Copper alloy enamelled seal box
Roman, probably 2nd or 3rd century
Found during excavations by Winchester Museums Service Archaeology Section at Staple Gardens, Winchester in the mid- 1980s
This object would have been used to protect a wax seal from damage. A document, for example a wax writing tablet would be tied with cords so that they passed through the base of the box and were knotted inside it. The wax would then be placed over the knot, and the mark impressed upon its surface, before replacing the box lid. It would then be impossible to open the the document without breaking the seal.
Contact with the classical world towards the end of the Iron Age period introduced real literacy to Britain, at first in the form of literate inscriptions on Iron Age coins. By the 2nd or 3rd century, when this box was made, literacy was widespread- writing materials are not confined to villas, or tribal capitals like Winchester but are found on all types of site.