Send in your mystery objects !!




This was found with another couple of Roman bronze utensils in France

many years ago. It would appear to date between the 2nd and 4th centuries as far as one can tell from the other pieces found at that time.

It is 114 mm long and has, at the end, as you see, a very carefully cut  six sided green stone  "wheel".

It looks as if the thing was supposed to be run along and the "wheel" 

impressed on something....or perhaps measuring something? 

But what is it??


   From MahaRichie

27th august 05


Hello Bron:Your 'Mystery' piece seems to be about the correct length for a stylus. (the tip IS pointed) Could the stone wheel be a type of 'eraser' used to eliminae an entire line of text in one sweep? Or perhap's the stone wheel was used to make a straight line or column on the tablet? I am certain the ancient Romans were alway's looking to improve upon traditional objects as we do today. I love these Mysteries!



Yes, I had also wondered about that.

I don't think it is sturdy enough to erase anything or impart the impression of a line of rectangles on wax , unless this is evidence for the wax having been much softer than we believe it was.

rialtos thought is possibly something fallen off the undercarriage of a model Roman aeroplane, and though no doubt someone will try to sell fragmentary Roman toy aeroplanes on eBay...... 




From Magnus

15th December 05

Possibly a roller for decorating clay objects. Impractical for sticky wax.

Wax can be hardened by the use of rosin and colored with a variety of things, in particular lamp-black. We make wax tablets just like the Romans. Wax softens under a lamp or in the sun.

Fresh clay is quite impressionable. Held at an angle it could make more impressions than just 'lines'.


15th December

Found another similar strange  thing!

This one is 134mm

The top has the same hexagonal shaped green stone but it does not rotate.

At the very top is a disc of mother of pearl which is secured  by a wire which runs in a groove cut into the circumference.













   From rialtos

15th December

The mother-of-pearl item appears to be nothing more sophisticated than a bronze hairpin, such as the ones that terminate in a hand holding a pearl.

This leads me to believe the green-stone roller one might just have been BENT at the top and is also a hairpin, but missing the very end where the mother-of-pearl is on the second one.



Yes, very plausible.

But not as exciting as an example of an ancient magnifying glass.





   By rialtos

I recently picked up this small bronze  piece. It's cupid leaning against a marriage torch. An inch tall, half-inch wide. It was sold

as an applique, but I'm wondering if it wasn't a tessera or weight, even though it has no letters or numbers. Thoughts?

The Fleischman collection had some weights with oddball motifs, like theatre masks, so it wouldn't be out of place to have Eros.

Some tesserae were tickets to theatrical events and brothels, some were game pieces, so I'm not sure what the restrictions would be there on motifs.




This is that second item. It seems to be a votive plaque. It has a winged victory placing a wreath on the helmeted head of what seems to be a beareded Antonine or Severan emperor in military garb, or Mars (although I can't recall having seen victory crowing Mars before).

In the pediment of the "temple" is an eagle. The piece has the remnants of a tang protruding from the bottom. It's about 2-1/2 inches tall. Bronze.

One imagines it's some sort of hope-for or thanks-for victory in a battle, maybe? Similar to some coin reverses of the 3rd century, and some gems.


    by rialtos


Well I have at least ascertained that it is NOT Cupid leaning against a marriage torch on that little bronze piece. It's Thanatos - the personification of Death - and the extinguished torch symbolizes someone's death, so perhaps it's funereal in use. It's a motif seen on the reverses of certain Roman provincial bronzes, including Geta, Caracalla, and Sept. Severus. Still don't know its exact use, though --- 



     Question by Mikeibis


From the information provided, this oil lamp is Egyptian and from 1500-2000 BC.

By the soot mark at about 2 o'clock from the spout and its central hole design, I'm guessing that two or maybe more lamps

may have been stacked together on a pole of some sort when in use to form a multi lamp unit.

Have not seen another like it. Any information would

be appreciated.





No, certainly not "Egyptian" !

Greek circa 4th/5th century BC.


Here is the definitive answer from the website's lamp expert!


    By qmor_123


Not "Egyptian", not "1500-2000 BC". This lamp is from the Greek Mediterranean (almost certainly Sicily), 500 - 350 BC.


The conical tube in the centre of the bowl was not for use during manufacture but provided a means of mounting the finished lamp on a tapered pole or spike if desired. It is also possible that these lamps could be suspended by a cord passed through the tube and knotted at the bottom.


These lamps are not particularly common but they do crop up from time to time. The style was introduced somewhat earlier than 500 BC but the slightly rounded edge of the shoulder of the example belonging to Mikeibis suggests the later date range I gave above.




      From John56

I purchased this lamp through an eBay seller, selling it for a friend. I'm trying to verify its age and origin. I have been in contact with the British Museum who referred me to 'A Catalogue of the Lamps in the British Museum' volumn 2, Type C, group V, Q992. This lamp is very similar but as you will notice the fill hole on mine is smaller and mine has an air hole just off the disk between the nozzle volutes. They think the substance encrusting the lamp is lime but I have been un able to find the deluted hydrocloric acid they suggested to test it with. There is a makers mark on the bottom which is 98% covered by the mystery substance. Also, does anyone have a idea how much a conservitor who charge to clean this up? Any help would be appreciated!





     By qmor_123

I don't have BMCII to hand so I can't compare the reference but I suspect the lamp may well be Italian (though some provincial lamps can be very similar) and of the second half of the 1st or early 2nd century AD. The size of the filling hole and presence of an air hole varies.



  By rialtos


I seem to be the only one taking advantage of your What Is It? page.

Then again, nobody seems to be throwing in their two cents about the items I

list, so I guess I'm not taking up anybody else's time with them.


Once again, I have secured an interesting but mysterious item. 

It's hollow bronze, a little over an inch tall and has janiform heads on either side.

One is a bearded male and the other (not shown) seems to be a female. Provincial style, as you can see.

What's puzzling, though, is its use. There is a collared hole on either side

AND slightly larger collared holes on the top and bottom. I can't figure

out how this was used. If you tried to put a piece of wood or metal through

the North/South holes and then the East/West holes, it wouldn't work because

the wood or metal would bump into the other piece of wood or metal,

right in the hollow center. It's possible it could accommodate thin leather

strips or cords, as with strap junctions, but then one wouldn't be able to

see both of the janiform heads and I don't recall seeing strap junctions

where the different holes are at right angles instead of next to each other.


So - I'd be happy to have your opinion, or the opinions of anyone else

who might have an idea of its use.





  By rialtos himself!


I did realize that if you inserted a small hose or pipe into one of the holes, water would spew out the other three in a pleasing array, but where does THAT get us? Nowhere, man (to quote Lennon). It's too small to be a spout or spigot. It's not unlike a thread spool, with hole going all the way thru top to bottom - but why the side-to-side openings? Some collector out there MUST have seen something similar. I can't believe I have a truly unique item. And do the janiform heads have significance in terms of usage, or just decorative whims of the maker?


Methinks it's us us two chickens here at the moment.

But maybe someone will stroll by. :o)


From Scarus

December 19th 06

Is there any chance that the janiform head is something like this?

"This is an interesting Celtic Bronze Seal/Toggle, this piece was used by threading rope through the centre wrapping it around the item, dating to the 1st Century AD.  Measuring 4.5cm".



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