• Pepper pot

    In Photos there is a silver pepper-pot in the shape of a Roman lady.

    Pepper was first imported into the Roman world from India in the first century AD but the pepper-pots used to store the spice are rarely found.

    This one comes from one of Britain's most amazing Roman treasures, the 'Hoxne hoard'.

    A hoard is a group of valuable items hidden away, for future use.

    The hoard of coins and jewellery found at Hoxne (you say 'Hoxon') in Suffolk is the richest buried treasure from Roman Britain.

    It was buried for 1500 years. We don't know why it was buried, but here's one possible story.

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  • The end of Roman rule

    By AD 410, the Romans have ruled Britain for nearly four centuries, but Roman rule is coming to an end.

    At Hoxne, a Roman-British family pack their belongings, ready to flee their country house or 'villa'.

    Life in the countryside is getting dangerous. Saxon pirates raid the coast, and unpaid mercenaries (hired soldiers) rob villages and farms.

    Rich family houses are easy targets, unprotected because most Roman soldiers have left Britain to defend the heartland of the Roman Empire from 'barbarians'.

    The Hoxne family decide to flee, perhaps to a city - Colchester maybe or London. Before leaving, they bury their valuables in a wooden box.

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  • Contents

    Inside the box were about 15,000 coins (mostly silver but some gold and bronze), and jewellery, including a gold chain, necklaces, three rings, and 19 bracelets - one of which is marked with the name Juliane.

    There were 78 spoons, one marked with a Christian symbol, another with the name Aurelius Ursicinus.

    The silver pepper-pot probably sat on the table at family meals. Crafted with such skill, it would have been admired by guests.

    The pepper inside was valuable too, traded all the way from India. The family probably enjoyed elegant dinners and parties.

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  • The treasure unearthed

    The treasure was packed and hidden with care, so the owners probably planned to come back for it. They never did. Were they attacked on the road? Die of disease? Or just sail away, too frightened to return?

    Their wooden box stayed hidden, rotting underground through 1500 years of history until its treasure was unearthed in 1992.

    The man who found it was using a metal-detector to look for a hammer, lost in the field by the farmer. At once, he told archaeologists, who rescued the hoard, now in the British Museum. For their part in finding it, the finder and farmer shared a reward of £1.75 million!

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Fun Facts
  • Many Romans had a shave at a barber's shop on their way to work. Anglo-Saxons preferred the hairy look.

  • In August 410 Rome was attacked and captured by the 'barbarian' Alaric, King of the Goths.

  • Some Roman-British fought the Anglo-Saxons. The legend of King Arthur and his Knights may be based on one of these British soldier-leaders.

  • Our word 'knight' comes from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning a 'young man' or 'servant'.

  • Roman Britain had a navy of warships to fight pirates and invaders - but they were fighting a losing battle.

  • In 383 a Roman general named Maximus ordered Britain's best Roman soldiers to leave the island, to help him become emperor. After this, invaders found it easier to attack Britain.

  • In 449, a British king named Vortigern paid two Jute chiefs, Hengist and Horsa, to defend his kingdom. Instead the Jutes took it over! A true story? No-one knows.

  • After the Romans left Britain, their roads survived. You can walk along bits of Roman roads today.

  • A rich Roman's prize possession was his bed. Too big to bury or hide!

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