A Surprising Seal Box




Julie Shoemark

For this week’s #FindsFriday we’d like to introduce you to our super seal box from #ScotchCorner. 

This little copper-alloy box has a tinned surface, giving it a silvery appearance, and it is decorated with a punched-feather motif. The rare design may be a reference to the eagle, symbol of the Roman state and of Jupiter, king of the gods. 

Although they are relatively common finds, both in Roman Britain and other parts of the Empire, this box is an unusual form and has an additional surprise inside. We worked with DARC lab at Durham University to analyse the contents and confirmed that it contained traces of 2000-year-old beeswax! This is one of the few known seal boxes from across the Roman Empire that retains its beeswax seal. Can you bee-lieve it? 
The lid protected the wax seal, which was impressed with the owner’s mark, usually by using a signet ring as a means of identification and to protect against tampering. Look out for an example from Scotch Corner in our post on Sunday. As the organic contents of the boxes don’t usually survive, it has not been possible until recently to be certain that the hypothesis on their contents was correct. 

For more information about this fantastic item, and to find out more about how scientific analysis provides new insights into our discoveries, check out the Contact, Concord and Conquest monograph.

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