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This blog is a behind the scenes look at the Roman Baths in Bath. We hope you enjoy reading our stories about life surrounding the Roman Baths.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Roman Bracelets

Snakes, spinning and stone: what do they have in common? Roman bracelet designs!

One of the curatorial tasks at the Roman Baths Museum is to update the collection records. This involves checking that each object has been photographed, described and researched and preparing needed information for entry to the collection management database.

Earlier this year, a collection of eleven Roman bracelets needed to be catalogued so they were tekan off display and brought to the office where the curatorial staff and volunteers had the opportunity to look at each one closely and admire their detail and workmanship while they were being documented.

A favourite bracelet looks like a snake chasing its tail, but is not connected. The snake has an oval body, shaped mouth and ear-lugs, impressed eyes and ear-holes with evidence of scales on the tail.

Our beautiful spiral snake bracelet.

Research has revealed that its single-headed spiral form and naturalistic style mean it is possibly an early example of popular Roman spiral snake jewellery. To the Romans, the snake was a symbol of healing, regeneration and rebirth. A similar bracelet is part of the Llandovery Hoard.
Roman women and girls adorned themselves with jewellery of many different materials and designs. Most of the examples in this group are made from a flat ribbon of metal with incised, punched or notched decoration but there are also three bracelets made from wire.

Another is made of three wire strands spun together with a single strand extending at one end to form a loop. When examined closely, we noticed that one of the three strands has corroded differently and is green for its full length.

Three-tone twisted-wire bracelet.

The bracelet appears to be made from wires of different alloys and may have been three different colours when new.

Most of the bracelets are made from copper alloyed with other metals in various proportions. The different bracelet is carved from shale, a layered sedimentary rock. Although there is only a segment left, this piece shows it was originally quite large and slightly conical in shape.

Remaining segment of the shale bracelet
 It is possible this bracelet was shaped to fit the upper arm above the bicep muscle, perhaps made for a man.

All eleven bracelets are on display in the Aquae Sulis gallery of the museum so everybody can have a close look and share our admiration at their workmanship.

Nicola Pullan is a foreign correspondent from the University of Sydney.

Refs: Brailsford, Guide to the Antiquities of Roman Britain
Davenport, Archaeology in Bath, Excavations 1984-1989
Johns, The Jewellery of Roman Britain

1 comment:

  1. Is it likely that these bracelets were lost or were they offerings of some kind?