A complete Iron Age to early Roman cosmetic mortar, Flixton

Photograph showing front, reverse and side of mortar

This month’s featured find is a late Iron Age to early Roman cosmetic mortar found by a local metal detector user in 2019 near Flixton.

Together with a now missing pestle, this mortar would have been part of a cosmetic set. Like the mortar, the pestle would have had a loop. Both the pestle and the mortar would have been suspended from their loops, probably attached to fabric worn around the waist. The groove in the mortar would have been a receptacle for substances to be ground by the pestle. These were likely to have been mineral-based cosmetic eye and face paints, which could also have been applied by the pestle.

This is an especially decorative example as at either end of the mortar there are terminals depicting very stylised representations of bulls heads. The underside of the bow also has a series of unusual openwork loops.

Drawing of the mortar
illustration by Donna Wreathall © SCCAS

Examples from archaeological contexts are most commonly recovered from burials, temples and smaller settlements in England, with particular concentrations in East Anglia, suggesting widespread use among the civilian population in the late pre-Roman Iron Age and earlier part of the Roman period.

View the full record on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database: SF-ADF7B3

Thank you to the finder for allowing this object to be featured.

This find was recorded by the Suffolk Finds Recording Team, supported by the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

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