Roman treasures come back North to Segedunum after 150 years

A FABULOUS treasure hoard has returned to the North East for the first time in more than 150 years.

A FABULOUS treasure hoard has returned to the North East for the first time in more than 150 years.

The gold and silver items, dating from the Second Century, were unearthed near the former mining village of Backworth in North Tyneside in 1811. They were acquired by the British Museum in 1850 and have remained there ever since as a pivotal part of its Roman Britain displays.

But now the treasure is back near where it was found as it was unpacked to go on show at Segedunum Roman fort and museum in Wallsend.

It is the first time it has ever been loaned by the British Museum and will be on show from today until September 15.

Inscriptions on two of the items are to the Mother-goddesses and it could be evidence that the hugely valuable items are from a temple or shrine. It may have been linked to Segedunum fort, a major base at the eastern end of Hadrian’s Wall.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for people to see this wonderful collection,” said Geoff Woodard, manger of North and South Tyneside museums for Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM).

“It is a fantastic opportunity to find out more about what is a fascinating mystery surrounding the hoard.”

One of the objects is a solid silver pan, with details picked out in gold, with the name of Fabius Dubitatus inscribed on the handle and a dedication to the Mother-goddesses.

One of the theories is that Fabius could have been a Roman officer or wealthy trader linked to the fort who buried the treasure for safekeeping as military units moved into Scotland.

A silver coin in the hoard is dated to 139AD which was a time of unrest north of the Wall.

Other experts think that the items may have been an offering from Fabius after the Mother-goddesses granted his wishes.

A silver spoon – one of three – is scratched with the name of another man called Vitalis.

The hoard also includes:

Large trumpet brooches which would have been used to fasten a woman’s dress at each shoulder.

Gold necklaces with wheel clasps and crescent pendant, symbolic of the sun and moon, which were designed to be draped around the neck twice. There is also a matching wheeled bracelet with hollow gold beads.

Six rings, five gold and one silver. They include snake rings which may represent the healing god Aesculpius.

Other rings have a gem engraved with two ears of corn, which may represent Ceres, the goddess of crops and fertility, and also a plucked chicken. Chickens were an expensive item and would have been used as offerings.

A silver mirror.

Alex Croom, keeper of archaeology at TWAM, believes that the hoard was an offering of thanks by Fabius. “I think he asked the Mother-goddesses to grant him something and was fulfilling his vow of thanks,” she said. “It must have been something massive to give this amount of gold and silver.

“If he was an officer or official he may have got the promotion he wanted, or perhaps his wife had given birth to the son he asked for and the jewellery items and mirror may have belonged to her.

“But what the hoard does show is the wealth in this part of Roman Britain and its is amazing to have it back here.”

Mr Woodward said: “This is very special. They are not only beautiful objects – they are specific to this area. It would be wonderful to travel back in time to ask Fabius Dubitatus about the hoard and Segeundum fort and what is was like.”

Segedunum attracts around 45,000 visitors a year but the hoard is expected to significantly boost that figure.

The fort and museum are open 10am-5pm Monday to Friday and 11am-4pm Saturday and Sunday.

 
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