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Author Topic: Roman Leopard Cup - Abergavenny Find  (Read 4233 times)
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« on: November 03, 2008, 11:26:48 AM »

A small bronze Roman cup was found on farmland near Abergavenny. Image is the copyright of the National Museums and Galleries of Wales

Discovered in 2003, this exquisite cup, measuring about 4 and
a half inches high, has been described as one of the finest Roman vessels to have been found in Wales. Known as the Abergavenny Leopard Cup - the handle is a leopard with silver spots and amber eyes - it has captivated both experts and public alike. It might not have had the immediate impact of some of the artefacts such as the magnificent Mildenhall Treasure, but when it was due to be withdrawn under a rota system at the National Museum and Galleries of Wales such was the public outcry that the museum decided to keep the cup on display.

The cup was found by a metal detector enthusiast from Cwmbran who was searching farmland on a site near Abergavenny. He reported it to the Portable Antiquities Scheme and this enabled the site to be investigated by the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust funded by Monmouthshire Museum Services. Their excavation revealed that the cup had been placed upside down in a small pit containing a cremation and that the handle had become separated. A spokesman described it as "one of the most fabulous finds recorded under the scheme".

The cup has been acquired for the National Museums & Galleries of Wales and has been examined by archaeologists Richard Brewer and Mary Davis. It was the subject of one of the lectures which accompanied the exhibition. The archaeologists' report says the cup was probably imported from Italy in the first century AD - similar cups have been found at Pompeii which was destroyed after the eruption of Vesuvius in AD79. It could have been handed down through the generations before it was interred in the cremation burial.

Both the cup and the handle were made from a leaded bronze. Lead was added to help the molten bronze (principally copper and tin) flow more easily and improve the quality of the casting. It is not known whether the cup belonged to a member of the Roman army attached to the garrison based at Gobannium, or a native Briton from a nearby civilian settlement. "Whichever is the case, this 1st-century cup was a costly import and probably belonged to someone of status, who cherished it sufficiently to want it buried with them on their death," says the report.

Although Rudyard Kipling may have explained 'How The Leopard Got Its Spots' in his 'Just So' stories, How The Abergavenny Leopard Acquired Its Spots is still a mystery. The well-preserved cup and the leopard handle are of high quality craftsmanship. The silver spots, however, are inlaid in a cruder manner which suggests that they were added on later. Perhaps the leopard started life as a different big cat.

The report says that in Roman mythology, the leopard and others types of large cat usually appeared as the draught-beast and companion of Bacchus, the god of wine. His worship involved feasting, drinking, music and dancing. "The choice of a leopard for the handle of what might have been a wine cup would, therefore, seem very appropriate. Leopards, captured in both Africa and Asia, were also popular with the Romans for display and fighting in the amphitheatre arena."

The Buried Treasure: Finding Our Past touring exhibition, staged in partnership with the British Museum, showed historic finds by ordinary people which have turned out to be some of the most spectacular treasures found in Britain. The finds have been made mostly by chance - by farmers, beachcombers and metal detector users.

The exhibition emphasised that not all treasure is made of silver or gold, and aimed to encourage people who find artefacts to report them under the Portable Antiquities Scheme so that archaeologists can assess them - and the sites in which they were found - in context.


There comes a time in every rightly constructed boys life when he has a raging urge to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.

Mark Twain 1835 - 1910

If anyone wants to sell any S c r a p gold or sovereigns, regardless of condition -  ask me for a price first please.
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2008, 02:56:23 PM »

Beautiul !
When People knock Detectorist show them that amazing bit of Roman metal work it would have be lost for ever if it wasnt found,
 now generations can enjoy it .

Keep swinging lads!

BottyBurp (Kris)
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To "Search and Protect"

« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2008, 08:30:52 PM »

And I thought they Abergaveeny only produced cheese!
That is beautiful, I can only imagine finding something like that.

H.M.D.C. Member
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