Posts Tagged 'Roman'

Object: Roman Double-Sided Comb

Accession Number: C/1948/6/001

Object: Double-Sided Comb

Culture: Roman

Date: 30 BC-641

Materials: Boxwood

C_1948_6_001 copy

Figure 1. Roman Comb from the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. C/1948/6/001.

This week’s object is a double-sided comb from Egypt, near Luxor. Although this artifact was excavated from Egypt, it is identified as Roman due to the Roman occupation of Egypt between 30 BC-641 AD.  This means the age of the comb is somewhere around 1,400-2,000 years old! Although combs of this style are seen through multiple centuries, we can determine that this comb is Roman due to it’s location, approximate age, and the material its carved from: boxwood.

Boxwood is one of many materials used to create double-sided combs. Combs made from ivory or bone are also common. However, boxwood was the cheapest of these and was used almost exclusively to create the Roman army’s standard-issued combs for their soldiers. (1) Three combs made from boxwood uncovered in the “Cave of the Pool”, near the Dead Sea are believed to have come from the early Roman period. (2) These combs bear a striking resemblance in shape, design, and material to the collection’s comb. It’s very possible that the collection’s comb belonged to a soldier in the Roman army.

historicalwarris

Figure 2.  Original illustration by Brian Delf.

Now you may be wondering, why did the Roman army issue a double-sided comb to their soldiers as part of their standard gear? The answer has less to do with making sure their soldiers looked their best, and more to do with making sure their soldiers itched a lot less! Living in cramped conditions with your platoon, with few opportunities to bathe or shave, left many of the Roman soldiers susceptible to head lice. The fine toothed side of the comb was meant to catch and remove adult lice and eggs, while the broader toothed comb was meant to tidy the hair and remove tangles.

Unfortunately, Lice have been piggy-backing on humanity’s migration across the world  for thousands of years. In fact, during the excavation of a cave site in Israel, tests performed on hair samples from an individual who died there found remnants of lice and their eggs dating back 9,000 years! (2)

janmiense.jpg

Figure 3.  Double-sided Combs carried on much later than the Roman Period. “Allegory of Vanity” by Jan Miense Molenaer, 1633.

While lice combs have proven to be a tried and true method, more creative remedies have been used. The practice of shaving the head and body hair to prevent infestation was common. This method was popular with the Egyptian elite who used elaborate wigs and powders to stay stylish and louse-free. However, other methods included mixing cresol powder, sulfur, mercury powder, and even kerosene into a salve that would be spread on the hair or body. (2)

While these methods may have offered temporary relief, the results of these caustic concoctions could create more problems than the lice themselves! For this reason the most popular method for lice removal during the last 3,500 years has been maintenance through a fine toothed comb. Many varieties of lice combs can be found throughout the world. In fact, head lice have been so closely tied to our ancestors lives that by the 15th century giving a lice comb was considered to be quite the romantic gift! (3)

Comb,_1400s_AD,_French,_boxwood_-_Cleveland_Museum_of_Art_-_DSC08507

Figure 4. 15th Century French Double-Sided Comb. The reverse reads “Pour Bien” meaning ” for your comfort”. This lice comb was probably a gift between sweet hearts.

So next time you have an itch, be thankful you’re not getting a lice comb for Valentines Day!

((Christina J. Naruszewicz))

Sources:

1- Dowdle, Elizabeth. “Archaeology of Daily Life: Double-sided Comb”, John Hopkins Archaeological Museum, accessed Oct 9, 2017, http://archaeologicalmuseum.jhu.edu/the-collection/object-stories/archaeology-of-daily-life/female-beauty/double-sided-comb

2- Mumcuoglu, Kosta Y., and Gideon Hadas, “Remains in a Louse Comb from the Roman Period Excavated in the Dead Sea Region”, Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 61, no. 2 (2011), 223-229

3- Morton, Ella. “Some of History’s Most Beautiful Combs Were Made for Lice Removal”, Atlas Obscura, June 21, 2016, accessed Oct 9, 2017. http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/some-of-historys-most-beautiful-combs-were-made-for-lice-removal

 

Object: Roman Tombstone

Figure 1    Roman Tombstone with Latin Epitaph from the Classics Collection at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Figure 1 Roman Tombstone with Latin Epitaph from the Classics Collection at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

C/2000/1/1
Roman
Unknown Date
Materials: Stone

This ancient Roman stone is from the Classics Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. It has an interesting epitaph, or inscription, in Latin, which roughly translates as “To the shades of the departed ( or ‘for/to the god Mercury’), Plutianici (Latin-ized Greek name) lived 23 years, 4 months and 3 days. L. Plutius (Latin-ized Greek name) Stephanus made this (stone) for his most sweet (dear) wife.” The inscription identifies it as a Roman tombstone or funerary monument erected by L. Plutius Stephanus for his wife Plutianici, who lived only 23 years, 4 months and 3 days.

