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X: marks the spot

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Buckle.
Gold buckle, from the Thetford treasure

X marks the spot for ... treasure.

In 1979 a remarkable hoard of late-Roman gold jewellery and silver tableware was found near Thetford.

It included this gold buckle. The figure on the plate is a dancing satyr holding a bunch of grapes.

Two horses' heads form the loop or bow. The buckle is one of a number of explicitly pagan items in the treasure, which was buried around AD 390, by which time the Roman Empire was officially Christian.

gem.
Engraved gem

Like the other engraved gems in the hoard, this fine large carnelian gem must have been removed from an older piece of jewellery.

It was originally an elongated oval shape, and has been trimmed down to a rectangular form for re-setting.

It depicts Venus with Cupid, both signifying love, and the armour of Mars, the Roman god of war, a standard scene in Roman iconography.

Spoons.
Gilded spoons

These gilded spoons, one a large cignus, the other a long-handled cochlear are clearly from a matching set.

Both have Bacchic decoration, the first a horn-blowing triton holding a steering-oar and accompanied by a dolphin, the latter a tigress and a tree. The inscriptions are to the 'god Faunus Narus', referring to the obscure Italian god Faunus.

The Celtic element narus, or narius (perhaps meaning 'powerful' or 'mighty') emphasizes that this was a local cult.

There are Bacchic elements in the decoration of both spoons and jewellery, and Faunus may at this date have formed part of the wider Bacchic cult.

It appears that the treasure was owned and used by committed pagans and may have been hidden as a result of anti-pagan legislation in the final decade of the fourth century AD.

Text courtesy of The British Museum

Internet links:
The British Museum


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Sense of Place
Weird Norfolk
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