« PreviousContinue »
OF SOME URNS FOUND IN BRAMPTON FIELD, FEBRUARY 1667-8.
CORRECTED FROM THREE MS. COPIES IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM AND
THE BODLEIAN LIBRARY.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN
“ A Roman Urn drawn with a coal taken out of it, and found among the burnt bones, and is now in the possession of Dr. Hans Sloane,
to whom this plate is most humbly inscribed.”-FIRST EDITION.
B RAMPTON URNS.
I THOUGHT I had taken leave of urns, when I had some years past given a short account of those found at Walsingham;* but a new discovery being made, I readily obey your commands in a brief description thereof.
In a large arable field, lying between Buxton and Brampton, but belonging to Brampton, and not much more than a furlong from Oxnead-park, divers urns were found. A part of the field being designed to be inclosed, the workmen digged a ditch from north to south, and another from east to west, in both which they fell upon divers urns; but earnestly and carelessly digging, they broke all they met with, and finding nothing but ashes and burnt bones, they scattered what they found. Upon notice given unto me, I went myself to observe the same, and to have obtained a whole one; and though I met with two in the side of the ditch, and used all care I could with the workmen, yet they were broken. Some advantage there was from the wet season alone that day, the earth not readily falling from about them, as in the summer. When some were digging the north and south ditch, and others at a good distance the east and west one, those at this latter upon every stroke which was made at the other ditch, heard a hollow sound near to them, as though the ground had been arched, vaulted, or hollow, about them. It is very probable there are very many urns about this place, for they were found in both ditches, which were one hundred yards from each other; and this very sounding of the earth, which might be
* See Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial : or,' a Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns lately found in Norfolk. 8vo. London, printed 1658.
caused by hollow vessels in the earth, might make the same probable. There was nothing in them but fragments of burnt bones ; not any such implements and extraneous substances as I found in the Walsingham urns: some pieces of skulls and teeth were easily discernible. Some were very large, some small, some had coverings, most none.
Of these pots none were found above three-quarters of a yard in the ground; whereby it appeareth, that in all this time the earth hath little varied its surface, though this ground hath been ploughed to the utmost memory of man. Whereby it may be also conjectured, that this hath never been a wood-land, as some conceive all this open part to have been ; for in such places they made no common burying-places in old time, except for some special persons in groves: and likewise that there hath been an ancient habitation about these parts; for at Buxton also, not a mile off, urns have been found in my memory; but in their magnitude, figure, colour, posture, &c., there was no small variety ; some were large and capacious, able to contain above two gallons, some of a middle, others of a smaller size. The great ones probably belonging to greater persons, or might be family urns, fit to receive the ashes successively of their kindred and relations, and therefore, of these, some had coverings of the same matter, either fitted to them, or a thin flat stone, like a grey slate, laid over them; and therefore also great ones were but thinly found, but others in good number. Some were of large wide mouths, and bellies proportionable, with short necks, and bottoms of three inches diameter, and near an inch thick; some small, with necks like jugs, and about that bigness; the mouths of some few were not round, but after the figure of a circle compressed, not ordinarily to be imitated; though some had small, yet none had pointed bottoms, according to the figures of those which are to be seen in Roma Sotterranea, Viginerus, or Mascardus.
In the colours also there was great variety; some were whitish, some blackish, and inclining to a blue, others yellowish, or dark red, arguing the variety of their materials.?
arguing the variety of their materials.] More probably, perhaps, their being more or less thoroughly burned.
Some fragments, and especially bottoms of vessels, which seemed to be handsome neat pans, were also found of a fine coral-like red, somewhat like Portugal vessels, as though they had been made out of some fine Bolary earth, and very smooth; but the like had been found in divers places, as Dr. Casaubon hath observed about the pots found at Newington, in Kent, and as other pieces do yet testify, which are to be found at Burrow Castle, an old Roman station, not far from Yarmouth.
Of the urns, those of the larger sort, such as had coverings, were found with their mouths placed upwards; but great numbers of the others were, as they informed me (and one I saw myself), placed with their mouths downward, which were probably such as were not to be opened again, or receive the ashes of any other person. Though some wondered at this position, yet I saw no inconveniency in it; for the earth being closely pressed, and especially in minormouthed pots, they stand in a posture as like to continue as the other, as being less subject to have the earth fall in, or the rain to soak into them. And the same posture has been observed in some found in other places, as Holingshead delivers of divers found in Anglesea.
Some had inscriptions, the greatest part none; those with inscriptions, were of the largest sort, which were upon the reverted verges thereof. The greatest part of those which I could obtain were somewhat obliterated : yet some of the letters to be made out: the letters were between lines, either single or double, and the letters of some few, after a fair Roman stroke, others more rudely and illegibly drawn, wherein there seemed no great variety; “ NUON” being upon very many of them; only upon the inside of the bottom of a small red pan-like vessel, with a glaze, or varnish, like pots which come from Portugal, but finer, were legibly set down in embossed letters, CRĂCUNAF.; which might imply Cracuna figulus, or Cracuna fecit, the name of the manufactor; for inscriptions commonly signified the name of the person interred, the names of servants official to such provisions, or the name of the artificer, or manufactor of such vessels; all which are particularly exemplified by the learned Licetus,* where the same in
* Vid. Licet. de Lucernis.