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The Iron Age broach of Huthwaite

It is a shame that so much archaeological research never sees the light of day, remaining unpublished gathering dust in university libraries. sometimes bits of information are remembered by locals, and they make their way into local history books to be found in the local studies section. One such archaeological dig was at the site of a former Iron Age Hill fort at Strawberry Bank in Huthwaite around 1985.

Among other artefacts recovered, was a supposed Iron Age broach from the time of the Roman Occupation, around the 1st century AD. It is said that the broach was found among a pile of rocks.

At first glance we can see Roman lettering and an 8 spoke wheel. Both of which are quite exciting. The wheel is often associated with Briganti, and this fort would have been right on the edge of the territory of the Brigantes.

The first problem though is that the writing is mirrored, and when you consider the protruding rear surface, I suggest this is more likely a seal than a broach.

Secondly, the cross on the face strongly suggests christian era. Crosses were used in pre-Roman times, but not to the same degree.

Correcting for the reversed letters then, the best I can make out of the inscription is this:

+ S’ : IOHIS’ DE HO

First, I do not believe that this is actually a Roman inscription, but rather a Latin inscription in a Romanesque style similar to this relief

The first two words would appear to be an abbreviation for ‘Sanctus Iohannis’ i.e Saint John, clearly placing this artefact in the christian era. More often than not though you’d expect ‘baptist’ to follow this, but I don’t really see how you could get that from “DE HO”.

Because this could well be a seal stamp, and the S’ could be abbreviating ‘sigillum’ (seal) instead and so read “Seal [of] John….”

The final part of the inscription, “De Ho” is apparently well attested as a surname in Medieval England, see for instance this link http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Ough

This would make the entire inscription:

“Seal [of] John de Ho”

It is unusual to find whole seal stamps intact. They were often broken when the owner died to prevent people forging letters and documents with it. I can only presume then that this seal was probably hidden among this pile of rocks by John De Ho with the intention of returning and retrieving it. Only for what ever reason, he never did.

It is a shame it is not an Iron Age broach, but rather a christian era seal, but at least now we know more about it. As far as I know the “broach” currently resides in Mansfield museum.

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