A Roman pendant in the shape of a penis that was discovered in a Kent field has been declared as a piece of treasure.
The phallic shape, which is 1.2inches long and less than half an inch wide, was found by retired estate agent Wendy Thompson while she was scouring farmland in Higham near Gravesend with a metal detector.
The ancient relic is believed to date back between 43 AD and 410 AD – the years that troops from the Roman Empire occupied Britain.
It has been dubbed a ‘significant national find’ by the British Museum and is believed to be only the second silver penis pendant found in England.
A further 450 phallic objects made from other types of material have previously been found in the UK.
It was not possible to narrowly date the pendant but a report by the British Museum that was read out at the inquest where the object was ruled as treasure said that the Empire was known for its ‘large corpus of phallic imagery’.
A Roman pendant in the shape of a penis that was discovered in a Kent field has been declared as a piece of treasure. The ancient relic is believed to date back between 43 AD and 410 AD – the years that troops from the Roman Empire occupied Britain
Ms Thompson, 73, told KentOnline: ‘The rarity of it is that it’s a silver example of a penis pendant.
WHEN IS A FIND CLASSED AS TREASURE?
The following are Treasure by law in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, according to the British Museum:
Any metallic object, other than a coin, that at least 10 per cent by weight of metal is precious metal and that it is at least 300 years old when found.
If the object is of prehistoric date it will be Treasure provided any part of it is precious metal.
Any group of two or more metallic objects of any composition of prehistoric date from the same find.
Two or more coins from the same find provided they are at least 300 years old when found and contain 10 per cent gold or silver
If the coins contain less than 10 per cent of gold or silver there must be at least ten of them.
Only the following groups of coins will normally be considered as coming from the same find:
- Hoards that have been deliberately hidden
- Smaller groups of coins, such as the contents of purses, that may been dropped or lost
- Votive or ritual deposits
Any object, whatever it is made of, that is found in the same place as, or had previously been together with, another object that is Treasure.
Any object that would previously have been treasure trove, but does not fall within the specific categories above.
Only objects that are less than 300 years old, that are made substantially of gold or silver, that have been deliberately hidden with the intention of recovery and whose owners or heirs are unknown.
SOURCE: British Museum
‘I’ve got other bronze ones that I have found in the past but they’re nowhere near as significant, they hadn’t ever found a silver one before in England.
‘But it isn’t really the worth of the thing to my mind, it’s the interest. Some coins, for example, are just wonderful to look at.
‘The last person to hold that was back in that era. It’s a long, long time that it’s been lying in the ground waiting for me to come along and find it.’
Ms Thompson found the object on New Year’s Eve in 2020.
The other silver penis pendant in Britain was found.
is a dual-sided pendant from the Caerleon bath-house in Wales.
Unlike the latest find, that one features testicles.
An inquest took place at County Hall in Maidstone, Kent on May 26 to determine whether or not the jewelery should be classified as treasure.
Coroner Roger Hatch described the item before reading a short report from the British Museum.
The report said: ‘It is not possible to narrowly date this pendant, as no direct parallel with secure dating evidence can be found.
‘The large corpus of phallic imagery across the Roman Empire however, strongly points to a exclusively ‘Roman’ tradition, and thus, in the case of phallic objects found in Roman Britain, a date of 43-410 AD can be confidently assigned.’
Experts at the British Museum described the artefact as having a reverse triangular top section with ‘ribbed decoration, presumably public hair, narrowing to a tapering shaft and terminating in a raised band foreskin.’
The object weighs just 0.3 ounces (9.7grams).
Phallic jewelery was worn by both people and animals during the Roman period as protective amulets against the effects of the ‘evil eye’ – a personification of bad luck.
The vast majority were made from copper-alloy and were designed to be gaudy and noticeable.
Similar archaeological discoveries, along with phallic wall carvings at locations such as Hadrian’s wall, suggest the symbol of the penis had a close association with military sites.
This is supported by written evidence from Pliny, a Roman author and philosopher, who attributed the phallus to the embodiment of Fascinus – the guardian of infants and generals.
The association of the phallus with children is also mentioned by another prolific Roman author, Varro, who noted ‘a certain indecent object that is hung on the neck of boys to prevent harm coming to them.’
The phallic amulet, which is little more than 1.5inches long and less than half an inch wide, was found by retired estate agent Wendy Thompson (pictured) while she was scouring farmland in Higham near Gravesend with a metal detector
The report added: ‘It is clear that this object likely dates to before 1721 and, as the object is made of more than 10 per cent precious metals, it constitutes potential Treasure under the stipulations of The Treasure Act 1996.
Mr Hatch agreed with the British Museum and declared the silver penis pendant a piece of treasure.
Ms Thompson, from Lydd, Kent, said that she ‘hates’ the fact that the law requires metal detectorists to report finds within 14 days because ‘you know you are going to lose sight of that object for years.’
She is still waiting for the pendant to be valued and once it is sold the money will be split between her and the landowner, as is common practice.
However the money is not what drives her enthusiasm for digging up ancient objects.
She said: ‘I’m not after the money but it is nice to see it sold for its value.
‘I don’t find things because they are valuable, it’s because of the history and you know that somebody once had that object. It’s magical really.’
‘It is the first silver example of its class purported to be discovered, and thus a significant national find.’
How England spent almost half a millennium under Roman rule
55BC – Julius Caesar crossed the channel with around 10,000 soldiers. They landed at a Pegwell Bay on the Isle of Thanet and were met by a force of Britons. Caesar was forced to withdraw.
54BC – Caesar crossed the channel again in his second attempt to conquer Britain. He came with 27,000 infantry and cavalry and landed at Deal but were unopposed. They marched inland and after hard battles they defeated the Britons and key tribal leaders surrendered.
However, later that year, Caesar was forced to return to Gaul to deal with problems there and the Romans left.
54BC – 43BC – Although there were no Romans present in Britain during these years, their influence increased due to trade links.
43AD – A Roman force of 40,000 led by Aulus Plautius landed in Kent and took the south east. The emperor Claudius appointed Plautius as Governor of Britain and returned to Rome.
47AD – Londinium (London) was founded and Britain was declared part of the Roman empire. Networks of roads were built across the country.
50AD – Romans arrived in the southwest and made their mark in the form of a wooden fort on a hill near the river Exe. A town was created at the site of the fort decades later and names Isca.
When Romans let and Saxons ruled, all ex-Roman towns were called a ‘ceaster’. this was called ‘Exe ceaster’ and a merger of this eventually gave rise to Exeter.
75 – 77AD – Romans defeated the last resistant tribes, making all Britain Roman. Many Britons started adopting Roman customs and law.
122AD – Emperor Hadrian ordered that a wall be built between England and Scotland to keep Scottish tribes out.
312AD – Emperor Constantine made Christianity legal throughout the Roman empire.
228AD – The Romans were being attacked by barbarian tribes and soldiers stationed in the country started to be recalled to Rome.
410AD – All Romans were recalled to Rome and Emperor Honorious told Britons they no longer had a connection to Rome.
Source: History on the net