All the intaglios date to the latter half of the first century; most likely the Flavian period. It is unclear if the group was casually lost or given as a votive offering to the goddess Sulis Minerva. The position of discovery means that they could have been lost in the Great Bath or given as an offering into the Scared Spring (both of which expel water into the Great Drain).
The gemstones were probably cut by a continental gem cutter or gemmarius. The Romans wore these cut gemstones set into signet rings. By pressing the image into wax, it created a personal and individual seal for letters. These signet rings would have also been a desirable and fashionable item of jewellery.
Below are four of these beautiful gemstones with accompanying descriptions:
Image depicting a Roman maenad cut into blue surfaced nicolo (quartz). 10.5mm in length.
Image depicting a leaping lion cut into a pale yellow cornelian (quartz). 12.5mm in length.
Image depicting a discus thrower cut into a deep orange cornelian (quartz). 12mm in length.
Image depicting cattle under a tree cut into a dull green/grey chalcedony (quartz). 11mm in length.
|Cattle under a tree|
Portrayed in profile, these three cows are all facing a tree. Two are standing and one is lying down. Cattle were a popular theme; set to remind people of the peace and tranquillity of the countryside. This is one of six intaglios found in the collection that come under the subject heading of 'countryside'.
For more information and direct references for each stone (as well as a description for the others we hold in the collection) please follow the web link below:
For a general reference please use the book listed below:
Barry Cunliffe (editor), The Temple of Sulis Minerva at Bath, Volume 2: The Finds from the Sacred Spring (1988), pages 31 to 52.
Helen Harman - Collections Assistant