Romano-British Gallery

Yorkshire’s caves have been visited by humans for thousands of years, as shelter, for burials and, for all we know, the simple curiosity of seeing what ancient things remain inside – just as we do today.

One of Victoria Cave’s most intriguing discoveries has come from new research into its use soon after the Roman conquest of the north of England around AD 70. Excavations at the cave had uncovered numerous of brooches, coins, spindle whorls and other personal items, and the standard interpretation had been that these were left behind by people using the site as an artisan’s workshop.

But recent research is changing all of this. If this was a workshop, why were so many of the objects found in totally dark and wet parts of the cave? Why were they left in narrow passageways that people could only have reached if they’d been crawling on their bellies? Surely, these areas did not provide the warm, dry and well-lit conditions ideal for craft making.The Romans also left other curiously personal effects, like make-up palettes, combs and nail-cleaners, but one of the biggest unsolved mysteries yet is that of the perforated bone ‘spoons’. What were they? Who made them and why did they leave them here?

Explore the Romano-British collection of artefacts

Plain Samian Ware Sherd

Dating from between 98-117 AD

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Ear Scoop

Part of a cosmetics set

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Spearhead

Left shaped with a split socket

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Post-Roman Bone Comb

With ring and dot design

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Carved spoon

Lovely spider design

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Copper alloy bracelet

Probably 3rd – 4th century

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Bone Bead

Diameter of 2.4 cm

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Bone Needle

Probably deer antler

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Bone Toggle or Cheek Piece

Quite plain and undecorated

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Antler Hook

Thinned and pierced

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Spindle Whorl

One of 15 found

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Nail Cleaner

Part of a cosmetics set

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Weaving Comb

Ritual deposit or workshop evidence?

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Bone Handle

Decorative rings and dots

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Marble Cosmetic Palette

Recycled wall veneer?

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Bone Needle

One of many craft implements

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Wire Brooch

S-Shaped and made from thick wire

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Ivory Sword Pommel

Made from elephant ivory

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Roman coin

Bronze sestertius AD235-8

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Circular Plate Brooch

Made from copper alloy

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Dragonesque Brooch

Decorated with colourful enamels

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Pierced 'Spoon'

With duck profile head

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Trumpet Brooch

One of the most common brooch types

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Flagon Neck

Produced locally in York?

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Two handled flagon

Neck and only one handle survives

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Plain Samian Ware Sherd Dating from between 98-117 AD

This fascinating little potsherd is a typical example of Samian ware dating from the reign of Emperor Trajan (98-117 AD). Found during the 1870s excavations, the name Annamus is carved onto the base. It’s the first recorded instance of this name in Britain, and is specific to the Roman province of Noricum, now part of present-day Austria and Slovenia. Back then, Noricum was an Imperial mining district exporting iron, silver and lead.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

It is currently archived in the Tot Lord collection in Yorkshire.

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Ear Scoop Part of a cosmetics set

This Romano-British ear scoop would once have been part of a cosmetics set. It was found at the back of Victoria Cave, Yorkshire, and probably belonged to someone connected with the Roman army. Soon after the Roman conquest of northern Britain in the AD 70s, people started placing many small objects in the cave, mostly in areas that were dark and difficult to reach. Many Roman soldiers came from places with strong beliefs about caves, and we now think Victoria Cave was the site of a new Romano-British cave cult.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

It is currently archived in the Tot Lord collection in Yorkshire.

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Spearhead Left shaped with a split socket

Spearhead (length 15.5cm). Damaged and badly corroded, lacking tip and and much of one side. Leaf shaped with split socket. Spearheads are notoriously difficult to date, the corrosion and degree of damage here makes any attempt futile.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

It is currently archived in the Tot Lord collection in Yorkshire.

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Post-Roman Bone Comb With ring and dot design

Double sided one-piece comb with spaced teeth. Held together by three iron rivets. Ring and dot design evident on both sides. It is currently archived in the Tot Lord collection in Yorkshire.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

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Carved spoon Lovely spider design

Pierced spoon, circular sectioned shaft tapering towards a stylised spider head with two pairs of centrally grooved ‘legs’ with two ‘representative eyes’ above the ‘legs’. Asymmetrically oval bowl with oval piercing, vertical grooves above and below it, four irregularly spaced double ring and dots around the top of the bowl and four single rings below. Gentle curve to bowl with a well polished surface and off white patina. Many Roman soldiers came from places with strong beliefs about caves, and we now think Victoria was the site of a Romano-British cave cult.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

It is currently archived in the Tot Lord collection in Yorkshire.

