Iron Ingot text

Vindolanda Trust - Monday, September 12, 2016

A few months ago excavations in the 3rd century extramural settlement recovered a remarkable artefact. An ingot made from iron with an inscription on it. We had various readings coming through the email, many noble attempts at getting a sensible reading. After considering all you can find our best effort on what we think the message on the ingot means. It is not a definitive reading, but a plausible explanation. Our thanks go to Adam Stanford for the wonderful photographs. Best wishes, Andrew and Anthony Birley

Ingot Line 1 - side 1. 

Line 2, side 2. 

Possible reading:

line 1   ϽIVLI S/

line 2   EVRIA

 This could be interpreted as:

Ͻ (=centuria) Iuli S/ev(e)ria(ni)

“century of Julius Sev(e)ria(nus)”.

 Notes: the text above assumes that the inscription starts on the top side, here line 1, and continues on the other, underneath side, i.e. S comes at the end of the top side and the name is continued below.

The fourth letter in line 1 looks more like I but could have been intended as L. In line 2 the third and fourth letters are heavily ligatured and in the process the E which is needed for the name here suggested was omitted.  The combination of names “Julius Severianus” is very suitable for a centurion, very many of whom were called Julius and Severianus is a not uncommon cognomen.

Needless to say the above reading remains hypothetical. No other inscribed iron ingots are listed in RIB II and in fact we haven’t so far found references to any elsewhere. It was clearly no easy task to inscribe iron, and the inscription may have been etched onto the artefact whilst the ingot was still slightly molten.