|The distribution of Romano-British objects in Europe and North Africa, primarily brooches, after Ivleva, 2011, p. 135, and Ivleva, 2012, with minor additions and modifications and plotted on a base map from Wikimedia Commons (image: C.R. Green).|
The most distant examples of British objects identified overseas by Ivlev consist of two brooches from what is now Morocco, a fitting from Egypt, and a number of British items from two sites on the northern Black Sea coast. The two items from Morocco are a trumpet brooch found either in or close to the administrative centre of the Roman province of Mauretania Tingitana, Volubilis, a city that is believed to have had a vexillatio Brittonum posted in one of its five surrounding forts in the second century AD, and a headstud brooch from the civilian quarter of Thamusida (insula G5), a town inhabited by retired veterans. It has been argued that both brooches are most credibly interpreted as items brought to Mauretania Tingitana by members of British military units or their detachments, perhaps as heirloom pieces worn over several generations given that they are corroded, extremely worn, and date from the later first century AD rather than the second century, when the presence of British detachments in North Africa is attested.(2) A similar interpretation might be applied to the Egyptian find too. This is a British enamelled terret ring from a horse harness, which was found at Fayum (ancient Crocodilopolis/Arsinoë) and is of a type that was very common in Britain, with a virtually identical example having been excavated from the Romano-British 'small town' at Wanborough, Wiltshire, in 1969. Although it is impossible to be entirely certain how it came to be in Fayum, it has been noted that detachments of legion III Augusta were sent from Numidia to Britain in the second century AD and that the cohors I Ulpia Afrorum equitata, a cavalry unit, was stationed in Britain in the 120s and then in Egypt during the 130s, which is potentially suggestive.(3)
Finally, the finds of British items from the northern Black Sea coast come from ancient Gorgippia (Anapa, Russia) and Chersonesos Taurica (near Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula) and consist of Romano-British enamelled oil scrapers/strigils, an enamelled hexagonal alabastron or incense burner, and a number of British-made belt buckles. Both cities were within the Bosporan Kingdom, a client kingdom of the Roman Empire, and Chersonesos—where the buckles were found—certainly saw a number of Roman military units posted there, something that Ivleva suggests may account for the presence of the British finds at both sites, via soldiers who had previously served with other units from the region that had been to Britain, such as the legio I Italica. On the other hand, Jane Petersen has noted that the Gorgippia finds, at least, come from an exceptionally high status grave context, perhaps even belonging to the ruling family, and are luxury items imbued with Romanitas, which suggests these might be better seen as exotic imports from Romano-British workshops that were being used by the Bosporan elite as a means of signalling their familiarity with, and connection to, Roman culture.(4)
|A probably British enamelled terret ring from a horse harness, found at Fayum—ancient Crocodilopolis/Arsinoë—in Egypt (image: British Museum). A virtually identical example was excavated from the Romano-British 'small town' at Wanborough, Wiltshire, in 1969, see A. S. Anderson et al, The Romano-British 'small town' at Wanborough, Wiltshire: Excavations, 1966-1976 (London, 2001), p. 96.|
1 T. Ivleva, 'British emigrants in the Roman Empire: complexities and symbols of ethnic identities', in D. Mladenovič & B. Russel (eds.) TRAC 2010: Proceedings of the 20th Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference, Oxford 2010 (Oxford, 2011), pp. 132–53. Slightly different figures are reported in her 2011 article compared to her PhD thesis of 2012 (see fn. 2); the latter are adopted here.
2 T. Ivleva, Britons Abroad: the Mobility of Britons and the Circulation of British-made Objects in the Roman Empire (University of Leiden PhD Thesis), pp. 329–31.
3 A. S. Anderson et al, The Romano-British 'Small Town' at Wanborough, Wiltshire: Excavations, 1966–1976 (London, 2001), p. 96; Ivleva, Britons Abroad, pp. 329, 331.
4 Ivleva, Britons Abroad, pp. 323–4; J. H. Petersen, 'Communicating identities from beyond? Assessing expressions of identity in funerary material from the Black Sea region', HEROM, 2.1 (2013), 45–73, especially pp. 55, 57–60, 67 and fig. 6; M. Treister, 'The date and significance of tomb II at Gorgippia (1975 Excavations)', Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia, 9 (2003), 43–85 at p. 59. On the incense burner/alabastron and its British origins, see also H. Cool, 'Panelled Enamel Vessels', Roman Finds Group Newsletter, 13 (1997), pp. 2–3.
The content of this post and page, including any original illustrations, is Copyright © Caitlin R. Green, 2016, All Rights Reserved, and should not be used without permission.