Imprints From The Past

Like many of us do, I sometimes stumble upon curious things when out detecting. Pottery fragments and other ceramics are always interesting – even more so after I’ve cleaned them at home with my specs on!

A few years ago I picked up a large Roman Amphora handle on a Villa site, and was amazed to notice that the potter had left his fingerprints all over the artefact whilst moulding it (Fig. 1 & 2).

Roman Amphora

Figure 1 – Fingerprints from a Roman Amphora handle

Roman Amphora Handle

Figure 2 – More fingerprints from the Roman Amphora handle

No doubt it was from a Mediterranean workshop far away from the Hertfordshire field in which I stood.

I was enthralled by these prints, which were perhaps the only evidence of this individual’s existence to remain. One wonders who he was, and what exactly he looked like. He probably never even considered the prints he left behind on his products, least of all that two millennia later I would be sat examining them in my house.

I recently discovered a hoard of Georgian Half Pennies, and from the same hole also recovered a clay pipe. This too had a tiny section of the maker’s fingerprints upon the foot of the bowl (Fig. 3).

Clay Pipe Fingerprints

Figure 3 – Fingerprints from the clay pipe

These are just two examples of tiny traces, of very personal things that people from the past have left for us to find. I like to think that small instances such as these finds, serve as markers and memorials to those people’s existence.

About Julian Evan-Hart
Julian is from Hertfordshire, England and has always been interested in fossils and antiquities. Julian has written a number of books on metal detecting, and is an avid user of Minelab products.

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