Kent Archaeological Review extract

Rare Bronze Escutcheon from Canterbury.
by Sonia Chadwick Hawkes, MA,FSA.

This unusual bronze object was found during construction work on a building site at Hales Place, Canterbury several years ago by Keith Wolley of Dover. Aware that the object might be of interest Mr Wolley brought it to the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit for examination. They, in turn, sent it to Mrs Sonia Chadwick Hawkes for a detailed report.

The object is a massive cast bronze escutcheon with vertical ring for attaching the bent up ends of a bucket-handle and is one of a pair (although its mate was not found). The vessel to which they were attached will have been a rather rare type of squat bucket or cauldron with down-bent flange-rim, concave neck and probably a slight shoulder carination and curving body with tripod feet or foot-ring. The escutcheons were fixed under the bucket-rim with the ring projecting vertically upwards. The rim must have been a thick one and may have been decorated in keeping with the zone of guilloche on the band around the escutcheon. The guilloche and the rather naively drawn vine -- or other foliate ornament on the three triangular projections are reminiscent of a Mediterranean piece, probably east Mediterranean.

There is little doubt that the handle-escutcheon comes from a vessel of Campanian manufacture (Capua) and dates from the first half of the 1st century AD. It is likely to have arrived in this country either prior to the conquest or with the troops of Claudius.

The closest parallel would seem to be that from Ehestorf, near Hannover, from a cemetery of the late La Tène and early Roman Imperial periods which is thought to have been Lombardic. It was used as a container for cremated bones and was accompanied by early German brooches and weapons. This find has been discussed by several German researchers (see refs.) and among these W Wegewitz point out that the Bucket is paralleled by one from Mehrum in the Rhineland and belongs to a very rare type. The bucket itself is cast, has an outbent rim and decorated with guilloche similar to that on the escutcheon, a concave neck and a stubby, nearly cylindrical body standing on a foot-ring. The handle and one handle attachment are lost. The remaining escutcheon is very stoutly made, had been riveted to the body (the Kentish one was attached by solder) and the vine-leaf ornament is more geometric and stylised than the Kentish one. Mr Wegwitz dates its manufacture to the Augustan period. The associated fibulae belong to the overlap of 1st BC - 1st AD and, like the bucket, do not seem to have been in use long before burial. He suggests the whole find from Ehestorf is contemporary and the burial dateable within the first decades of the 1st century AD. Other buckets with outbent guilloche-decorated rims have been found at Pompeii. He also cites a pretty close parallel with guilloche-decorated rim and related type of escutcheon from Nienbüttel, Kr Ulzen, which again has associated grave-goods of this period. See Footnote [1] See Footnote [2]

DRAWING: Rare bronze object was found on a building site at Canterbury.

This rare bronze object was found on a building site at Canterbury several years ago. It is part of a bucket handle which must have been imported to Britain either before or soon after the Roman conquest.

The Mehrum parallel is described by both H. Willers and Rafael von Uslar. The buckets were found in another cremation grave with Germanic weapons, belt- fittings etc, also a terra sigillata platter of Dragendorff form 18, stamped OF BASSI CO. The handle attachments of the buckets show great similarities to our Kentish example. Von Uslar does not discuss the dating of the buckets, but stresses the relatively late date of burial adduced from the terra sigillata platter. He gives a date in the second half of the 1st century AD for this grave and favours the end of the 1st century -- a puzzlingly late date as Oswald and Pryce place the products of Bassus chiefly in the pre-Flavian period. It is difficult to tell from the publications how old the Campanian vessels were when buried. [3][4] See Footnote [3] See Footnote [4]

The Kentish bucket excutcheon looks stylistically less devolved than either of the German ones quoted above and it is possible that it antedates the Ehestorf example. David Brown thinks it pre-Augustan, or Augustan at latest. The bucket must have come direct from southern Italy and been received either by Kent's Belgic population, or by Kent's subject-Roman population.


Footnote 1.

G.Schwantes, `Zwei römische Bronzeeimer der frühen Kaiserzeit', Lüneburger Museumsblätter, IX (1914), pp. 34 --37. W.Wegewitz, Die Langobardische Kultur im Gau Moswidi (Die Urnenfriedhöfe in Nieder- sachsen, ed. C.Schuchhardt, II, 1937), PP. 131 ff., Taf. 30. no. 7499. W.Wegewitz, Der Urnenfriedhof von Ehestorf-Vahrendorf im Kreise Harburg aus der vorrömischen Eisen- und der älteren römischen Kaiserzeit (Die Urnenfriedhöfe..., ed. C.Schuchhardt, VI 1962), PP. 27 f. and Taf. 59. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 2.

H.J.Eggers, Der Römische Import im Freien Germanien (1951), Taf. 5, no. 31 (Ehestorf) and 33 (Nienbüttel), nos. 97 1 and 1069 respectively. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 3.

H.Willers, Die Römischen Bronzeeimer von Hemmoor (Hannover, 1901), pp. 120 ff., and Neue Untersuchungen über die Römische Bronzeindustrie von Capua und von Nieder- germanian (Hannover, 1907), 26, Taf. 5, 1-3. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 4.

Rafael von Uslar, Westgermanische Bodenfunde des ersten bis dritten Jahrhundert nach Christus aus Mittel- und Westdeutschland (Germanische Denkmäler der Fruhzeit, III, 1938), Taf. 37 Abb. 3., cata Return to the paragraph.
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