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Copper alloy bracelet Probably 3rd – 4th century

Copper alloy bracelet (max. int. diameter 6.23cm) probably 3rd – 4th century. Cast, penannular, circular in section with crude radial grooving. Plain blunt terminals. Many Roman soldiers came from places with strong beliefs about caves, and we now think Victoria was the site of a Romano-British cave cult.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

It is currently archived in the Tot Lord collection in Yorkshire.

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Bone Bead Diameter of 2.4 cm

Large (Max. Di. 2.4cm) bi-conical Romano-British Bone bead with slightly off centre, straight piercing. Lower half with zone of straight grooves upper half with two zones of angled grooves. Bone/antler beads are not common in Romano-British assemblages and this example does not appear to be copying specific glass/jet styles. Many Roman soldiers came from places with strong beliefs about caves, and we now think Victoria was the site of a Romano-British cave cult.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

It is currently archived in the Tot Lord collection in Yorkshire.

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Bone Needle Probably deer antler

Needle (Length 9.1cm) Probably constructed from antler, very thin curved and flat with expanded flat topped head and eye.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

This artefact is currently archived in the Tot Lord collection in Yorkshire.

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Bone Toggle or Cheek Piece Quite plain and undecorated

Bone toggle or cheek piece (length 9.6 cm). Undecorated with irregular sub-rectangular piercing. A series of clear concentric striations centred on piercing, a longitudinal crack appears on two sides of object. The centre of the toggle is hollowed out.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

It is currently archived in the Tot Lord collection in Yorkshire.

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Antler Hook Thinned and pierced

Hook (length 6.7cm) Constructed from antler tine, thinned, irregularly expanded. Head of hook pierced.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

Many Roman soldiers came from places with strong beliefs about caves, and we now think Victoria Cave was the site of a Romano-British cave cult. This artefact is currently archived in the Tot Lord collection in Yorkshire.

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Spindle Whorl One of 15 found

This spindle whorl is one of at least 15 found at the back of Victoria Cave, Yorkshire, along with many other small Romano-British artefacts, mostly in areas that were dark and difficult to reach. Many Roman soldiers came from places with strong beliefs about caves, and they appear to have initiated a new cave cult here at Victoria Cave.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

Archived in the Tot lord Collection, Yorkshire.

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Nail Cleaner Part of a cosmetics set

This Romano-British nail-cleaner was found at the back of Victoria Cave, Yorkshire, along with many other small artefacts, mostly in areas of the cave that were dark and difficult to reach. Many Roman soldiers came from places with strong beliefs about caves, and they appear to have initiated a new cave cult here at Victoria Cave.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

Archived in the Tot lord Collection, Yorkshire.

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Weaving Comb Ritual deposit or workshop evidence?

This Romano-British weaving comb was found inside Victoria Cave, Yorkshire, along with other small objects. Although other weaving implements, like spindle whorls, were found there, it was probably not a workshop. It is believed that the objects were left as offerings by members of a Romano-British cave cult.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

Archived in the Tot lord Collection, Yorkshire.

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Bone Handle Decorative rings and dots

This bone handle, decorated with a rough line of rings and dots, was found in Victoria Cave, Yorkshire, where soon after the Roman conquest of northern Britain in the AD70s, people began placing small objects in the cave, mostly in areas that were dark and difficult to reach. Many Roman soldiers came from places with strong beliefs about caves, and we now think Victoria was the site of a Romano-British cave cult.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

Archived in the Tot lord Collection, Yorkshire.

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Marble Cosmetic Palette Recycled wall veneer?

This Romano-British cosmetic palette is fashioned from white marble and may have been recycled from some old wall veneer. It was found in Victoria Cave, Yorkshire, where soon after the Roman conquest of northern Britain in the AD70s, people began placing small objects in the cave, mostly in areas that were dark and difficult to reach. Many Roman soldiers came from places with strong beliefs about caves, and we now think Victoria was the site of a Romano-British cave cult.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

Archived in the Tot lord Collection, Yorkshire.

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Bone Needle One of many craft implements

This rough bone needle is one of many craft implements that were found in Victoria Cave, Yorkshire, including spindle whorls and weaving combs. However, they are not believed to be evidence of a workshop, but instead were probably left as offerings by members of a Romano-British cave cult.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

Archived in the Tot lord Collection, Yorkshire.

