Roman find draws new historical picture at the Oxfordshire Museum

A unique Roman artefact is causing a stir at the Oxfordshire Museum Service after a local metal detectorist made the find of his life.

The object, an ancient measuring instrument similar to a pair of compasses, was unearthed by Charney Basset resident Tim Moody about 10 inches beneath the surface of an Oxfordshire farmer’s field.

The 18cm bronze ‘dividers’ feature an eagle’s head and decorative scrolls, and would have been used for drawing maps or illustrating manuscripts at the very end of the Roman period in Britain. It came to Mr Moody’s attention only when he returned home to examine his day’s finds.

Important find

Mr Moody, an electrical consultant who began metal detecting as a teenager, said: “When I first pulled it out of the ground I thought it was an old tent peg. I put it in my finds bag and thought no more about it until I was washing all the finds in the sink later on. I could see the detail was unlike anything I’d ever seen and I realised immediately it must be something of importance.”

The 56-year-old added: “I contacted the museum and they took some pictures and got a professional artist to draw some pictures. The academics were thrilled and the museums service asked if they could put them on display. I was more than happy to donate the artefact, which is probably one of my best finds. I have found a lot of silver coins and once found a gold coin dating to the time of Edward III, but never anything like this before.”

Tim Moody has been metal-detecting since his teens


New exhibition

The find has caught the attention of local academics as a rare, late example of its kind dating to the fifth or sixth century – a crucial historical period marking the transition from Roman Britain to the early Anglo-Saxon era.

Once conservation work has been carried out, the dividers will go on display at the Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock as part of a new exhibition celebrating archaeological objects discovered by the general public, due to open on September 23rd.

Generous donation

Finds Liaison Officer for Oxfordshire Museum Service Anni Byard said: “Roman dividers are uncommon objects and of those known, the vast majority are plain, undecorated utilitarian objects of early Roman date. The running ring-and-dot decoration on these dividers does suggest a late Roman or even early Saxon date so they are a really important discovery.”

The council’s Cabinet Member for Cultural Services Lorraine Lindsay-Gale added: “It is fantastic that Mr Moody has generously donated his find to The Oxfordshire Museum, where they’ll go on display and remain accessible in a public collection.”

Find out more

More information on the dividers can be found by visiting www.finds.org.uk/database using the reference code BERK-8A377C

Find out more about Oxfordshire Museum and the Museum Service

Main image: Metal detectorist Tim Moody examines the Roman dividers, alongside Finds Liaison Officer Anni Byard and Curator of Archaeology David Moon.