Funerary monuments in Roman cemeteries were important symbols to the people of Rome because they served as a way to commemorate the deceased as well as a way to remember them for the years to come. According to Valerie Hope, “monuments were frequently designed to catch the eye of the passer-by: scale, decoration, words, and images all combined to provide a final snapshot of the deceased” (Hope 2007:141).

The tombstones were also a way to show social identity in Ancient Rome. In Hope’s research, she declares that erecting a tombstone inscribed in Latin is a “Roman act” because it symbolizes “the attainment of citizenship or at least a claim that such citizenship was deserved” (Hope 1997:119). These tombstones served as a form of identity for Roman citizens to show that they were a part of the empire and belonged to Roman society when they were alive.

On the epitaph found on the tombstones, the Manes, believed to be the spirits of the dead, were commemorated with the phrase Dis Manibus, which was shortened to DM. This commemoration was exclusive to tombstone inscriptions. The Manes were celebrated in February during Parentalia, a nine-day festival commemorating the ancestors. During this time, the ancestors were honored and appeased with food, offerings, and prayers to show piety towards them by their living descendants and family members (Yasin 2005:439).

After the commemoration of Dis Manibus on Roman tombstones, the first name of the deceased was displayed, then the exact age of the person in years, months, and days. The inscriptions on the stone also usually included the occupation of the deceased and concluded with the name of the person who erected the stone in their honor. All of the information presented in an epitaph showed the identity and social status of the person so that he or she could be remembered for the years to follow. Ultimately, just like tombstones today, the tombstones of Ancient Rome served as a physical monument that gave the living a glimpse into the life of the deceased.

[Sarah Noel Rodriguez]

Further Links:

Latin Inscriptions: http://www.ashmolean.org/ashwpress/latininscriptions/tag/latin-tombstones/

Latin Funerary Inscriptions: http://archaeologicalmuseum.jhu.edu/the-collection/object-stories/latin-funerary-inscriptions/

Roman Inscriptions: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/insc/hd_insc.htm

Sources:

Hope, Valerie M. 2007. Death in Ancient Rome: A Sourcebook. New York: Routledge.

Hope, Valerie M. 1997. Constructing Roman Identity: Funerary Monuments and Social Structure in the Roman World. Morality 2(2):103-121.

Meyer, Elizabeth A. 1990. Exploring the Epigraphic Habit in the Roman Empire: the Evidence of Epitaphs. The Journal of Roman Studies 80:74-96.

Yasin, Ann Marie. 2005. Funerary Monuments and Collective Identity: From Roman Family to Christian Community. The Art Bulletin 87(3):433-457.

Object: Bronze Hare

C/1957/14/38
Bronze Hare
Roman (?)
Unknown location
Unknown date
Materials: Bronze

This bronze hare is 1 in. (2.5 cm) high, 1.5 in. (3.8 cm) long, and .5 in. (1.3 cm) wide.  The long ears are pointed and its short tail is also rather pointed.  The face is turned to one side.  The other side of the hare looks like it may have been attached to something.  This hare statuette does not appear to be a depiction of a hunted hare.  It is resting couchant, or positioned lying down with its head raised, unconcerned. Therefore, it is not likely that it is being chased.  One leg is tucked in, and its long ears stretch straight back from its head.  Details of an incised mouth and faint traces of eyes also survive.

Romans wrote that they used to have leporia (game reserves) just for hares. These reserves were fenced in and planted with abundant foliage so that the hares would be protected from predators such as eagles. Later, these reserves held many types of animals, including deer, cattle, and boars.  Hares continued to be important to the Romans and were used in spectacles held in the amphitheaters.  In one of Emperor Nero’s favorite spectacles, lions had actually been trained to play with hares without harming them.

As a game animal, hares were regularly hunted in Roman sport. Virgil and other authors mention hunting hares in fields on foot or on horseback. The hunting of hares also appears in artwork, as on the Neumagen tombs at Trier.

