If only artefacts could talk…

  • 27th June 2023

Our Roots in Time project, based around 2022’s community excavation at Evesham’s New Farm Nature Reserve, has got us thinking about human nature. Prehistory is often thought of as being primitive – a time when life was just about survival and people were perhaps less intelligent than today. But archaeology shows us that this idea is far from true.

Human nature

Since 800 BC, the start of the Iron Age and earliest activity we found on the site, so much has changed – people’s beliefs, way of life, culture and society. Yet, people in the past were still humans just like you and I: they had loved ones, enjoyed having fun, had their own taste in clothes and food, got grumpy sometimes and had happy days. They were just as intelligent as us, with the same range of human emotions, hopes, fears and personal quirks.

Here are some particularly special archaeological finds from our Roots in Time excavation that reach across time and allow us to touch the lives of an individual. We may not know their names, but they also had a connection to the landscape around Evesham and their own stories to tell.

Artefacts with tales to tell

1. Fingerprints wiped across a Roman roof tile – decoration, a maker’s mark or something else?

Roman roof tile fragment with fingermark impressions

Fragment of Roman roof tile with three curving lines made by fingertips being drawn across damp clay

2. Boot, shoe or sandal: what did these Roman hobnails come from and who wore it?

Most of our hobnails are more corroded and grotty looking than the example below (from another nearby community project), but excavations at Vindolanda by Hadrian’s wall give us a glimpse of the sandals, shoes and boots worn during the Roman era.

Hobnail with scale

Example of a Roman hobnail from Badsey, near Evesham

Decorative pattern of hobnails on a Roman shoe sole from Vindolanda

Decorative pattern of hobnails on a Roman shoe sole from Vindolanda

3. Does an Elizabethan love story lie behind this silver coin? Given as love tokens, silver coins bent into an S shape were common during the late 16th and 17th centuries. It’s intriguing to wonder how it ended up in fields alongside the River Avon.

Front of the coin reused as a love token

Side view of the bent love token

Side view of the coin, showing how it was bent

4. Hints of the beliefs, traditions or superstitions of people who once lived here can be seen in a cow skull buried at end of a ditch and horse forelimb buried in a pit. These practices were common during the Iron Age, so it is interesting that the cow skull was placed on top of Roman pot sherds – a sign of someone keeping long held traditions?

3D model of the cowl skull during excavation, hosted on Sketchfab – click the play button to load, then move around by dragging and zooming in or out.


5. An illiterate potter? This Roman pot base has tried to copy the maker’s stamps used on Samian ware pottery imported from Gaul (France). Instead of their name, just a row of triangles is used, suggesting that the potter couldn’t read or write.

Pot base with imitation stamp

Pot base with a row of triangles inside a circle stamped on to the inner surface, in imitation of the Latin writing stamped on Samian ware pots.

Curious to know more?

You can:

  • Find out more about Roots in Time on our project page.
  • Feeling creative? Come along to one of our creative writing workshops where you’ll have a chance to handle the finds and imagine what stories lie buried with them. Sessions are free, open to all and running from the 28th June to 14th July – find details on our events page.
  • Dig diaries – the excavation is over, but you can find dig diary updates on social media by searching for #RootsInTime. Find us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

One response to “If only artefacts could talk…”

  1. Rita Roberts says:

    Thanks for this interesting post. Of course I can relate to the pottery having worked on some during my time working with you many years ago.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related news

  • 18th September 2023
Protecting Feckenham’s moated manor site

Feckenham Manorial Moated Site is a nationally significant scheduled monument. Despite this, it has been on an ‘at risk’ heritage register – until now, that is. Owned and managed by Redditch Borough Council, it is also a key green and recreational space within the heart of Feckenham village, and the focus of a community group’s...

  • 31st March 2023
Badsey’s Big Dig

In May 2022, 19 test pits were excavated across Badsey village as part of the Small Pits, Big Ideas project.  Badsey is known to be in an area where there is evidence of early activity, but what could we find out about the medieval village? What is this all about? This community excavation was part of...

  • 24th March 2023
Bewdley’s Big Dig

In April and July 2022, 21 test pits were excavated across Bewdley, Worcestershire, as part of the Small Pits, Big Ideas project. Bewdley was a bit different to our other big digs, being a town rather than a village with much more development having taken place. Our objective for this dig was to find out more...