See this lovely thing? It’s quite small – 47mm high and 94mm in diameter – but simply glorious. The colours are vivid shades of red, blue, turquoise and yellow, enamelled in a swirling native ‘celtic’ design of roundels, petals, and what the British Museum cutely call, ‘whirligigs’. The metal encasing the enamel is a copper alloy, so it would originally have been a lustrous reddish-gold shade. It’s actually more like a pan than a bowl as it would originally have had a dinky bow-shaped handle. And it’s about 1850 years old.
It was found by a metal detectorist in Staffordshire in 2003, but experts believe that it was made here in Cumbria as a very early visitor souvenir. The writing near the rim is in Latin and says, MAISCOGGABATAVXELODVNVMCAMMOGLANNARIGOREVALIAELIDRACONIS – not a spot of punctuation! – and it comprises the names of four forts at the Cumbrian end of Hadrian’s Wall. These are MAIS (Bowness-on-Solway) COGGABATA (Drumburgh) VXELODVNVM (Stanwix) and CAMMOGLANNA (Castlesteads). There are also the words, RIGORE VALI AELI DRACONIS. This phrase could re-iterate the Hadrian’s Wall connection: ‘rigore vali’, referring to the ‘vallum’, as Hadrian’s Wall was known at the time, coupled with ‘Aeli’, for Aelius, Hadrian’s family name. That leaves ‘draconis’ unaccounted for; this is probably a personal name, Draco. It’s a reasonable assumption that Draco was a Roman soldier of Greek origin, who spent time on Hadrian’s Wall in the early 2nd century AD.
There are two other known bits of Hadrian’s Wall tourist ware. One, the Rudge Cup, was discovered in Wiltshire. It also lists five western forts. The other, found in Amiens in France, lists six. There the resemblance ends, though, as the decoration on both of these is a figurative representation of the ‘castellated’ wall itself. Draco’s lovely bit of Hadrian’s Wall tourist ware was saved for the nation by a collaboration between the Potteries Museum from near its findspot; Tullie House in Carlisle, by Hadrian’s Wall; and the British Museum. It is displayed at these locations in rotation, with a replica in place when it’s elsewhere. Look downstairs in the Roman Gallery at Tullie House, Carlisle.
Notes: Cumbria and the Lake District still thrive on tourism, with 15.8 million visitors per year, spending a total of est. £958m. For more Lake District facts and figures, look here.
The Staffordshire Moorlands Pan was bought jointly in 2005 by the three museums listed above at a cost of £112,200.
You can see the Staffordshire Moorlands Pan, or its replica (depending on which museum has custody at the time!) at the Roman Gallery in Tullie House, Carlisle.
For more information on Hadrian’s Wall, visit the website.
To hear the story of another Cumbrian Roman artefact, read this post about the Crosby Garret helmet.
Please note that the photograph attached is copyright Dominic Coyne, Young Graduates for Museums and Galleries programme August 2007. Used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.