Archaeology Magazine Archive

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Detecting Two Fantastic Finds Volume 57 Number 1, January/February 2004
by Jarrett A. Lobell


Left: Brightly colored enamel Celtic-style motifs and an exciting inscription decorate this second-century copper-alloy bowl. Right: Only one of the original garnets that once decorated this very fine gold leather belt fitting survives. (Courtesy S.Laidlaw/Institute of Archaeology, UCL & Isle of Wight Archaeology & Historic Environment Service) [image]


A remarkable ancient souvenir has been discovered by a metal detectorist in west-central England, according to the Portable Antiquities Scheme, a British organization that records archaeological finds made by the public. The brightly enameled second-century A.D. bowl is only the third example with an inscription recording forts located along Hadrian's Wall. (The previous two were found in Wiltshire in 1725 and Amiens in 1949.) Four western forts are named on the bowl, including Drumburgh for the first time, confirming its ancient spelling, COGGABATA. Thought to be a souvenir of the wall, it also records the name of its owner, Aelius Draco. Perhaps a retiring veteran of the Roman army stationed on the wall, Draco may have commissioned this bowl upon his retirement from that most remote of Roman frontiers. On a related note, for the first time in 1,600 years, the entire length of Hadrian's Wall is opened to walkers who want to travel in Aelius Draco's footsteps.

Another detectorist searching a beach on the Isle of Wight has found an important seventh-century Anglo-Saxon gold sword belt fitting, the most elaborate piece of metalwork to be found on the island in more than a hundred years. Although early reports suggested that the belt may have belonged to the legendary Saxon king Caedwalla, experts agree that it is not possible to identify the owner of the once-lavish belt except to say that he was certainly of high status and wealth. The belt has been declared Treasure Trove and will be purchased by the government.

© 2004 by the Archaeological Institute of America