For the most grand of dining tables gold and silver vessels and platters would have been the material of choice but would these objects have been eaten off? Perhaps exquisitely decorated pieces of metal such as the Mildenhall Treasure were placed on display in Roman dining rooms to be admired. Bronze was also used to make tableware and metals were used to make spoons. Spoons were the main cutlery used by the Romans as they did not have forks and mainly ate with their fingers.
|Pewter Ewer from the Sacred Spring|
I was fascinated to learn of the popularity of pewter tableware as I had not associated the material with the Romans. However it was popular as it was cheaper than silver and not as breakable as pottery. A number of pewter objects have been found in the Sacred Spring presumably ending their lives as religious offerings. If you joined me at my Time Table I hope you enjoyed making a mini Pewter platter to take home.
Glass still appeals to us today as it did in Roman times. The Romans however seem to have been a lot more adventurous with the colour of their glass using yellow-browns, greens, dark blues and orange-red.
Before the Romans came to Britain very few people had fine pottery. That all changed though and soon the Romans were importing loads of pottery such as red samian ware from Gaul and British potteries were trying to copy Roman styles.
Next time you are looking in a museum case at pewter jugs, glass bottles or samian pottery have a think about their original setting. Try to visualise the dining room decorated with wall paintings and mosaics, think of the smells of hot food and wine and listen for the sound of conversation, laughter and music.
Emma Traherne – Volunteer at the Roman Baths and Assistant Curator at the Museum of Farnham (Surrey)
For more information on the Sacred Spring and the Pewter Finds
For more information on the Mildenhall Treasure