Roman mosaic of a dog hunting a hare, image courtesy of the Bardo National Museum in Tunis, Republic of Tunisia.

Roman mosaic of a dog hunting a hare, image courtesy of the Bardo National Museum in Tunis, Republic of Tunisia.

Hares fascinated Romans.  In amphitheater spectacles, snowy white hares were considered a marvel. Hares’ preference for fruit was another oddity for the Romans. When depicted in artwork separate from humans, hares are shown feasting on figs and grapes. Hares are found in mosaics, along with other animals in nature or hunting scenes.  Hares were also valued as pets, and a captured hare could be tamed and kept as a pet for a child.

Video: To learn more about Roman mosaic artwork and how they make designs like the hare, see this video on ancient mosaics:

Works Cited

Toynbee, J. M. C.

            1973 Animals in Roman Life and Art. New York: Cornell University Press.

[Chelsea Cinotto]

Object: Shears

C_1946_7_45

Figure 1   Roman shears from the Classics Collection of the Sam Noble Museum

C/1946/7/45
Iron Shears or Clippers
Roman
Germany: Mainz Region
Likely first to sixth century AD
Materials: Iron

These Roman shears were found in Mainz.  Today, Mainz is the capital of Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany. Mainz is on the west bank of the Rhine and was part of the Roman Empire’s northern frontier along the limes Germanicus. The Romans built a fort here in the first century B.C. These shears are one of the many iron objects created by the Romans.  Iron working in the Roman Empire was a major industry.  Iron objects ranged from weapons to everyday tools.  Iron weapons include spears, swords, and knives.  Iron tools included knives for food, adze heads, axe heads, keys, and shears.

To begin the process of making an iron object, iron ore must first be obtained.  Iron ore occurs naturally and is one of the most abundant metals.  Iron ore was collected from multiple places throughout the Roman Empire.  Noricum (a Celtic kingdom in modern Austria and part of Slovenia), Spain, and Britain were major sources of iron.  Iron can be collected from the surface, through open-cast quarrying, and from underground mining.  Open-cast quarrying was the most popular method and was practiced at both large and small scales.

After obtaining iron ore, the next step was to smelt the iron. Iron-smelting sites were often close to ore extraction sites.  It was more efficient to smelt ore locally since 60% of iron ore is waste.  After smelting, only the smaller amount of useable iron was left to transport. Romans primarily used charcoal as the fuel source for iron-smelting. Other fuel sources, such as coal, will contaminate iron and so were not commonly used. Dry wood had to be converted to charcoal before it was used for smelting.

Preparation of iron ore involved washing, roasting, and grading.  After washing, the ore was roasted to produce iron oxide.  Oxygen and any mineral impurities were then removed from the iron oxide to produce iron.  The separated mineral impurities are known as slag, which is the waste product left over from smelting.

There were three different types of Roman furnaces. These furnaces included a simple bowl furnace, a domed or pot furnace, and a shaft furnace.  During the Imperial Period, when the shears at the Sam Noble Museum were likely made, the shaft furnace was most commonly used. Shaft furnaces were hollow cylinders with an arched opening at the bottom. The bottom opening was for draining out slag and pumping air into the fire using bellows.

When iron is heated over 1674° F (912° C) it becomes malleable.  Iron is first placed into the fire until it reaches around 1832°-2012° F (1000°-1100° C), when the metal glows red from the heat.  After it is hot enough, the iron is placed on an anvil to be worked until it loses heat and achieves the desired shape.  Iron can be heated in the fire multiple times to keep it malleable so it can be reworked if needed.  After it cools, the iron hardens into a strong, durable object.  The process of obtaining iron ore and working it is very complex.  This brief description does not delve into all the chemical changes that occur within the iron.

Since iron objects were used in all parts of life, there were blacksmiths in most Roman towns and cities.  Blacksmiths were called ferrarrii. A fabrica workshop for producing weapons was found in Hofheim in Hesse, Germany.   These fabrica were the production sites for goods for the Roman army, including many iron items.  A large clay hearth was found at Hofheim with deposits of coal and iron slag.  Another area of the fabrica had tools, weapons, iron fittings, wire, bars, and round and flat pieces of iron.  Shears like these at the Sam Noble Museum could have been made at this workshop or one similar to it.

