Fight on to keep Kelshall’s Roman treasures in North Herts

11 December, 2017 - 08:29
The Egyptian mosiac-patterned glass bowls found near Kelshall, dating back to AD 200. Picture: NHDC

The Egyptian mosiac-patterned glass bowls found near Kelshall, dating back to AD 200. Picture: NHDC

Archant

These bowls may resemble the psychadelic designs of the 1960s – but they’re actually part of a Roman treasure trove.

The archaeological dig site near Kelshall. Picture: NHDC The archaeological dig site near Kelshall. Picture: NHDC

They were uncovered in a farmer’s field between Baldock and Royston, and the fight is on to keep them in North Herts.

The North Herts Museum in Hitchin is trying to raise funds to buy the colourful mosaic glass dishes – which are shattered, but complete. They are thought to have been made in Alexandria.

The artefacts were discovered near Kelshall in 2014 by amateur metal detectorist Phil Kirk, from Hitchin, with North Herts District Council archaeology officer Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews then leading a dig.

The find, dating back to about AD 200, was classed as treasure because the bowls were found alongside precious metals and copper alloy vessels and jugs.

One of the Roman jugs found at the archaeological dig site near Kelshall. Picture: NHDC One of the Roman jugs found at the archaeological dig site near Kelshall. Picture: NHDC

Glass bottles and cups, an iron lamp and a box with bronze corner bindings were also found at the site – along with a bronze coin dating from about AD 174.

Councillor Tony Hunter, NHDC’s executive member for community engagement, said the museum was trying to raise funds to buy the artefacts from the farmer who owns the land.

“The discoveries, which include two incredibly special Egyptian mosaic-patterned glass bowls, also include Roman jugs, cups and plates,” he said.

“The museum, which has already been promised grant aid from the Arts Council England, Victoria & Albert Purchase Grant Fund and the Hertfordshire Heritage Fund, is working very hard on securing the remaining funding needed, so these treasures can remain in North Hertfordshire for visitors to appreciate their beauty and unique craftsmanship for many years to come.”

The find near Kelshall was last month highlighted by Ian Richardson, treasure registrar for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, as the third most significant UK discovery in recent years.

Speaking at the time of the find, Keith said: “The mosaics are just incredible and they are very, very rare – nothing like them has ever been found in Britain before.

“They will probably then disappear into a private collection and never been seen again.

“I really don’t want them to go outside of North Herts – that would be a disaster.

“I think you can only really call it a discovery when it is on show for everyone to see.”

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