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I. The Roman Silver Cups from Hockwold, Norfolk

  • Catherine Johns

On 2nd February 1962, a group of crushed silver objects was found by Mr. W. F. Curtis at Blackdyke Farm, Hockwold-cum-Wilton, on the south-eastern edge of the Fens (TL 687883, see fig. 1). Though severely damaged and fragmented by deliberate breakage in antiquity and by the effects of burial, the objects were recognizable as Roman silver drinking-cups, some elaborately decorated. They were declared Treasure Trove on 20th February 1962, and were subsequently acquired by the British Museum.

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1 The cups are in the Department of Prehistoric and Romano- British Antiquities, registration nos. 1962.7–7.1 to 14. When first listed after their discovery, the fragments were distinguished by letters of the alphabet, from A to X.

2 Green, B., Arch. Newsletter, March 1962, 154; Apollo, April 1962, 128.

3 Toynbee, J.M.C., Art in Britain under the Romans (Oxford, 1964). PP 301–3, Pl. LXX.

4 The restoration was carried out by Robert Holmes, of the Museum's Department of Conservation; see Appendix 11.

5 Strong, D. E., Greek and Roman Gold and Silver Plate (London, 1966), pp. 133–40 and 212–14.

6 Welwyn: Archaeologia, lxiii (19111912), 1. Welywn Garden City: note by D. E. Strong in Stead, I. M., ‘A La Tène III burial at Welwyn Garden City’, Archaeologia, ci (1967), 21.

7 Partridge, C., Skeleton Green: a Late Iron Age and Romano- British Site (London, 1981). A similar picture of a large quantity of Augustan imports, including Arretine pottery and early glass, comes from nearby excavations at Braughing (T. W. Potter, forthcoming).

8 Maiuri, A., La Casa del Menandro (Rome, 1936), nos. 7 and 8; also Strong, op. cit. (note 5), pl. 33a.

9 A. Villefosse, Héron de, Man. Piot, ix (1902), 179. The most recent discussion is by Lejeune, M., Mon. Piot, lxvi (1983), 19. The cup is also illustrated in Strong, op. cit. (note 5), pl. 33b.

10 The standard reference for the Hildesheim treasure is Pernice, F. and Winter, F., Der Hildesheimer Silberfund (Berlin, 1901), in which this vessel is illustrated on pl. IX. A more convenient reference is the recent short catalogue by Gehrig, U.Hildesheimer Silberschatz (Berlin, 1980); the laurel cup is pl. 22.

11 Walters, H. B., Catalogue of the Silver Plate …in the British Museum (London, 1921), no. 82.

12 Brom, L.H.M., Mon. Piot, xlvi (1952), 39.

13 de Villefosse, A. H., Mom. Piot, v (1899), pl. XVII.

14 Gehrig, op. cit. (note 10), Farbtafel I.

15 Brom, op. cit. (note 12), 59; Strong, op. cit. (note 6), p. 22.

16 Corbett, P. E. and Strong, D. E., British Museum Quart. xxiii (19601961), 68: dating is discussed on pp. 81–3.

17 See note 6 above.

18 Gehrig, op. cit. (note 10), Farbtafel II.

19 See note 10.above.

20 Toynbee, op. cit. (note 3), p. 302.

21 These motifs occur on the Stevensweert kantharos and the pair of kantharoi from Hildesheim, Gehrig, op. cit. (note 10), pls. 23–6.

22 Gehrig, op. cit. (note 10), Abb. 17 and 18.

23 Corbett and Strong, op. cit. (note 16), cup no. 2.

24 Handles of this type are found on the kantharos, Gehrig, op. cit. (note 10), pls. 19–20, and the small bi-convex cup, Pl. 37.

25 M. Feugère, forthcoming.

26 Inv. no. 25294; Ward-Perkins, J. and Claridge, A., Pompeii A.D. 79, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy (London, 1976), no. 327; Spinazzola, V., Le arti decorative in Pompeii (Milan, 1928), p. 327.

27 The decoration on these pieces is markedly less sophisticated in technique, and bolder in execution, than that of other pieces in the treasure.

28 Bruns, G., Berliner Museen, n.s. iii (1953), 37; Küthmann, H., Fahrb. des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums Mainz, v (1958), 94; Nierhaus, R., Die Kunde, xx (1969), 52.

29 Lejeune, op. cit. (note 9), draws attention to these varying opinions on the date of the Alesia cup: the supporters of an early first-century B.C. date and an early Claudian one respectively are Küthmann, H., in Untersuchungen zur Toreutikdesz.Fh.v.Chr. (Kallmunz, 1959), pp. 4951, and Ufford, L. Byvanck-Quarles van, Bull. Antieke Beschaving, XXXV (1960), 80. Lejeune examines the history of the cup and the record of its discovery in 1862, and makes it clear that the alleged terminus ante quern of 52 B.C. cannot be relied upon.

30 The dating of terra sigillata itself provides an interesting comparison with the problems of dating silver tableware. Fundamentally, the dating of Arretine and Gaulish samian is based on the detailed study of decorative styles and motifs. Its accuracy and reliability compared with the dating of silver on a similar stylistic principle rests on the following important differences: the pottery is mass-produced, at numerous known manufacturing centres, by firms whose names are in many cases recorded on their products; the amount of material available for study is enormous, and finally, above all, great quantities of sherds have been found in sound archaeological contexts, thus providing a framework for the stylistic judgements.

31 Bogaers, J. E., Bull. Antieke Beschaving, lvii (1982), 182.

32 Strong, op. cit. (note 5), p. 138: ‘…the handles … seem to be typical of developed first-century taste’.

33 Lejeune, op. cit. (note 9).

34 From the depositions taken at the Coroner's Inquest.

35 The decorated outer shell of cup no. 1 contained the base of the cup, a complete handle of no. 3, and two sections of a handle of no. 2; the inner lining contained nine items altogether, the remaining handles of cups 2 and 3, the handles of no. 4, the detached handles 6 and 7, and the plain rim of cup no. 1.

36 Toynbee, op. cit. (note 3), pp. 301–3; Webster, G., Boudica (London, 1978), pp. 125–6.

37 See the gazetteer entries in Salway, Pet al., The Fenland in Roman Times (London, 1970).

38 The excavation of the Sawbench temple site is unpublished; the finds are in Norwich Castle Museum. The temple is at T L 688889, the findspot of the treasure at T L 687883.

39 Hughes, M. J and Hall, J. A., F. Arch. Science, vi (1979), 321.

40 Ibid., fig. 1, p. 331.

41 Lang, J. and Hughes, M. J., ‘Soldering Roman silver plate’, Oxford F. Arch, iii (1984), 77107.

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