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Wire Brooch S-Shaped and made from thick wire

This Romano-British brooch has been made from thick, circular-sectioned wire to form an S with conical spirals at each end. It was found inside Victoria Cave, Yorkshire, where soon after the Roman conquest of northern Britain in the AD70s, people began placing small objects in the cave, in areas that were surprisingly dark and difficult to reach. Many Roman soldiers came from places with strong beliefs about caves, and we now think Victoria was the site of a Romano-British cave cult and that this brooch may have been left as an offering.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

Archived in the Tot lord Collection, Yorkshire.

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Ivory Sword Pommel Made from elephant ivory

Incomplete sword pommel made from elephant ivory. Coarse tool marks and polish suggest use after damage.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

Archived in the Tot Lord Collection, Yorkshire.

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Roman coin Bronze sestertius AD235-8

This bronze sestertius is a Roman coin minted during the reign of Maximinus (AD235-8). The first man of barbarian birth to ascend the throne, he was proclaimed emperor by his own troops, who killed him just 3 years later. The coin features his head on one side and Fides (the goddess of trust) on the other. It was found in Victoria Cave, Yorkshire. Interestingly, not long after the Roman conquest of northern Britain in the AD70s, people began placing small objects in the cave, mostly in areas that were dark and difficult to reach. Many Roman soldiers came from places with strong beliefs about caves, and we now think it became the site of a Romano-British cave cult.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

Archived in the Tot Lord Collection, Yorkshire.

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Circular Plate Brooch Made from copper alloy

This circular copper alloy plate brooch would have once gleamed like gold when it was worn was found by Joseph Jackson – the original excavator of Victoria Cave – in the 1850s. The raised swirling foliage enclosed within a circular border makes a wheeled form of the triple-spiral symbol – a design that was popular with the Roman military in Britain.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

It is currently archived in the Tot Lord collection in Yorkshire.

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Dragonesque Brooch Decorated with colourful enamels

The ‘dragonesque’ shape of this brooch is a typical Romano-British adornment, first appearing after the start of the Roman occupation (AD 43), but incoporating something of the native ‘Celtic’ style and it would originally have been decorated with colourful enamels. It was found in Victoria Cave, Yorkshire. Interestingly, not long after the Roman conquest of northern Britain in the AD70s, people began placing small objects in the cave, mostly in areas that were dark and difficult to reach. Many Roman soldiers came from places with strong beliefs about caves, and we now think Victoria was the site of a Romano-British cave cult.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

Archived in the Tot Lord Collection, Yorkshire.

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Pierced 'Spoon' With duck profile head

Deeply carved ‘barley sugar’ spiral shaft with expanded head representing a duck in profile. Oval, almost undished bowl with central triangular piercing. Two ring and dots below piercing, well polished surface. Quite what this artefact represents is an ongoing mystery. It looks like a spoon, but the bowl is perforated. Dozens of these have been found at the back of Victoria Cave, representing almost half of all the known examples found in Britain. They are nearly always found at sites connected with the Roman army or Roman lifestyles, and were probably made around 150-250AD. Whatever their purpose, they are arguably the oldest surviving folk art in the Dales.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

Archived in the Tot Lord Collection, Yorkshire.

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Trumpet Brooch One of the most common brooch types

Archaeologists classify Roman brooches into different types, and trumpet brooches (so-called because they look a bit like a trumpet) are one of the most common. This one was found at the back of Victoria Cave, Yorkshire. Interestingly, not long after the Roman conquest of northern Britain in the AD70s, people began placing small objects in the cave, mostly in areas that were dark and difficult to reach. Many Roman soldiers came from places with strong beliefs about caves, and we now think it became the site of a Romano-British cave cult.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

This is currently archived in the Tot Lord collection in Yorkshire.

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Flagon Neck Produced locally in York?

This Romano-British flagon neck was found at the back of Victoria Cave in Yorkshire. The hard, light red fired clay suggests it was probably produced locally in York. Interestingly, not long after the Roman conquest of northern Britain in the AD70s, people began placing small objects in the cave, mostly in areas that were dark and difficult to reach. Many Roman soldiers came from places with strong beliefs about caves, and it may have been left as an offering by a member of a new Romano-British cave cult.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

This is currently archived in the Tot Lord collection in Yorkshire.

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Two handled flagon Neck and only one handle survives

Neck and part of handle of a necked flagon. One handle is missing. Flat disc shaped rim runs into grooved handle and a shallow groove running underneath the rim. Many Roman soldiers came from places with strong beliefs about caves, and we now think Victoria was the site of a Romano-British cave cult.

Dearne, M J and Lord, T C (eds.) 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Research into the site and its artefacts. British Archaeological Reports. British Series 278

It is currently archived in the Tot Lord collection in Yorkshire.