Amethyst Intaglio

Contributed by Craven Museum and Gallery Skipton

This oval shaped Roman intaglio was found near Hellifield in North Yorkshire. The amethyst stone has the incised image of a male figure holding a bowl in one hand. It is thought that the image might be portraying Odysseus (Roman name: Ulysses) offering wine to the Cyclops Polyphemus before he blinds the giant. The Greeks and Romans used intaglios, usually in jewellery, as the incised image was used for making seals by stamping the intaglio into material such as wax, creating a raised design.

Most Roman finds from the Craven area (which is part of North Yorkshire) aren't as delicate or high status as this gemstone intaglio. It is very unlikely that this was locally made but how or why it came to be in rural Craven is unknown.

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