Roman inkwell from Gloucester

This exceptional object is the lid from a Roman inkwell – and the only one of its type found in Britain outside of London. Professor Hella Eckardt, a prominent specialist of Roman material culture from university of Reading, has classified the inkwell as ‘Type Noll’ dating to late 1st – early 2nd century AD.

Roman inkwell

The object itself, measuring just under 40mm, is an intricate piece of art. It has inlaid silver decoration of two facing bands of running scroll, separated by plain band, and outside this, three concentric grooves.

Type Noll inkwells have been found in locations scattered across the Roman empire, but most of them come from the northern Roman provinces and Italy. There is no evidence for the source of manufacture, although their similarity in form and decoration may suggest an origin from a single specialist workshop.

Literacy in this period is unlikely to have been widespread and the rarity and quality of these objects indicate that their use was almost certainly limited to richer households, high ranking officials or the higher echelons among the military. This would appear to be reflected in the distribution of Noll inkwells, which is concentrated at military sites and larger towns.

Ed McSloy (Finds Manager)

Roman inkwell, top and side views
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