Thursday, January 3, 2013

First souvenirs: Enamelled vessels from Hadrians Wall

Three small enamelled metal Roman pans – the Rudge Cup, Amiens Patera and the Ilam Pan – thought to be the first souvenirs from Hadrian’s Wall are featured in a new book edited by Roman expert David Breeze.

The pans are about the size of wine glasses and are decorated with the names of forts along the western sector of Hadrian’s Wall from Bowness-on-Solway to Great Chesters. They were made in the decades following the building of Hadrian’s Wall in AD 122.

Tourist attractions across the Empire

Souvenir items for Roman tourists to buy have also been found at other famous places across the empire such as Athens, Ephesos and Alexandria.

David Breeze said: “Remarkably it seems that Hadrian’s Wall was a tourist attraction soon after it was built. None of the pans were found on the Wall, but in southern England and France.

“As souvenirs they may have had no other function, though it has been suggested that they might have been used for wine drinking by veterans of the Roman army.”

The contributors to the book are all experts in Roman archaeology – Lindsay Allason-Jones, Paul Holder, Fraser Hunter, Ralph Jackson, Ernst Kunzl, Noel Maheo and Sally Worrell.

They describe and discuss each of the vessels and related enamelled objects – from flasks to brooches – and their place of manufacture and use. All the items found to date are illustrated by colour photographs and there are reconstruction drawings.

The Ilam Pan decoration includes the name Draco, possibly the person who made it or owned it, and ‘vallum Aelium’ which appears to mean ‘the Wall of Hadrian’, Aelius being Hadrian’s family name.

The Rudge Cup and the Amiens Patera have a geometric pattern believed to respresent Hadrian’s Wall. The same design appears on another find, probably part of a flask, called the Hildburgh fragment and another pan found at Bath.

The stories of how the pans were found are also included. The Rudge Cup was found at Rudge Coppice, Wiltshire in 1725, the Amiens Patera was found at Amiens in 1949, and the Ilam Pan was found in Staffordshire 2003.

The pans are all in separate collections. The Rudge Cup is in the Duke of Northumberland’s museum at Alnwick Castle, the Amiens Patera is in the Museum of Picardy, Amiens and the Ilam Pan is jointly owned by the British Museum, Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle and the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent.

Hadrian’s Wall Pilgrimage

They were last brought together for a special exhibition at Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery to celebrate the Hadrian’s Wall Pilgrimage in 2009. The pilgrimage is a special study tour of new archaeological work on Hadrian’s Wall which now takes place every 10 years. The first pilgrimage was organised in 1849.

Nigel Mills, director of world heritage and access for the Hadrian’s Wall Trust said: “This is a fascinating book and one of the many interesting things is that the experts don’t all agree on the date and interpretation for the pans.

“It is also fascinating that Hadrian’s Wall was a tourist attraction 2000 years ago. This highlights the significance of Hadrian’s Wall as an expression of the power and prestige of Rome, known across the Empire. Visitors continue to come from all over the world.

“Archaeology is very much a ‘live’ subject and new discoveries can overturn long-held theories quite dramatically. There’s still much more to be discovered about life on the Hadrian’s Wall frontier zone and that is of interest to visitors as much as to archaeologists – there are great stories to tell.”

Past Horizons. 2013. “First souvenirs: Enamelled vessels from Hadrians Wall”. Past Horizons. Posted: December 19, 2012. Available online:

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