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Collection Highlights - Marks from the past

Marks from the past

The Calleva Stone, object no. 1995.1.19

The Calleva Stone, object no. 1995.1.19

The marks on objects found at Calleva connect us to the people who lived there in a unique way. Touching a fingerprint that was made in wet clay links us to the person who made it nearly 2000 years ago. Unusually for the distant past these men and women have left us their names, marked on items that survive today.

The Calleva Stone

This is one of the most important objects in the collection. It is inscribed 'Callevae' - at Calleva, giving us the name of the town. The stone was found on the site in 1907 and is one of three dedications from a temple in insula XXXV recording gifts by the guild of peregrini, or foreigners, living at Calleva.

Calleva is also mentioned in Ptolomy's Geographia, a late second century list of places, the Antonine Itinerary, an early third century route list, and the Ravenna Cosmography, a seventh century list compiled from a much earlier road map.

Ogham stone

The Ogham stone, object no. 1995.1.24

A battered greensand 'dwarf' column, reused as a property marker in 5th century, inscribed in Ogham, a Celtic script, in which Latin letters are translated into characters made up of groups of horizontal strokes on a vertical axis. This is the only example of an Ogham inscription found in southern Britain east of the river Severn. It was found down a well in the backyard of a small cottage within Insula IX at the Roman town of Calleva, near Silchester, Hampshire in 1893 by the Society of Antiquaries and had crushed a pewter flagon beneath it.

The inscription on the stone can be translated as 'of Tebicatos, son of the tribe of'. It may refer to Tebicatos's ownership of the property in which it was found. This 5th century inscription suggests that there was a larger Celtic community in Calleva which could read Ogham between the 5th and 7th century AD, after the end of Roman rule, and that this community had a link with Wales and southern Ireland.

Tile with date

Tile with date, object no. 1995.1.30

Tiles were made at Calleva and many in the Silchester Collection bear graffiti connected with the tile-making industry. This was a seasonal activity because of the danger of frost.

A date was scratched on this tile before it had dried. The date, the sixth day before the Kalends of October, is 26 September. This is very late in the year to be making tiles and no later dated tiles are known in the western Roman Empire. The finger mark below the date could well be that of the maker.

Nero tile stamp

Nero tile stamp, object no. 1995.1.21

Fragment of tile bearing a stamp with the name and titles of the Emperor Nero, AD 54-68. This tile was found in 1904 in a cess pit at the east end of the latrine of the Public Baths.

It was made in an imperial tilery, probably at Little London near Pamber. A tile bearing a similar stamp, but made from a different die, was found there in 1925 and is now in the British Museum. No other site has produced tiles with this stamp.

On the right side of the tile can be seen a dog's paw mark.

Tile with child's footprint

Tile with child's footprint, object no. 1995.98.1

After being turned out of their moulds, tiles were left to dry before being fired in a kiln. During this period of drying, they must have been laid out in open sided shelters because many bear the footprints of people and animals that walked across them. A barefoot child walked across this tile while the clay was still soft.

Date updated: 10 Oct 2016

Copyright Reading Borough Council 2018

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