For the last Wednesday Wonders table of the summer, I decided to have a table that represented the extensiveness of the collection of the Roman Baths.
In order to show the many fantastic artefacts that the Roman Baths’ collection houses, I chose a range of objects that covered many of the time periods that have been significant in Bath’s history. Although, some of the objects that I selected are just really cool and I thought they needed to be displayed.
For my table, I chose a copy of a Roman Curse Tablet, a Saxon Lead Disc, a Viking Sword, Medieval Tweezers, a Victorian Toothbrush, an unidentified glass object (which was most likely a pen holder), a decorated police truncheon commemorating the 1926 General Strike, and a 1971 print plate of the West Baths.
The objects that were the biggest hit were the Roman Curse Tablet, the Viking Sword, the Victorian Toothbrush and the police truncheon.
A Roman Curse Tablet is a binding curse that was written down by someone who wanted to curse another. They would write this person’s name on the tablet, and possibly write out everyone associated with that person whom they also wanted to curse. Then, they would bury the tablet in a grave or (in this case) put it in a sacred spring, where upon the curser would give the problem over to the gods and believe that in time this person would be punished by the gods for their wrongdoing. This curse tablet was found in the Sacred Spring in the Roman Baths and curses a man named Victory, and I must say, whomever cursed Victory really hated him because they cursed everyone associated with Victory including his slaves slave and the son of his slaves slave. Basically, they really hated his guts by the time they cursed him.
The Viking Sword was definitely a hit with visitors, even though I used the replica instead of the real one. The Roman Baths collection has a real Viking Sword because (our best guess is) that a Viking just dropped or lost his sword when walking in Bath near Upper Borough Walls. Honestly, we have no idea why the sword was in Bath…there are no records of Vikings pillaging or staying in Bath. The sword is really cool and has Runes (Viking and Scandinavian) writing on one side, so I decided that it definitely needed to be shown off. I also used the sword as the basis for the activity and visitors could write their own name in Runes on their own sword and take it home.
The Victorian Toothbrush was also a huge success. The toothbrush was found in a Victorian rubbish dump site near Bath. The toothbrush is made from animal bone, has an extremely large head compared with today’s toothbrushes, and the toothbrush still has some bristles on it and these bristles are made from pig hair. Yes, 100 years ago, they brushed their teeth with pig hair which is so cool and completely disgusting at the same time.
In May 1926, throughout the United Kingdom, there was a General Strike that was called by the Trades Union Congress (TUC). Its aim was to force the British government to outlaw low wages and bad work conditions. Most of the workers that participated in the strike were miners from coal and stone mines but this strike attracted workers from other industries over the 13 day strike. The Mayor of Bath presented elaborately decorated commemorative truncheons to the police officers who helped prevent violence and keep the strike under control in the Bath area. Visitors really loved this object because they were able to try to pick it up and feel the weight of truncheons.
Although I was nervous about having objects that didn’t have a surrounding theme other than being part of a fantastic collection, I think that ending the summer 2013 Wednesday Wonders tables with a Glimpse into the Collection worked out and was a complete hit. It was so much fun to do, and if I could show weird and wonderful objects from the Roman Baths collection again, I would definitely do it.
Amy, Leicester University MA placement