from the Trust at the Roman circus: happy Easter !

The Trust would like to wish everyone a happy Easter and Bank Holiday weekend – especially to all our clients and professional partners, to our great volunteers, to all our Roman circus centre visitors and customers, to the visitors to our web-sites, and to all our followers on Facebook and Twitter.

Easter is the great Christian religious festival of sacrifice, death and resurrection or rebirth, but it is also an ancient celebration of spring and new life. It is associated with spring flowers, especially yellow flowers, with eggs, chicks, and the Easter ‘bunny’ or ‘bunnies’ which originated as the sacred and symbolic hare. Eggs are, of course, highly symbolic. Roman Colchester has not produced any representations of a chick or hen, or a bunny, but the Trust has excavated small Roman figurines of a cockerel, an egg and a hare…

We excavated the cockerel and the egg on our Lion Walk site (the shopping precinct), and the hare from our Balkerne Lane site (the roadway and multi-storey car-park), all in the 1970s. The crouching hare figurine is carved from jet. The front part of the hare is missing and it is now about 7 cm long. The cockerel is made of copper-alloy and it is less than 4 cm high. The egg is incomplete and is also just under 4 cm high: it is made of pipeclay.

The three figurines are described in Colchester Archaeological Report or CAR 2: The Roman small finds from excavations in Colchester 1971-9): ‘… The hare was sacred to the [ancient] Britons and was apparently sacrificed by Boudica to her war-goddess … This piece could have been a grave good in a north-south burial destroyed by later grave-digging activities, or possibly a lost toy. The hollow body suggests that this could be a female hare crouching over her young which would have fitted within the space … The hare was noted for being prolific and hence if this piece derives from an earlier grave on the site it could be seen as a symbol of life-after-death …
The context of [the egg] clearly shows that it arrived in Colchester with or on the heels of the Roman army. It was undoubtedly a product of the factories of Central Gaul … pipeclay eggs, as well as being burial deposits, could be used for broody hens to sit over …
[The cockerel] and [another find] may possibly be toys, or votive objects used in a household shrine. The cockerel is associated with [the Roman god] Mercury …’.

You can read about these and other Roman small finds from Colchester in CAR 2, which is published in our online archive at .

The images show drawings of the three figurines from CAR 2 (images copyright the Colchester Archaeological Trust) – the cockerel, the egg and the hare.