Berthouville Treasure

Berthouville Treasure

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The Berthouville treasure is a hoard
Hoard
In archaeology, a hoard is a collection of valuable objects or artifacts, sometimes purposely buried in the ground. This would usually be with the intention of later recovery by the hoarder; hoarders sometimes died before retrieving the hoard, and these surviving hoards may be uncovered by...

 of Roman silver uncovered by ploughing in March 1830 at the hamlet of Villeret in the commune of Berthouville
Berthouville
Berthouville is a commune in the Eure department in Haute-Normandie in northern France.-Population:-Sights:The Manoir de Berthouville is a hunting lodge that was built 1652. It is privately owned....

 in the Eure
Eure
Eure is a department in the north of France named after the river Eure.- History :Eure is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790...

 département of Normandy
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

, northern France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. Purchased at the time of discovery for a modest 15,000 francs, the treasure is conserved in the Cabinet des Médailles
Cabinet des Médailles
The Cabinet des Médailles, more formally known as Département des Monnaies, Médailles et Antiques de la Bibliothèque nationale de France, is a department of the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, France, housed in its former premises in Rue de Richelieu.The Cabinet des Médailles is a museum...

 at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

Discovery



The Berthouville hoard
Hoard
In archaeology, a hoard is a collection of valuable objects or artifacts, sometimes purposely buried in the ground. This would usually be with the intention of later recovery by the hoarder; hoarders sometimes died before retrieving the hoard, and these surviving hoards may be uncovered by...

 was discovered when a ploughshare struck a Roman tile. Once dislodged, the tile uncovered the hastily buried temple treasure a mere 20 cm beneath the modern surface.

The treasure belonged to a sanctuary of Mercury Canetonensis
Mercury (mythology)
Mercury was a messenger who wore winged sandals, and a god of trade, the son of Maia Maiestas and Jupiter in Roman mythology. His name is related to the Latin word merx , mercari , and merces...

. In the mid 1st century BCE, Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

 had identified Mercury as one of the main deities of Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

. In his Gallo-Roman
Gallo-Roman religion
Gallo-Roman religion was a fusion of the traditional religious practices of the Gauls, who were originally Celtic speakers, and the Roman and Hellenistic religions introduced to the region under Roman Imperial rule. It was the result of selective acculturation....

 form Mercury is frequently found with a Gaulish epithet.

The treasure


The treasure consists of silver and other metalwork, of varying type, quality and dates in the 1st to late 2nd centuries of the Common Era. The trésor de Berthouville is one of only three known depositories securely associated with local religious cult in Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

 and Britannia
Britannia
Britannia is an ancient term for Great Britain, and also a female personification of the island. The name is Latin, and derives from the Greek form Prettanike or Brettaniai, which originally designated a collection of islands with individual names, including Albion or Great Britain. However, by the...

. The hoard was hidden in the late 2nd or early 3rd century, but contained heirloom pieces like the repoussé silver jug that was made in Italy in the 1st century CE. The find totaled 93 items, some of which were dissociated handles and silver appliqués, with a total weight of 25 kg. Most of the items are bowls, cups and jugs, but there is also a phiale
Phiale (libation vessel)
A phiale is the name given in modern terminology to a kind of ancient Greek ceramic or metallic vessel. Its form was that of a wide round shallow bowl without handles or a foot , principally used for making libations ....

for libations.


There are also two silver statuettes of Mercury (the larger 60 cm tall) and a silver bust of a goddess, probably his mother Maia, perhaps representing Romanized versions of Gallic deities. The pairing of a Roman god with a Gallic goddess would be characteristic of Gallo-Roman religion
Gallo-Roman religion
Gallo-Roman religion was a fusion of the traditional religious practices of the Gauls, who were originally Celtic speakers, and the Roman and Hellenistic religions introduced to the region under Roman Imperial rule. It was the result of selective acculturation....

.

Four of the bowls have incised emblematic designs associated with Mercury, and the formulaic Latin initialism VSLM, standing for votum solvit libens merito
Votum
In ancient Roman religion, a votum, plural vota, is a vow or promise made to a deity. The word comes from the past participle of the Latin verb voveo, vovere, "vow, promise." As the result of this verbal action, a votum is also that which fulfills a vow, that is, the thing promised, such as...

("He fulfills his vow freely, as is deserved"). Nine of the vessels form a group of luxury domestic silver of 1st century date with iconographic connections to Dionysus
Dionysus
Dionysus was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology. His name in Linear B tablets shows he was worshipped from c. 1500—1100 BC by Mycenean Greeks: other traces of Dionysian-type cult have been found in ancient Minoan Crete...

 rather than to Mercury, marked as votive offerings (vota
Votum
In ancient Roman religion, a votum, plural vota, is a vow or promise made to a deity. The word comes from the past participle of the Latin verb voveo, vovere, "vow, promise." As the result of this verbal action, a votum is also that which fulfills a vow, that is, the thing promised, such as...

)
of one Q. Domitius Tutus; they include a matching pair of silver drinking cups (scyphi
Skyphos
In classifying the pottery of Ancient Greece, a skyphos is a two-handled deep wine-cup on a low flanged base or none. The handles may be horizontal ear-shaped thumbholds that project from the rim , or they may be loop handles at the rim or that stand away from the lower part of the body...

) with Dionysiac
Dionysus
Dionysus was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology. His name in Linear B tablets shows he was worshipped from c. 1500—1100 BC by Mycenean Greeks: other traces of Dionysian-type cult have been found in ancient Minoan Crete...

 imagery of centaur
Centaur
In Greek mythology, a centaur or hippocentaur is a member of a composite race of creatures, part human and part horse...

s, and a pair of silver wine-jugs.

Excavations near the find-spot in 1861-62 and 1986 revealed a Gallo-Roman theatre and a shrine that may have been the shrine to which the silver objects had been dedicated.

The Mildenhall Treasure
Mildenhall Treasure
The West Row Treasure is a major hoard of highly decorated Roman silver tableware from the fourth-century AD, found at West Row, near Mildenhall in the English county of Suffolk...

, a Roman family's personal silver hoard, also was uncovered by a farmer's plough in Mildenhall in the English county of Suffolk.

Further reading


  • Ch. Picard, Un cénacle littéraire hellénistique sur deux vases d' argent du trésor de Berthouville-Bernay MonPiot 44, (1950:5ff).