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Water Newton Treasure

300-410 AD


The Water Newton Treasure is a hoard of silver vessels and plaques which forms the earliest group of Christian liturgical silver yet found in the Roman Empire. It was discovered in a recently ploughed field at Water Newton, the site of the Roman town of Durobrivae, in February 1975. The hoard was much damaged by the plough. It consists of nine vessels, a number of silver votive plaques, and a gold disc. Many of the objects in the hoard bear inscriptions of the monogram formed by the Greek letters chi (X) and rho (P), the first two letters of Christ's name, a symbol commonly used by early Christians. Two bowls and one plaque have longer inscriptions in Latin. One of these, on a bowl, can be translated as, 'I, Publianus, honour your sacred shrine, trusting in you, 0 Lord.' Other inscriptions give the names of three female dedicators;  Amcilla, Innocentia and Viventia, who must also have belonged to the congregation. Individual pieces in the treasure were probably made at different times and in different places, and it is impossible to establish accurately the date at which they were hidden. The treasure may have been hidden in response to specific persecution of Christians or to more general political instability.