Yorkshire Museum

The Ryedale Roman Hoard

The three bronzes and plumb bob in the hoard date from the later 2nd century AD and offer a rare insight into a religious ceremony in rural Roman Yorkshire which culminated in the burial of these objects as an offering to the gods.

Most remarkable is the striking bust of Antonine emperor Marcus Aurelius. This would have sat atop a sceptre or priestly staff, a focal point for religious ceremonies. Being the face of the emperor, it is a potent symbol of the Imperial Cult, the empire-wide worship of emperors as divine. Such direct evidence of the imperial cult is exceedingly rare, especially in rural settings like this. In terms of its execution and style the bust is absolutely unique, exceedingly rare and of great national significance in its own right.

The three objects found alongside the bust help to add context to the burial of this spectacular object. The beautifully detailed horse and rider figure, a localised depiction of the god Mars, is of a type that has never been found this far north. The knife handle in the form of a horse, may symbolically represent a sacrificial animal in this context. The plumb bob is a large and fine example of a functional object used in Roman engineering projects. Its inclusion within the hoard is unparalleled in Roman Britain and hints at the focus of this enigmatic ritual being the blessing of an act of landscape engineering.

All the artefacts are preserved in outstanding condition, displaying no corrosion and being largely complete.

The hoard was discovered in the Ampleforth area of Ryedale district, North Yorkshire, England. Before the discovery of this hoard, the presence of the Romans in this area was little known. This find therefore rewrites the history of our region. The situation of this discovery, with detailed and reliable provenance information, makes the hoard even more significant.

We hope to display these objects in Spring 2022

The purchase was made possible largely thanks to the generosity of American donor Richard Beleson, with additional funding through Art Fund and a number of individual donors. This enabled York Museums Trust to make the purchase from David Aaron, who originally acquired the hoard at auction.