'Altar Key'

A1 Leeming to Barton




Chrystal Antink

It’s very difficult to choose a favourite find from the A1. I specialise in ceramic building materials, but they’re not particularly glamourous; I love intaglios, but they’re a little obvious. So, I keep returning to keys, of which we recovered more than 30 on the scheme. They’re functional and would have been handled frequently, and literally convey what cultures in the past considered valuable. We had a variety of forms in different materials, but my favourite is the one made of iron and copper alloy whose handle is in the form of a Roman altar. This was a slide key, used to secure a strongbox; the decorative nature of the key suggests it was itself used as a display of power and control. The altar form has one undecorated side, akin to stone altars exhibited against walls; and, although it was a weighty 266 grams, it may have been worn on one’s person to communicate its meaning.


To read more about this find, and many others, visit the ADS website and download a copy of our latest monograph Cataractonium: Establishment, Consolidation and Retreat

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