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A Roman Lead Coffin with Pipeclay Figurines from Arrington, Cambridgeshire

  • Alison Taylor (a1)

In November 1990 a new sewage pipe was being laid at Wraggs Farm, Arrington, when a JCB bucket struck the coffin (FIG. I). The Archaeology Section of Cambridgeshire County Council was alerted immediately and, after a visit to the site to assess the problem, the burial was excavated on the following day under the difficult conditions imposed by a deep narrow construction trench (PL. VII). Excavation was made more awkward by the need to remove heavy lead in reasonable condition from very sticky and intransigent clay in a confined space. Surviving bones were extremely fragile and fragmentary, which also posed problems. Figurine fragments had already been collected by workmen and soil containing them had been removed, so no more could be found.

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1 G. Wait, Archaeological Assessment at the Junction of the A14/A604 Codmanchester, Combs. (1990).

2 Peter Murphy, pers. comm.

3 Toller, H., Roman Lead Coffins and Ossuaria in Britain, BAR 38 (1977), 1012.

4 T. May, Catalogue of the Roman Pottery in Colchester and Essex Museum (1930), 251–2, pl. 75, fig. 3b; J.M.C. Toynbee, Art in Britain under the Romans (1964), 419–20.

5 Barber, D., Bowsher, D. and Whittaker, K., ‘Recent excavations of a cemetery of Londinium’, Britannia xxi (1990), 12, pl. 11.

6 M.J. Green, Symbol and Image in Celtic Religious Art (1989), fig. 85; Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn, Wir Entdecken die Römer (1973), 66; G. Ristow, Religionen und ihre Denkmäler in Köln (1975), pl. 41.

7 P. La Baume, The Romans on the Rhine (undated), 21; Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn, op. cit. (note 6), 63; G. Ristow, Römischer Götterhimmel und frühes Christentum (1980), 47; Green, op. cit. (note 6), fig. 85.

8 H. von Petrikovits, ‘Matronen und Verwandte Gottheiten’, Ergebnisse eines Kolloquiums veranstaltet von der Göttinger Akademiekommission für die Altertumskunde Mittel- und Nordeuropas (1987), 241–54.

9 Die Frauentracht der Ubier’, Germania xlvi (1968), 6773 and pers comm.

10 Green, op. cit. (note 6), 194–8.

11 Ristow, op. cit. (note 6), pls 41, 42; Ristow, op. cit. (note 7), 43.

12 H. Rabeisen and H. Vertet, Les Figurines gallo-romaines en terre cuite d'Alesia (1986), nos 220-4, Pl. 30.

13 M. Rouvier-Jeanlin, Les Figurines gallo-romaines en terre cuite au Musée des Antiquités Nationales (1972), nos 669–77.

14 Green, op. cit. (note 6), fig. 73.

15 E.M. Wightman, Roman Trier and the Treveri (1970), 213, pl. 21.

16 E. Thevenot, Dieux et sanctuaires de la Gaule (1968), 62–5.

17 R. Schindler, Führer durch das Landesmuseum Trier (1977).

18 Rouvier-Jeanlin, op. cit. (note 13), nos 715–17.

19 Anon., The Cambridge shrine’, Current Arch. 61 (1978), 5760; M.J. Green, The Gods of the Celts (1986), 131.

20 A.W. Lawrence, Greek and Roman Sculpture (1972), pl. 72.

21 M. Bieber, The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age (1961), fig. 550.

22 Rouvier-Jeanlin, op. cit. (note 13), nos 645,643 respectively.

23 idem, nos 647–8.

24 J.M.C. Toynbee, Art in Roman Britain (1962), pls 39, 42.

25 idem, pl. 38.

26 J. Ferguson, The Religions of the Roman Emplre (1970), pl. 13.

27 idem, pls 26–7; M. Schwarz, ‘Cautes and Cautopates’, in J. Hinnells (ed.), Mithraic Studies (1975), 406–623.

28 J.M.C. Toynbee, Art in Britain under the Romans (1964), 247–8.

29 Rouvier-Jeanlin, op. cit. (note 13), nos 1037–8.

30 M.J. Green, The Religions of Civilian Roman Britain (1976), 184.

31 M. Henig, Religion in Roman Britain (1984), pl. 32.

32 H.H. Scullard, Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic (1981), 17–18, 124.

33 Henig, op. cit. (note 31), pl. 19.

34 B. Cunliffe and M. Fulford, Corpus signorum lmperii Romani: Great Britain, Vol I, Fasc. 2: Bath and the Rest of Wessex (1982), no. 39.

35 Toynbee, op. cit. (note 24), no. 20.

36 Rouvier-Jeanlin, op. cit. (note 13), nos 1022–3, 1028.

37 idem, nos 1024–6.

