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Eddington's prehistoric and Roman past

last modified Jan 29, 2019 01:36 PM
Artefacts from the Cambridge Archaeological Unit's excavations at Eddington go on display at the Fitzwilliam Museum

The University’s West Cambridge development has proved enormously fruitful for the Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU), particularly the North West Cambridge site, now renamed Eddington. The CAU have been digging on-site for almost 20 years and the extraordinary insights into the area’s prehistoric and Roman past, plus the many Anglo-Saxon, medieval and 20th century finds are of global archaeological significance.

A Colchester colour-coated beaker with white painted dot and scroll decoration recovered from an inhumation burial. Also found within the grave was a large assemblage of 97 items including 47 hobnails, at least one iron knife, a linchpin and the remains of what may have been a small wooden box. Dated AD 150–250. Image credit: Cambridge Archaeological Unit


To celebrate this incredible work and as a representation of the thousands of objects that have been found over the years, the Fitzwilliam Museum is hosting a display with a small selection of interesting finds.

The research team found seven Late Iron Age/Roman farmsteads, five cemeteries, and an impressive Late Roman villa complex that includes an enormous aisled timber hall and a stone bathhouse.

On display, mosaic floor fragments (tesserae) give a flavour of what conditions may have been like under foot in the villa. There’s also a highly decorated Roman ceramic container, probably used to store a loved one’s ashes after cremation, as well as coins, a pair of tweezers, and a copper alloy ‘Toilet Spoon’ – not as ‘ew’ as it sounds –  it was possibly used to scrape out highly prized oils and ointments from delicate Roman bottles.

 A 12th-13th century pewter or lead seal, showing a King with a fleur de lis-topped sceptre.  Possibly made from a royal seal matrix and the piece may well be imported. Credit: Cambridge Archaeological Unit 

The Fitzwilliam display is showcasing the single most important find to date at the North West Cambridge development site.  A tightly rolled 12-13th century pewter or lead seal, which when unravelled revealed a king with a fleur de lis-topped sceptre. Researchers speculate that the piece may have been a ritualistic offering.

All in all, the single case display in Gallery 21 tells a long story of local and worldwide importance.


This story originally appeared on The Fitzwilliam Museum website. 

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