl: 28mm; overall depth/ thickness of spoon: 17.5mm; weight: 13.99g).

The spoon’s bowl (thickness of metal: 1mm) is oval in shape with a slightly sloped recess in the centre for gathering food. The bowl’s surface is still largely covered by the original tin-plating. The bowl has been separately attached to the decorative arched neck of the stem or ‘volute’ (length of arched neck: 18mm; width: 2mm), which is flat in section and curls back towards the bowl. The arched neck is decorated with seven ring and dots impression to one neck, and eight to the other side. On both sides of the neck, the ring and dot decoration is also surrounded by numerous and irregularly placed incised dots to the left and right. On one side of the neck, a large amount of the tin plating has worn away to reveal the bronze underneath. On the crest or top of the neck or ‘volute’, there is a stylised animal’s head, probably representing a boar or horse five incised lines along the ridge representing a mane or hackles. The mouth of the animal is slightly open. According to Smith, R, A, in the 1922 publication ‘A Guide to the Antiquities of Roman Britain: British Museum’, page 39, this animal’s head representation is ‘a tendency noticeable also in certain brooches’. The integral stem/ shank of the spoon (length: 91mm; average thickness: 3mm) has approximately eight moulded twists, with the last 30mm of its length plain with no decoration and has is circular in section. The stem/ shank terminates in a rounded point. The spoon is in a slightly worn but good condition with a small amount of bronze disease around the edge of the bowl. Most areas on the artefact are still covered with the tin plating.

The spoon was originally identified by Catherine Johns at the British Museum in 1992. She states in her letter to the finder that ‘it is a late-Roman spoon of a type which was in use in the second half of the fourth century AD. The general form and size are characteristic, and of particular importance is the development of the offset between the handle and bowl into a stylized animal head; this feature occurs commonly on silver spoons of the late fourth century’. As a result of the British Museum carrying out scientific analysis of the spoon, Catherine Johns also continues that the spoon ‘is made of tin-plated bronze rather than silver. Throughout the Roman period, spoons are found in various metals – rather gold (there are no examples from Britain), silver, bronze or brass, or pewter. Tin-plating on copper alloys to create an effect similar to silver has been noted many times on Roman spoons of somewhat earlier types’ but this example ‘is the first I have seen in this classic late-Roman form which is made of plated bronze rather than silver’. Lastly, Catherine Johns concludes that at the time of her letter, there are ‘more than 75 silver spoons of this period have been found in Britain, and it is likely that some of them, if not most, were made here rather than imported’, making it fairly certain, in her opinion, that this spoon is a Romano-British product.

A very similar example is illustrated by Smith (in the publication previously mentioned), page 39, fig 33, found at Dorchester, Oxfordshire. Smith classifies this example as a type (ii), with the egg-shaped bowl’s narrow end appears towards the handle. The illustrated example also has a very similar stylized animal represented where the bowl is joined to the stem.

In his publication ‘The Finds of Roman Britain’ (1989), page 101, Guy de la Bédoyère states that Roman spoons seem to fall into three main types: ‘the small circular bowl type, or cochlear, with rat-tailed handle, which belongs mostly to the first and second centuries; the medium-sized bowl type, of oval, pear, or fiddle shape, which occur throughout the period; and the large “duck-handled” or zoomorphic handled form which are more typical of fourth-century date’. Although spoons could also be made of wood or bone, ‘metal spoons were cast in baked clay moulds – a unique group of over 800 fragmentary spoon moulds were found in a late Roman pit at the town of Castleford, Lagentium, in Yorkshire’.

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


Broad period: ROMAN
Subperiod from: Late
Period from: ROMAN
Subperiod to: Late
Period to: ROMAN
Date from: Post AD 350
Date to: Ante AD 400

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 152 mm
Width: 28 mm
Thickness: 17.5 mm
Weight: 13.99 g

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Wednesday 1st January 1992

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Ms Caroline Johnson
Identified by: Dr Catherine Johns
Secondary identifier: Ms Caroline Johnson

Materials and construction

Primary material:
Secondary material: Tin or tin alloy
Manufacture method: Cast
Completeness: Incomplete
Surface Treatment: White metal coated

Spatial metadata

Region: East Midlands (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Lincolnshire (County)
District: South Kesteven (District)
To be known as: Ancaster

Spatial coordinates

Grid reference source: From finder
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 100 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
General landuse: Cultivated land

References cited

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: WMID
Created: 12 years ago
Updated: 7 years ago

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