Probably one of my favourite objects (if curators are allowed favourites) is this tiny glass ‘jar’, just 18 millimetres high. This was excavated from a Romano-British villa site in what is now Keston, in Bromley. What is remarkable about this miniscule glass object is that it is still intact and wasn’t destroyed by a troweling archaeologist when it was dug from the ground almost 50 years ago! The tiny two-handed jar was discovered alongside skeletal remains, both excavated from a rectangular tomb near the villa.
This object was deposited at the bottom of a small cut, which presumably once held an equally small coffin. It may have been originally placed with the burial of a child. The vessel is highly unusual. It is thought to be a tiny flask that could have held perfumed oil, for sprinkling over the body during the funeral rites. In the past, such vessels have also been interpreted as lacrimosae or ‘tear catchers’. The idea being that they were used to catch the tears of a mourner, perhaps a weeping parent, before being buried alongside the deceased. However, it is now thought more likely that these small bottles or flasks were used for oils, or perfumes. The tiny size of this example is perhaps a reflection of the smaIl child it was buried with, and it has to be one of the most emotionally charged objects we have in our collection at the Archaeological Archive.