38 M J. Green, The Gods of Roman Britain (1983), pl. 43.

39 J.M.C. Toynbee, Animals in Roman Life and Art (1973), 151; M.L. Cafiero, Ara Pacis Augustae (1989).

40 D.H. Ubelaker, Human Skeletal Remains: Excavation, Analysis, Interpretation (1989).

41 Morrees, C.F.A., Fanning, E.A. and Hunt, E.E., ‘Age variation of formation stages for ten permanent teeth’, Journ. Dental Research xlii (1963), 14901502.

42 Anson, S.J., Bast, T.H. and Richany, S.F., ‘The fetal and early pre-natal development of the tympanic ring and related structures in man’, Ann. Otol. Thinol. Laryngol. lxiv (1955), 802–20.

43 Stuart-Macadam, P., ‘A correlative study of the palaeopathology of the skull’ (unpub. Ph.D. 1982).

44 D. Brothwell and R. Spearman, ‘The hair of earlier peoples’, in D. Brothwell and E. Higgs (eds), Science in Archaeology (1963), 424–36.

45 M.D. Paterson, ‘The hair’, in C. Green, M. Paterson and L. Biek (eds), A Roman Coffin-burial from the Crown Buildings Site, in Dorchester: With Particular Reference to the Head of Well-preserved Hair (1981), 67–100.

46 Undertaken by Sandra Bond.

47 Identified by P. Walton Rogers.

48 J.P. Wild, Textile Manufacture in the Northern Roman Provinces (1970), 73–4, 105.

49 Ancient Monuments Laboratory 7709093.

50 Whiteley, K.J., ‘Stress-strain properties of an ancient sample of wool’, Journ. Textile Institute lv (1964), 214–16.

51 Report on the Vindolanda skins by M.L. Ryder, in press.

52 M.L. Ryder, Sheep and Man (1983), 168.

53 Ryder, M.L., ‘The correlation between plctorial representations of fleeces, written records of wool production and measurements of wool remains’, in Brock, J. Clutton and Grigson, C. (eds). Early Herders and their Flocks: Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Archaeozoology III, BAR S202 (1984), 6981.

54 idem, ‘Evolution of the fleece’, Scientific American (1987), 112–19; Ryder, op. cit. (note 52).

55 Ryder, op. cit. (note 52), 52.

56 ibid., 170–4; Ryder, op. cit. (note 53).

57 Ryder, op. cit. (note 52), 115.

58 ibid., 153.

59 ibid., 460–7.

60 Britannia xxiii (1991), 159 fig. 19.

61 Ryder, M.L., ‘Wools from Vindolanda’, Journ. Arch. Science viii (1981), 99103.

62 Archaeologia xxv (1834), 5; Illustrated London News, 21st July 1855, 77.

63 See gazeteer below.

64 Toller, op. cit. (note 3).

65 Britannia xvi (1985), 289.

66 The following abbreviations and references have been used in the gazeteers (the most accessible source is quoted, which will normally include full reference to earlier works):

ACR: C. Fox, The Archaeology of the Cambridge Region (1923).

Artis (1828): E.T. Aitis, The Durobrivae of Antoninus (1828).

Babington (1883): C.C. Babington, Ancient Cambridgeshire (1883).

CAG: Colchester Archaeological Group Annual Bulletin.

CBA: Council for British Archaeology.

Edgington (1983): Edgington, S.B., ‘Stone coffins in Cambridgeshire: an early find’, Conduit vi (1983).

Fenland Survey: D.N. Hall, unpublished survey of the Cambridgeshire Fens.

FRT: C.W. Phillips (ed.). The Fenland in Roman Times (1970).

Green (1975): Green, H.J.M., ‘Godmanchester’, in Rodwell, W. and Rowley, T. (eds), The ‘Small Towns’ of Roman Britain, BAR 15 (1975), 183210.

LAMAS: London and Middlesex Archaeological Society Transactions.

Lysons (1808): D. and S. Lysons, Magna Britannia: Cambridgeshire (1808).

McWhirr (1982): McWhirr, A.D., Romano-British Cemeteries at Cirencester 3 (1982).

NVRC: Nene Valley Research Committee Annual Report.

Northants. Arch.: Northamptonshire Archaeology.

PCAS: Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society.

RCHM: Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (England), County Inventories.

Surrey Arch. Collect.: Surrey Archaeological Collections.

TCHAS: Transactions of the Cambridge and Huntingdon Archaeological Society.

VCH: Victoria County History.

WAM: Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine.

Wait (1990): G. Wait, Archaeological Assessment at the Junction of the A14/A604, Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire (1990).

67 Taylor, A., ‘A Roman stone coffin from Stuntney and gazeteer of similar coffins in Cambridgeshire’, Proc. Camb. Ant. Soc. lxxiii (1984), 1521.

68 Fell, C., Proc. Camb. Ant. Soc. xvi (1956), 16.

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