Shears were one of the many iron tools Romans manufactured. Shears were found throughout the Roman Empire, including these from Germany.  Large shears were used for cutting wool and fur from animals.  However, Romans also used shears for the tasks we use scissors for today, including personal grooming.  Though Romans did have hinged scissors, they were very rare and most people used shears for their grooming. These shears at the museum are 10 inches (25.4 cm) long, 3 inches (7.6 cm) wide, and the spring section is 1 inch (2.5 cm) high.  The Sam Noble shears are similar to shears found in Dorset, England and Neuss, Germany. These types of shears were used for shearing sheep, cutting cloth, and other such tasks.

Roman shears were rarely decorated since they were utilitarian tools. The blades of shears vary in length and shape. The differences in blades seem to result from different intended functions for the shears.  There are two spring types: a u-shaped loop and an omega-shaped loop.  The shears from England are u-shaped.  The shears at the Sam Noble Museum are the omega-shaped loop.  Both types produce a strong spring to move the blades together to cut.

Shears for cloth cutting and sheep shearing were depicted in Roman artwork.  Sometimes shears were used as the symbol of sheep shearers and they appear in art along with cloth merchants. Interestingly, men are always shown holding the shears even if women are also depicted.  Yet in the burials around Trier, Germany, shears are found in graves of both sexes, indicating that both sexes likely used shears even though only men were depicted holding them.

To see a modern example of a Roman bloomery furnace, watch this video:

[Chelsea Cinotto]

Works Cited

Eckardt, Hella and Nina Crummy

2008 Styling the Body in Late Iron Age and Roman Britain: A Contextual Approach to Toilet Instruments. Monographies Instrumentum 36. Montagnac: Editions Monique Mergoil.

Sim, D. and J. Kaminski

2012  Roman Imperial Armour: The Production of Early Imperial Military Armour. Wales: Oxbow Books.

Manning, W.H.

1985 Catalogue of the Romano-British Iron Tools, Fittings, and Weapons in the British Museum. London: British Museum Press.

Bishop, M. C. and J. C. N. Coulston

2006  Roman Military Equipment: From the Punic Wars to the Fall of Rome. 2nd edition. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Simpson, Grace

2000 Roman Weapons, Tools, Bronze Equipment and Brooches from Neuss –   Novaesium Excavations 1955-1972. BAR International Series 862. England: Biddles Ltd.

Object: Spear Head

C_1946_7_42

Figure 1    Iron spear-head from Classics Collection at the Sam Noble Museum

C/1946/7/42
Iron Spear-head
Roman
Germany: Taunus Mountains, Limes Region
Likely first to second century AD
Materials: Iron

Early in Germanic history, numerous Germanic tribes settled from the mouth of the Rhine River to the Middle Danube River (James 208).  Around the first century A.D. Romans and Germans came in contact across the two rivers.  This contact included fighting and trading (James 208).  German tribes gained goods as well as ideas from the Roman Empire (James 208).  Roman writers described the Germani people as barbarian savages who were occasionally noble (James 208).

This spearhead at the Sam Noble Museum was found in the Hesse region of Germany.  It was found near Limes Germanicus in the Taunus Mountains, which were the border regions of the Roman Empire.  This spear and several other Roman artifacts have been found in this region of Germany.

The limes included the areas on either side of the border, both the Roman controlled side and the area under Germanic control (Feugére 216).  The limes Germanicus was the area where the Roman Empire interacted with German tribes.  They were densely settled with Roman forts, towers, and camps to hold the border, all of which were connected by roads (Feugére 216).  German settlements in the limes area existed so that the tribes could trade with the Romans.  The Rhine and Danube Rivers were used to transport goods along the border (James 145).

Archaeologically it is difficult to analyze settlements along the limes.  Since there were cultural as well as material exchanges between Romans and Germans, it is hard to tell the difference between the material culture of both groups. There is little context for this spear.  It was collected during 1899-1900.  There is no exact excavation location for this spear and it has no date range for when it was created.  With so little context, it is unclear if the Roman spear was last in use by Romans or Germans.  However, this spear is similar to Roman-made spears from other areas of the Roman Empire.

