What’s on : Lectures

Interpreting the Ryedale Hoard

27 Sep 2022
Start time
2:30 PM
The Yorkshire Museum
Lucy Creighton, Curator of Archaeology, Yorkshire Museum
Interpreting the Ryedale Hoard

Event Information

Interpreting the Ryedale Hoard
Lucy Creighton, Curator of Archaeology, Yorkshire Museum

In May 2020, two metal detectorists made an amazing discovery in a field near Ampleforth, North Yorkshire. Four spectacular yet diverse objects that were buried together some 1,800 years ago. The Ryedale Hoard contains some of the most significant artefacts from our region and offers fresh perspectives on Roman Yorkshire.

In this talk Lucy Creighton will share the story of this spectacular hoard. By looking at the objects in detail and drawing upon comparative examples and the Yorkshire’s Museum wider designated Roman collections, she will explore their use in the 2nd century and the mystery of their burial. She will then fast forward to the moment of their discovery and the Yorkshire Museum’s subsequent acquisition, display and research plans.

Lucy Creighton is Curator of Archaeology at the Yorkshire Museum, where she is lucky enough to care for and share one of the largest and most important archaeological collections in the country. Before moving to York she managed archaeological collections in London and Sheffield.

York Museums Trust and Yorkshire Philosophical Society Joint Lecture

This lecture will be held in the Tempest Anderson Lecture Theatre in the Yorkshire Museum, York at 2.30pm

Participants can book to see the Exhibition before or after the lecture on the Yorkshire Museum Website:


Member’s report

Lucy Creighton’s well illustrated presentation discussed four aspects of the Ryedale Hoard: its discovery; acquisition by the Yorkshire Museum; the interpretation of the four objects that comprise the hoard and how the museum has approached the display of the hoard.

Two metal detector users discovered the hoard in a field in Ampleforth parish, North Yorkshire in May 2020. The copper alloy objects were stacked on top of each other and clearly had been buried together. All were in very good condition. Most copper alloy objects found by metal detector users are broken and damaged, but these finds were in very good condition. The hoard was rapidly reported to the staff of the Portable Antiquities Scheme based at the Yorkshire Museum. Here details were entered on the national database and research undertaken.

The hoard was sold at auction to a Mayfair based antiquities dealer, and eventually purchased by the Yorkshire Museum after a fundraising campaign that attracted generous donations from the American antiquarian Richard Beleson, the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, the Art Fund and others.

The most arresting object in the hoard is a very well preserved hollow male bust, manufactured by lost wax casting. It stands roughly 13 cm high and is of a large eyed adult man with distinctive carefully carved beard. It has a small breast plate and a hammered copper alloy back plate. Three holes on the breastplate indicate that it was originally mounted on a wooden pole. The eye sockets lack detail.  It is believed to be a sceptre head, a very rare bespoke object that was probably used by priests in religious ceremonies. The consensus is that this object was made ‘provincially’ in Britannia or Gaul, possibly in Eboracum. It is not marked, but it is resembles other images of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (AD. 161-180) and was probably used during Imperial cult ceremonies.

A second object is a cast model of a horse and rider figurine, almost certainly an image of the god Mars riding on a horse. The rider has a crested helmet and is wearing a tunic. A spear and oval shield are missing. Similar objects, sometimes rendered as plate brooches have been found at shrine and temple sites. The third object is the handle of an iron key in the form of the hind quarters of a horse, another rare find. A well-made plumb bob completes the tetrad.

We were introduced to similar finds from Roman Yorkshire and beyond and much time was spent discussing who might have buried these four important objects in Ryedale. Was it a priest, or a metal worker? Because these objects were of copper alloy, not silver or gold, they did not fall under the current Treasure Act. However, this is now under review and it is likely that a new version will include nonferrous objects.

The Yorkshire Museum now features the Ryedale Hoard, along with a large number of other important Roman finds, in the new exhibition in the main atrium of the museum. All YPS members and supporters are urged to view this and appreciate why these remarkable objects throw new light on Roman Yorkshire.

Andrew K G Jones