The Roman collection comprises some 47,000 objects, the great majority of which were recovered during building operations in the City of London, Southwark and nearby areas in the last century and the first part of this century.
Around two thirds of this collection comprises what is probably the largest collection of samian ware in the country. Of the other ceramic material, a large proportion consists of complete vessels or large fragments, probably indicating that they were derived from burial deposits. They are thus different in character from the sherds that are recovered from most City occupation sites, and complement excavated assemblages by indicating the complete forms of vessels.
Marble and metalwork
Perhaps the best known groups of Roman material are the marble sculptures from the Temple of Mithras, and the metalwork derived from the bed of the Walbrook stream. The superbly preserved nature of the metal collection and the wide-ranging selection of domestic, industrial and religious artefacts make this perhaps the best collection in Britain. The metalwork collection as a whole, ranging from iron hipposandals to knives, spoons, jewellery, tools and toilet implements, provides an unsurpassed collection of everyday items that are invaluable for displays as well as for more specialised research.
Coins, glass, wood leather and bone
Other elements of the Roman collection include coins, glass, wood, leather and bone. The coin collection provides useful comparanda, but is of lesser scholarly importance than the excavated archaeological coins which are from secure contexts. The same applies for the glass collections, which alongside the excavated material forms a highly significant corpus.
The leather collections, comprising some 1500 pieces, are a valuable resource for the study of Roman leather-working techniques, particularly shoe manufacture. The most famous pieces are fragments of four 'bikinis' which are unparalleled in Britain. The wood collection includes a ladder, a complete barrel and writing tablets which are displayed, and complement the more recently excavated wooden material.
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