CORN-955DE8: Romano-British pestle amulet (profile)

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Unique ID: CORN-955DE8

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find published

Treasure: 2008 T782. Gold centre-looped pendant amulet resembling similar examples of cosmetic pestles, in copper alloy, from kits or cosmetic sets, often associated with a small mortar, for the preparation of powdered cosmetics. "I have recorded many hundreds of the copper-alloy components since my original Britannia 1985 paper and all the evidence still supports the cosmetic link, but no evidence at all for woad. I would briefly say that I believe the form of the kits imbued them with roles additional to their basic function in preparing powdered cosmetics, especially related to status, identity, fertility, and apotropaic use. Thus, this gold example, whilst being made in the form of the copper-alloy centre-looped pestles, and clearly both usable and recognisable as such in Roman Britain, might seldom or never have been used in the preparation process but instead have functioned principally as a protective and fertility amulet." (Dr. Ralph Jackson pers comm) This example, however, has seven facetted edges running the length of the boat-shaped body of the amulet, with a ridge at the base, which does not look like it has ever been used to grind anything. It may have been used to represent such a tool, as a symbol, especially as it is made of gold. The bead or loop is hollow and made in two parts which have been soldered together and then in turn, soldered to the boat-shaped body of the amulet. The solder might have been an alloy of gold and silver which would have lowered the melting point to allow the two parts to join together. The loop hole is perpendicular to the body of the amulet, which is unusual as most examples run parallel instead. This would have allowed the amulet to be suspended as a pendant around the neck so that it could lie flat against the chest. "The orientation of the loop is idiosyncratic and the faceting of the rod a feature of some of the pestles but I would regard this gold example as a pendant amulet adopting the same form as the cosmetic sets rather than actually functioning as a pestle. The crescent was a pretty well universal lunar symbol (Mithras only one of the many 'users'), with fertility as just one, albeit an obvious one, of its potential realms of power." (Dr. Ralph Jackson pers comm)


A Roman gold crescent-shaped pendant with a central bi-conical suspension loop and a keeled bar with seven linear facets. The pendant closely resembles the pestle component of late Iron Age and Romano-British centre-looped cosmetic sets (R. Jackson 'Cosmetic sets from Late Iron Age and Roman Britain', Britannia 16, 1985, 165-92). The primary function of those sets has been interpreted as the preparation of powdered cosmetics, but their form and decoration would appear to have imbued them with additional roles relating to status, identity, protection and fertility. The present pendant, an item of jewellery seemingly made in conscious imitation of the cosmetic sets, is likely to have shared the ornamental and amuletic roles but not the functional element.

Date: 1st - 4th century AD.

In age and precious metal content the object qualifies as Treasure under the terms of the 1996 Treasure Act. Ralph Jackson Dept. of Prehistory & Europe British Museum 27th April 2009

Subsequent actions

Current location of find: Royal Cornwall Museum
Subsequent action after recording: Acquired by museum after being declared Treasure

Treasure details

Treasure case tracking number: 2008T782


Broad period: IRON AGE
Subperiod from: Late
Period from: IRON AGE
Subperiod to: Late
Period to: ROMAN
Date from: Circa AD 1
Date to: AD 400

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 34.6 mm
Width: 7 mm
Thickness: 10.9 mm
Weight: 5.7 g

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Sunday 7th December 2008

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Ms Anna Tyacke
Identified by: Ms Anna Tyacke
Secondary identifier: Ralph Jackson

Other reference numbers

Other reference: 2008 T782
Treasure case number: 2008T782
Museum accession number: TRURI 2011.63

Materials and construction

Primary material: Gold
Manufacture method: Hand made
Completeness: Complete

Spatial metadata

Region: South West (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
To be known as: Maker with Rame

Spatial coordinates

Grid reference source: From a paper map
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 10 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
Current location: Royal Cornwall Museum
General landuse: Cultivated land

References cited

No references cited so far.

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Timeline of associated dates

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Audit data

Recording Institution: CORN
Created: Monday 29th December 2008
Updated: Thursday 23rd May 2013

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