Collection details

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The Roman collection at Bath is of pre-eminent importance. The greater part of the collection consists of a magnificent array of votive offerings thrown into the sacred spring in Roman times and recovered in excavations in 1880 and 1979-80. From the Roman baths, spring and temple complex there are building blocks; architectural fragments, sculptural reliefs, inscriptions, tile and lead and bronze plumbing fittings. The magnificent life-size gilt bronze head from the cult stautue of the goddess Sulis Minerva was discovered in 1727. Other rare discoveries are the great altar, the Haruspex stone (the only evidence from Britain for the presence of a Haruspex, a special priest who studied the entrials of animals) and the facade of the Four Seasons. The huge carved stone Gorgon's head, which originally formed the centre piece of the pediment at the entrance to the Roman temple is a symbol of the power of the goddess Sulis Minerva, to whom the temple was dedicated. A special feature is a group of 130 defixiones or curse tablets. The messages on these tablets reveal the nature of the personal relationship between ordinary people and their gods in the Roman world. One bears the earliest known reference to Christianity in Britain in the curse 'Whether pagan or Christian whosoever...has stolen from me...six silver coins from my purse, you, lady goddess (Sulis Minerva) are to extract...the blood of him who has invoked this upon me' Annianus, son of Matutina wrote this curse.Roman finds from sites elsewhere in Bath include architecural fragments; tomb sculptures and stone coffins. There is a fragment of a fine mosaic pavement with a design of sea beasts of 4th century date; a bust of a woman of 1st century date from a tomb; and a carving of a mastiff, or possibly a lion, gripping a your deer in its jaws. There are many small artefacts in copper alloy, iron and bone as well as substantial quantities of pottery, tile, human and animal bone, and samples of wall plaster, tesserae and window glass. There are also finds from the Roman villas at Newton St Loe and Combe Hay.
The museum is situated within the Roman baths and temple complex built around a hot spring. A remarkable site museum, it houses a collection of Roman material of international importance.

There is also prehistoric material comprising flint and stone artefacts, mostly from the downs to the north and south of Bath, but including a distinctive group of mesolithic flint tools fround during excavations around the hot springs. There is bronze age metalwork, among which is the Monkswood hoard. There are small quantities of prehistoric pottery; and human and faunal remains including objects from the iron age hillfort at Little Solsbury.

The post-Roman collections are much smaller and include the finds from a Saxon cemetery at Bath and the medieval settlements at Eckweek excavated in 1988. There is a 10th century Viking sword inscribed with the name of its maker and a medieval gold 'tau' cross depicting St Anthony. The post-medieval objects are principally glass and ceramic.

In addition, there are about 300 miscellaneous antiquities transferred from the Bath Royal and Literary Institution at the time of its dissolution ibn 1959 which are treated as a loan collection.

There is also a small collection of ancient Egyptian objects described separately.

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