Since the Roman Empire traded goods with many regions, the spear may have been made elsewhere and taken to Germany, or it may have been made in Germany.  Or, the iron for the spear may have come from another area in the empire and then worked in Germany.  Iron was often first turned into ingots, pieces of processed metal, that were sent to other areas to be worked into a useable product (King 122).  Some of Roman iron production was under imperial control (King 122).  In Gaul, modern France, especially there is evidence for the manufacture of iron weapons that were sent to Germany for the Roman army (King 122).  In the early first century A.D., southern Gaul made weapons for Germania Superior and northern Gaul made weapons for the Roman army in Germania Inferior (King 122).  Later in the first century, the Roman military in Germany established their own workshops so they did not have to import iron and weapons from Gaul (King 122).  Trier, a Roman city, was the major iron production center in Germany (King 122).  With no known date for this spear, it is unclear if this spearhead was made in Gaul or Germany.  Analysis of the iron and the production method may shed some light on this question.

The spearhead at the museum is 10.5 inches (26.7 cm) long and 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) at its widest point.  The blade is leaf-shaped, which is distinct from other types of Roman spears like the pilum that had a pyramid-shaped blade.  The leaf-shaped spear has a socket on the end where it was attached to the wooden shaft.  Socketed spear heads were common from the first to second century A.D., so this spear may date to this period.  The Sam Noble spear is similar to a spear from Neuss, another area of Germany.  The other iron spear is called an extra-long socketed spearhead and has similar dimensions to the Sam Noble example. A few spearheads found in England also appear to be of the same shape.  One spear from England has a leaf-shaped blade with a conical socket for attaching to the wooden shaft (Manning 160).  However, the size of this spearhead is much smaller (Manning 160).  It appears that the Sam Noble’s spear is unique in its large size, though it has the common leaf-shaped blade.

To learn more about the Limes Germanicus and the current archaeological work being conducted there, take a look at this video:

 [Chelsea Cinotto]

Works Cited

Bishop, M. C. and J. C. N. Coulston

2006  Roman Military Equipment: From the Punic Wars to the Fall of Rome. 2nd edition. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Feugére, Michel

2002 Weapons of the Romans. Translated by David G. Smith.  Charleston, South Carolina: Tempus Publishing Ltd.

James, Edward

2009  Europe’s Barbarians AD 200 – 600. Harlow: Pearson Education Ltd.

King, Anthony

1990  Roman Gaul and Germany. Berkeley: University of California.

Manning, W.H.

1985 Catalogue of the Romano-British Iron Tools, Fittings, and Weapons in the British Museum. London: British Museum Press.

Simpson, Grace

2000 Roman Weapons, Tools, Bronze Equipment and Brooches from Neuss –  Novaesium Excavations 1955-1972. BAR International Series 862. England: Biddles Ltd.

Object: Knife

C_1946_7_43

Figure 1   Iron knife from the Classics Collection at the Sam Noble Museum

C/1946/7/43
Iron Knife
Roman
Germany: Taunus Mountains, Limes Region
Likely first to sixth century AD
Materials: Iron

Roman blacksmiths made knives and swords in various ways.  Metalworkers would carburize iron, weld different metals together, and quench metals to harden them into weapons.  Mainz style weapons, named after the city in Germany, were quenched when worked. In the 3rd century A.D., Romans began making dagger blades from several bars of iron instead of single bars.  For these blades metalworkers used the pattern-welding (damasking) method where rods of iron were twisted together.  The rods were then hammered, cut up, and re-combined to create a composite blade.

This knife measures 16.25 inches (41.3 cm) long, 1.75 inches (4.4 cm) wide, and .25 of an inch (.6 cm) high. Although this knife seems large, it was likely not used as a weapon.  The blade is eroded but was once straight.  Only one side of the knife has a sharp edge.  The other side is thick with a flat edge.  Most knives used as weapons were sharp on both edges, or at least had a thinner edge, unlike this knife.  The thick edge would make it difficult to use for stabbing.  Additionally, the shape of this knife does not match other Roman knives used in warfare.

Knives were used by the Romans for a variety of reasons other than warfare. Smaller knives like scalpels were used for medical procedures like small surgeries.  The shape of this knife does not match the shape of the larger Roman surgical knives, as this blade is wide and has a short curve up to the tip. So, it was likely not a surgical knife. The large size of this knife means it is unlikely it was used as a multipurpose tool.  Though some Romans carried around knives for small tasks throughout the day, such knives were likely smaller than this one. Romans also used knives in the kitchen for food preparation. This knife’s large size would make it a useful kitchen knife for chopping meat, fruits, and vegetables. Kitchen knives were also used for slaughtering the animals that were used in meals.  Romans did not use knives when eating, so this knife would not have been used during the meals, only in food preparation.

