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Home > Auctions > 7th September 2021 > 'The Witherley' Roman Lead Pig Ingot

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LOT 0184

GBP (£) 3,000 - 4,000
EUR (€) 3,530 - 4,700
USD ($) 4,180 - 5,570

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£2,700 (EUR 3,173; USD 3,763) (+bp*)

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'The Witherley' Roman Lead Pig Ingot

4th century AD

A substantial lead pig (ingot), sub-rectangular in plan and plano-convex in section, one straight short edge which appears to have been cut, the other edge and the longer edges curved; reserved partial numeral inscription to central recess on the upper face, which can possible be interpreted as ‘CCCXXXXI’ which can be translated as 341 Roman libra, a denomination of weight and the original weight of the ingot. 74 kg, 48cm (19"). Fine condition. Rare.

Found while searching with a metal detector on Wednesday 2nd September 2020 in Witherley, Leicestershire, UK, at a depth of 57cm by Nick Thorpe; accompanied by Portable Antiquities Scheme Report number LEIC-62F9AF, a copy of a full page article published in Treasure Hunting Magazine, March 2021, copies of four photographs taken during excavation, and a hand written letter from the finder explaining the circumstances of finding; also accompanied by an archaeological report by Dr. Raffaele D’Amato; this lot has been checked against the Interpol Database of stolen works of art and is accompanied by AIAD certificate number no.10791-178320.

‘Possible Roman Lead Ingot’ in Treasure hunting, March 2021, p.15.

See Palmer, L.S. & Ashworth, H.W.W., ‘Four Pigs of Lead from the Mendips,’ in Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society, 1956, nos.101-2, pp.52-88; Tylecote, R.F., ‘Roman Lead Working in Britain’ in The British Journal for the History of Science, Vol.2, no.1, June 1964; Potter, T.W., Roman Britain, London, 1983, p.50, figs.55,57; Gardiner, V., ‘An analysis of Romano-British Lead Pigs’ in IAMS 21, 2001, pp.11-13; Gale Brown, H., A study of lead ingot cargoes from ancient Mediterranean Shipwrecks, Vermont, 2011.

Although ingots are known to have been made in many shapes, the plano-convex shape was the most commonly used during the Roman period (Tylecote, 1987, p.204). The Witherly lead pig is certainly, at the moment, one of the largest of its kind found in Britain, if compared with similar examples from Ploumanach’s wreck, also plano-convex in section. The inscription relates to its weight in Roman libra, and it seems that originally the weight of the complete ingot was circa 110 kg (correspondent to the 341 Roman libra indicated by the inscription). This kind of inscription indicating the weight, appears often on the Roman ingots since the early Imperial Age, see for example Gale Brown (2011, no.61.3ff.). It is also interesting to note the high percentage of lead in our ingot (97.9% lead, 1.5 % iron by XRF), far superior to the other mentioned specimens. Roman ingots are particularly important in many respects. In addition to their use for dating the various phases of commercial exploitation, their detailed examination can show the extent to which standardisation of weights was practised within the Roman industry. The presence of numeric markings has led to suggestions of the existence of a 'standard weight' of 195 Roman libra (63.85 kg).