Vessel Hoard

During February 2005 one copper alloy trulleus (a form of saucepan) was discovered by a metal detectorist on ploughed land within the parish of Kingston Deverill, Wiltshire. It was reported to the Wiltshire Finds Liaison Officer who commissioned Wessex Archaeology to excavate the find spot. A small-scale excavation revealed a large sub-circular feature c. 0.4m below the plough soil. Within the feature were two more trullei, two strainers  (probably for straining wine) and a small quantity of pottery and animal bone. The vessels had suffered some damage in antiquity but are still of considerable archaeological interest. 

Copper alloy vessels dating to the Roman period are fairly uncommon in Wiltshire although two strainer-bowls have been found in north Wiltshire, one from Westbury and the other from Marlborough. This five-piece vessel hoard is an outstanding example of Roman metalwork.

Group of copper objects in a hole in the ground       The hoard in situ (c. Salisbury & South Wilts Museum 2007)

One trulleus has a maker’s stamp visible on the handle, 'P. CIPI POLIBI'.
Publius Cipius Polibius was a well known maker of trullei near Pompeii at the end of the 1st century AD.  Products of his workshop are very unusual outside the northern frontier region and it is thought that this is the first example discovered in this county to date. 

Close-up of a handle showing a makers stamp. The handle is rounded at one end with a circular hole in the middle          Manufacturers  stamp (c. Salisbury & South Wilts Museum 2007)

he hoard was formally acquired by Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum in 2007 with grants from the MLA / V&A Purchase Fund and the Art Fund. One of the wine strainers has been conserved by the Wiltshire Conservation Service and further funding is being sought so that the remaining objects can also be conserved for display.

Conservation of A Wine Strainer

The decision was made to conserve one of the wine strainers due to its extremely fragile condition. It measures approximately 276mm in diameter and 103.5mm in height with extensive cracking, distortions and numerous small areas of loss particularly around the middle and base of the strainer. These were most probably caused during burial. The strainer consists of a bowl, internal strainer plate and spout. These were received as seperate items but would originally have been attached, possibly by soldering, and evidence of  this was still visible on the strainer bowl. The spout is zoomorphic in shape, possibly a dog, with the open mouth forming the pouring mechanism. The internal strainer plate has a regularly arranged zigzag pattern of 1mm holes. The distortion and cracking together with the thinness of the metal used to create the strainer, approximately 0.5mm, meant that the strainer showed noticeable flexing or movement when handled or placed on its base. The damage to the base of the strainer prevented the object from being displayed and led to the strainer being stored upside down.

The wine strainer standing upside down on its rim. The base is rounded with large cracks visible. The surface is blue green in colour and covered with soil.               The wine strainer seen from above. The object is circular in shape with cracks and soil visible.

Strainer bowl before conservation                                      Strainer bowl from above

                                                    Flat piece of metal with small holes arranged in a zigzag pattern.

                                                   The strainer plate


The strainer would also have had two 'D'-shaped handles and three oval 'feet'. The feet were hollow and would have contained lead weights to anchor the strainer down. Unfortunately in this case one of the handles and all of the feet were missing, although an outline of their location was visible on the base of the strainer bowl.

D-shaped piece of metal with two small lugs at the top                  Round object with a blue green surface. There are three small round areas marked on the surface.

One of the handles                                                 Marks where the feet would have been placed can be seen after cleaning

Whilst still upside down the soil adhered to the surface of the base of the strainer was carefully removed, with cracks and areas of weakness consolidated as they were cleaned.  The base of the strainer revealed by cleaning was extremely well preserved with very little corrosion marring the highly polished surface. In order to stabilise and support the strainer before turning it the right way up small tabs of Reemay, a spun polyester, were adhered to the surface of the strainer as structural fills bridging the cracks which allowed the strainer to flex and move. Once partially stabilised it was possible to begin cleaning the top and inside of the strainer, again consolidating and stabilising the surface using a Reemay and adhesive combination. Additional support was added where necessary in the form of a lightweight gap fill which was colour matched to blend in with the surrounding material. 

The decision was made to re-attach the strainer plate and spout as it was possible for conservators to tell where they should be placed. A soft mount was also made so that the vessel could be displayed and moved around with minimal handling of the actual vessel. The strainer can also be stored safely on this mount when it comes off display.

A round opening with a view of a section of metal with small holes in it arranged in a zigzag pattern.        Interior of the strainer with the strainer plate re-attached

The strainer is currently on display at Salisbury & South WiItshire Museum along with the other items in the hoard. It is hoped that grant funding can be obtained to enable the remaining items to be conserved in the future.

A metal object with a rounded rim and base. The object has a spout in the shape of an animal head attached to the front.          A metal object with a rounded rim and base and a spout in the shape of an animal head. The object is viewed in profile.

Strainer from the front                                                    Strainer from the side