Tourist trinkets, Roman-style

Copyright Dominic Coyne for Young Graduates for Museums and Galleries programme Aug 2007

Copyright Dominic Coyne (see details below)

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.

© Diane McIlmoyle 06.03.2012

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.

This is the British Museum’s entry on the Staffordshire Moorlands Pan.

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.


18 thoughts on “Tourist trinkets, Roman-style

  1. obvioulsy there is a worn bit at the beginning where there was a # MAISCOGGABATAVXELODVNVMCAMMOGLANNARIGOREVALIAELIDRACONIS – looks clearly like a Roman attempt at a hashtag to me.

    still souvenirs were so much nicer back in the day – I’d far rather that than a “My father went to Brocolitia and all i got was this lousy toga” present

  2. I’ve always been very impressed by these Wall souvenirs, as much for their putative Arthurian associations as for their beauty and rarity. Though the spellings varied, two placenames that frequently appear are recognisable as Camlaan, the legendary site of Arthur’s final battle, and Avalon, where he traditionally ended up. The probability that the names merely mean ‘Crooked Bank’ and ‘Apple Orchard’ and so could apply to any number of other sites scarcely detracts from the magic of the inscriptions!

    Good post. Great to have the links, too.

    • Ah, Cammoglanna? You know my theory… that everyone has to put their Arthur in their own back yard. Perhaps we should stoke the fire by pointing out that his dragon was cited on this particular item 😉

      Thanks for coming over!

  3. Hi there – just to say I’m handing you the Inspirational Blog Award, which came to me this morning – yours seemed the obvious choice! Don’t feel you have to play, but if you do, the ‘how to’ is at my blog today.

  4. A fascinating post, my only problem was converting the size into good old fashioned imperial! Can’t do with this new fangled mm’s. The idea of early souvenirs is wonderful. For me, it brings to life that these were real people, in the way that the preserved letters in Vindolandia also do.

    • I agree – and what a grand souvenir it is. I’ve got the advantage that I’ve seen this ‘pan’ in Tullie House, so I know it would fit in the palm of my hand, and don’t need to worry about the mms! I love the way that this one uniquely has ‘native’ style decoration, coupled with the Roman’s style of writing. Thanks for coming over – I appreciate it.

  5. You’ve reminded me that it is a couple of years or more since I last went to the Tullie. Sue and I mentioned it last week. I didn’t have time then but must make time next time I’m in the Lake District. I’ll need a list off you what to look out for!

    • Ah yes! Sue and I enjoyed the museum but found the cafe portion sizes too moderate for greedy cake-eaters like us 🙂

      There’s a newish Roman gallery downstairs, which is where you can find the ‘pan’, the Mallerstang Hoard (Roman coins) and the Embleton Sword (pre-Roman native sword). Upstairs, I favour the oldest stuff – prehistoric carved stones from Edenhall; the bronze age spear moulds; the Bewcastle cauldron (which is HUGE); masses of native godlets of various shades. There’s also a lot of detail on the Border Reivers and the civil war siege of Carlisle, if you favour later history. (D’ya think they should be paying me to promote them? 😉 )

  6. I had been away for some time with the idea that no one was out there who wanted hear me.In other words,feeling sorry for ole Garry!But Bill Thayer being the inspiration he has been said “Post!Or you will never know.”So I came to catch up you and Behold!All you’re beautiful posts I had been missing.You have no peers with your stories of Britain, in particular the area around the Wall.I would like to link you to my blog,but regardless,I’m in for the long run and you I will be seeing on a regular basis.Thank you so much for your histories and insights.I admire you,Garry in Kentucky.


    • Hello there Garry – nice to see you again. My posts have been a bit thin on the ground recently for all sorts of reasons but I hope to catch up with myself soon. It’s not a shortage of ideas 🙂

    • Thank you very much, Carla – Kath Langrish was also kind enough to offer an award recently and I really need to pull myself together and follow them up! Thanks for your support 🙂

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