NCL-393023: Gladiator clasp knife handle

Rights Holder: The Portable Antiquities Scheme
CC License:

Rights Holder: The Portable Antiquities Scheme
CC License:

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Unique ID: NCL-393023

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find published

A copper alloy knife handle in the form a gladiator, probably dating to the mid Roman period. The gladiator wears a crested helmet which covers his entire face. The helmet has small circular eye holes. The gladiator stands behind a large rectangular shield with a central shield boss. The shield is decorated with an incised swirling pattern. His right arm, with which he would presumably be holding the shield, is protected behind it. In his left hand, he appears to be holding a small dagger. This is missing. However, there is a scar running along the right hand edge of the shield showing where it would have originally been positioned. Rolls of padding on his left arm are represented by moulded rings. The gladiator's right foot is slightly in front of his left. Extending from the bottom of the shield on the right leg is a small rectangular plate, perhaps representing a greave. Padding is again represented by ringed mouldings. The left leg has fewer ringed mouldings representing padding. On the reverse of the handle, the left heel and calf of the gladiator appear to be protected by a further rectangular plate. The backs of both the upper legs are bare. Above and below the buttocks is a band of horizontal moulding. The upper of the two mouldings has a central flat, hemispherical moulding extending from it. These, perhaps represent straps. The buttocks of the gladiator are a redder colour than the rest of the handle, suggesting that at one time they were coloured or painted. The gladiator's back is bare and his muscles and spine are picked out. The back of the helmet is V shaped and protects the entire neck. The crest of the helmet reaches to the apex of the V. The gladiator stands on a horseshoe shaped plinth which extends to a rectangular knife clasp. The front and sides of the clasp are decorated with incised cross-hatching. The clasp contains a vertical slot for the knife on the reverse. This slot contains a small amount of iron corrosion. The type of gladiator depicted is a 'secutor' or 'pursuer', whose attributes include the large rectangular shield and low crested helmet with small eye holes. The 'secutor' was traditionally the opponent of the 'retiarius' who held a net and trident. It has been suggested that the secutor's helmet is reminiscent of a fish and that that is why the two types of gladiator were pitted against each other. The knife handle measures 60.35mm in length and a maximum of 11.77mm in width. A similar clasp knife handle from South Shields Roman fort, made in ivory, depicts a gladiator with rectangular shield standing en garde. It was dated to the late second to third centuries AD. (Allason-Jones and Miket, 1984, 300)

Class: Handle

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


Broad period: ROMAN
Period from: ROMAN
Date from: Circa AD 100
Date to: AD 250

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 60.35 mm
Width: 11.77 mm

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Wednesday 1st January 1997

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Identified by: Dr Philippa Walton

Materials and construction

Primary material: Copper alloy

Spatial metadata

Region: North East (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
Parish or ward: Corbridge (Civil Parish)

Spatial coordinates

4 Figure: NY9864
Four figure Latitude: 54.970615
Four figure longitude: -2.032773
1:25K map: NY9864
1:10K map: NY96SE
Grid reference source: From finder
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 100 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Unknown
General landuse: Open fresh water
Specific landuse: Running water

References cited

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: NCL
Created: 14 years ago
Updated: 7 years ago

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