If this knife was used in a Roman military fort, it could have been used to prepare food for the entire garrison.  To have enough food to feed all the soldiers, forts had a millhouse, bakery, kitchen (culina), and dining area.  A kitchen was discovered at the auxiliary fort Stockstadt in Upper Germany.  The room had two round ovens made of red tiles. Cooks would have used this area to create the meals.

The army diet relied on grain as one of the main ingredients.  Fort granaries (horreum) held wheat and corn.  Grain was made into bread, pasta, or porridge.  Army food also included meat and vegetables.  Soldiers ate mutton, pork, beef, goat, young pig, ham, and venison.  Some of the meat was smoked to help preserve it.  Knives would have been used to butcher the animals and then cut the meat into manageable pieces.  Vegetables, fish bones, oyster shells, fruits, and nuts were also found at military forts, indicating these foods were also part of the diet.  Knives were an important tool for creating meals in the Roman forts and in the rest of the Roman world.

[Chelsea Cinotto]

Works Cited

Bishop, M. C. and J. C. N. Coulston

2006 Roman Military Equipment: From the Punic Wars to the Fall of Rome. 2nd edition. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Johnson, Anne

1983 Roman Forts of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD in Britain and the German Provinces. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Object: Key

C_1946_7_29

Figure 1    Roman Iron key from Classics Collection of the Sam Noble Museum

C/1946/7/29
Iron Key
Roman
Germany: Taunus Mountains, Limes Region
Likely first to sixth century AD
Materials: Iron

Romans were one of the earliest people to use locks and keys to protect their belongings. Locks and keys were such a popular method of security that keys are one of the most common finds at Roman sites.  Locks are less commonly found, as they were not always made of metal and so do not preserve as well.  Lock construction was largely uniform throughout the ancient world, but keys varied greatly. Making a key began the same way as making a knife handle.  Instead of a adding a blade, a locksmith would add the bit and teeth.

This key from the Sam Noble Museum is an example of a slide-key. The lock this key would open was elaborate.  Slide-key locks had several tumblers arranged in patterns that fell into holes in the bolt. The bit of the key, which enters the lock, has teeth on its side in the same pattern as the tumblers. The teeth on the key push up the tumblers to free the bolt and slide it to the side, unlocking the lock.  Unfortunately, the teeth from the key at the Sam Noble Museum have eroded away with time.

The keyholes for slide-keys are L-shaped.  These L-shaped locks are depicted in some Roman reliefs. There are two forms of slide-keys, and the museum key is the smaller type.  These small keys have close-set teeth arranged in various patterns on the straight bit.  The handle is flat and broad with an eye hole at the end opposite the teeth.  The hole on the handle allowed the keys to be put on a ring, much like our modern keychains.  The teeth on the key were likely cut into the bit using a punch or chisel.  Bit teeth could be rectangular or triangular.  Though this key at the museum is made of iron, there were also many keys of this type made of bronze.  The small slide-key is common in Germany and Roman Britain.  This key was found near the limes in the Taunus Mountain area.  Similar keys have been found in Germany at Neuss, Saalburg, Arnsburg, Feldberg, Hofheim, and Zugmantel.

Keys were used to lock many types of things, including chests and boxes. The arca (household safe) was locked and the key kept by the head of the household.  Safes usually held money, jewelry, and other expensive items. A pyxis (jewelry casket) was used to keep jewelry, coins, and other keys safe. Another container was the capsa, a cylindrical wooden vessel that held scrolls or other items. The capsa were kept locked if they held important objects or documents. These are just a few of the items Romans kept under lock and key. Often only the metal hardware for these boxes and containers survives because most boxes were made of perishable wood.  Sometimes not even the locks survive because they could also be made of wood. A few boxes made of other materials have survived, and we can see where the locks and hinges were placed.

[Chelsea Cinotto]

Works Cited

Kozloff, Arielle P.

1993 “Keys of Ancient Rome.” The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art 80 (9): 368-375.

Manning, W.H.

1985 Catalogue of the Romano-British Iron Tools, Fittings, and Weapons in the British Museum. London: British Museum Press.

Simpson, Grace

2000 Roman Weapons, Tools, Bronze Equipment and Brooches from Neuss – Novaesium Excavations 1955-1972. BAR International Series 862.

         England: Biddles Ltd.


Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

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