Medieval letter seal discovered at UK dig

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A seal used to decorate wax as it secured medieval letters has been discovered in the first week of an archaeological dig at Lufton, Yeovil.

Medieval letter seal discovered at UK dig
The medieval seal was discovered buried in a field at Lufton, Yeovil by Newcastle 
University lecturers and students [Credit: Len Copland/Western Gazette]

The artefact – thought to have been used between AD 1250 and 1400 – was discovered buried in a field off Thorne Lane as part of an excavation led by Dr James Gerrard, a lecturer in Roman archaeology at Newcastle University.

The inscription reads SOhOV ROBEN and the picture shows a hare riding a hound and blowing a hunting horn.

Mr Gerrard, formerly of Yeovil, said: “This is an exciting discovery and an example of medieval humour or wit. “Sohov is an Anglicised French hunting call like ‘tally-ho’ and Roben is a typical French name for a dog during the period – like Fido or Rover.

“The design ironically references the nobility’s love of hunting. It mocks this favoured pursuit by reversing the normal order of things, with the hare being the hunter.”

It may have been used by women or members of the clergy.

A team of ten first and second year archaeology students, and South Somerset Archaeological Research Group volunteers, are excavating the site. On the first day of the dig ancient pottery was discovered.

The area focuses on land south to where a late Roman villa – dating from between AD 250 to 400 – was excavated by Leonard Hayward in the 1950s and 1960s.

A study also indicated the presence of an Iron Age settlement which pre-dates the villa.

The project was launched five years ago to discover more about Roman life in the town, and the history of the deserted medieval settlement at Lufton. It is the third year a dig has taken place.

Last year, the project unearthed cremated remains which were thought to be human as well as Roman and Iron Age pottery, including a rare pot possibly used in cheese-making during the Iron Age. Stone tools dating back to Neolithic times were also discovered.

The project will conclude on Saturday, August 2.

Author: WG_Sherborne | Source: Western Gazette [July 26, 2014]

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