Treasure Hunting magazine
When The Tide Recedes Image Credit: Treasure Hunting magazine
When The Tide Recedes Image Credit: Treasure Hunting magazine

When The Tide Recedes

My Dad was visiting London, so for something a little different I decided to take him mudlarking along the River Thames foreshore. When the tide recedes, as is well known, many interesting coins and artefacts can be recovered from this zone.

Jason Sandy, London

As if to confirm that point, we were walking at low tide along the river’s edge, when we noticed a small object lying amongst the stones. As I carefully picked it up, we realised that it was a delicately carved piece of bone. After showing it to the Museum of London, the Finds Liaison Officer confirmed that it was actually a Roman carved bone hairpin. At the top a female bust is depicted with an unusually large hat or headdress. At least, that’s what I thought it was.

However, the Museum of London informed me that the cross-hatch pattern seems to imitate curls in the woman’s hair. The bifurcated nodule evident at the top could even indicate two stylised hairpins being used. According to the record on the Portable Antiquities Scheme (LON-BDA9D5), “It was fashionable in the Flavian period (AD 69-96) to wear hair in high false curls.” Based on the hairstyle, the Museum of London has also been able to date the hairpin to AD 43-100.

The Museum of London currently has one of the largest and most important collections of Roman hairpins in the world, with examples manufactured from a variety of materials including bone, glass, copper, iron and jet. Many are incredibly ornate and feature unusual decorative heads representing animals, female busts, hands, pinecones and even phalluses! Through the study of these hairpins, we can better understand the popular Roman fashion trends in hairstyling, which could indicate wealth, social status and t


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