This sliding box lid has fine line carving of a peacock and could have had further decorative work.  Small boxes with lids were used to store a variety of personal belongings or goods such as ointments, herbs, spices and rings. Classical mythology associates peacocks with Bacchus and Juno and this motif is also connected with the domestic environment.

Digging up memories and making connections

‘…You can see the fluffy feathers…’  Marta (Archaeologist) associates this pretty little box lid with the treasures she collected as a child.  What would the person who owned this box have stored in it?

Further information

Small is Useful!

by Liz Pounds (Volunteer)

Do you store some of your small personal items in small boxes?

In Roman times, many small, lidded boxes had special names according to their contents.  You would be familiar with putting your writing implements in a graphiaria and your medical ointments in a narthecia! If you owned a box with separate compartments you would refer to it as a loculus.

As a craftsman, you would know that drop lid boxes were easiest to make. The lid simply drops onto the same size opening in the box.  This style is found only in Britain and traces back to Bronze Age times, so your skill would have been handed down for generations. You might also make hinged or sliding lids for your boxes.  The variety of styles of these few surviving angular boxes suggest that you were making personalised items rather than mass producing them.

For a wider market turned lidded boxes called pyxides could be produced quickly and cheaply. Most pyxides were made of boxwood which grows in the Mediterranean areas of the Pyrenees, Corsica and Sardinia. You would use boxwood as it is resistant to decay, durable and has no grain, enabling a skilled craftsman, like yourself, to create fine designs with smooth surfaces.

roman-pyxides-wood-turning-and-creative-inspiration blog by Dr Rob Sands