Archaeologists say 4th century pottery piece is rare symbol of Christianity in Roman Britain

By Culture24 Reporter | 25 March 2016

A 4th century piece of Christian symbolism from Roman London has gone on public display for the first time since its 1970 discovery

A photo of an ancient brown piece of archaeological stone from the museum of london
© Adam Corsini / Museum of London
A 4th century pottery piece which was overlooked during excavations on a London street in 1970 is a rare example of Christian symbolism from Roman Britain, according to archaeologists who say a monogram of the first two letters of the Greek Khristos Christ is etched into the shard.

The Oxfordshire pottery was rediscovered among hundreds of fragments from digs at Brentford High Street – one of several carried out during a programme of rebuilding almost 50 years ago, when archaeologists discovered the line of the Roman road between Londinium and the west of Britain and the town developed from the construction of the road to Silchester.

“At first we noticed there was some sort of mark on the pot and then quickly realised the significance of what we had”, says Adam Corsini, the Archaeology Collections Manager for Museum of London Archaeology.

“Christian symbols from the Roman period are rare, especially from sites within Londinium’s surrounding Hinterland. There are only a few examples within our collections relating to London.

“Although we can’t say from one object that Roman London and its Hinterland were practicing Christianity, it does suggest that Christians were at least present at some point in 4th Century Roman Brentford.”

More than 100 coins, 12 brooches, jet jewellery and a spout for a bronze bowl in the shape of a dog were also found in Brentford. The symbol has gone on display at the Museum of London.

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Touchy! It's true that the Chi Roh had a pre-Christian history, but it was commonly used as a Christian symbol in the fourth century. It would be odd indeed if the assumption was made that this was not evidence of a Christian presence. Perhaps you imagine that the owner was a pagan, ironically subverting the new order with a pagan use of a symbol now strongly associated with Christianity? But this would, in itself, be evidence of Christianity!

But I suspect your objection is on other grounds.
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