Archaeologists conducting excavations at the Roman Fort of Vindolanda in Northumberland, England have uncovered 14 fragmentary remains of a chalice.
Previous excavations at the fort have unearthed over 6000 perfectly preserved shoes, 800 textiles, wooden objects, and the discovery of the Vindolanda tablets (consisting of hundreds of various letters of correspondence in Roman cursive script).
The discovery was made whilst excavating a 6th-century church located in the grounds of the auxiliary fort, that supported Hadrian’s Wall and defended a major Roman highway called the Stanegate.
Fragments of the chalice are covered in lightly etched symbols and Christian iconography that depicts ships, crosses and chi-rho, fish, a whale, a happy bishop, angels, members of a congregation, letters in Latin, Greek, and potentially Ogam.
To date, this is the only surviving chalice (partially) to be discovered from this period in the proximity of Hadrian’s Wall and presents a picture of the local community surviving after the fall of the Western Empire that remained closely connected to its Christian beliefs.
Dr David Petts from Durham University said: This is a really exciting find from a poorly understood period in the history of Britain. Its apparent connections with the early Christian church are incredibly important, and this curious vessel is unique in a British context. Further work on this discovery will tell us much about the development of early Christianity in the beginning of the medieval period.”
The chalice now forms the central piece for a new exhibition in Vindolanda’s museum which highlights Christianity and the last periods of occupation on the site.
Header Image Credit : Vindolanda Charitable Trust