Archaeology of the Sevso Treasure

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On February 14, I attended the Society of Antiquaries London and the Annual All-Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group Lecture to hear Hungarian archaeologist Dr Zsolt Visy (a Fellow and expert in the Roman archaeology of central Europe) discuss his work in establishing provenance for the Sevso Treasure. This meeting was quite exciting, it being the first public summary of the archaeological evidence for the Sevso Treasure’s provenance. The Sevso treasure is three times the size of the Mildenhall hoard and includes some of the finest silver plates and ewers to have come down to us from the late Roman period. It is rumoured to include 248 items.

The hoard’s name derives from the inscription on one of the large dishes (Hec Sevso tibi durent per saecula multa; Posteris ut prosint vascula digna tuis — ‘May these, O Sevso, be yours for many ages; Small vessels fit to serve your offspring worthily’). The problem of the Sevso hoard lies in the fact that it is most likely looted (and here I must be careful to say most likely, because Lord Rupert Redesdale of APPAG is being threatened with a lawsuit for having asserted the looted status  formally in public) and the actual find spot is not known. However, Dr Visy has investigated iconographic evidence that indicates most of the items in the hoard were manufactured in the mid-fourth century, and that Sevso might have been the owner of one of the very large villa estates located around the shores of Lake Balaton.

Following the presentation, Professor Lord Renfrew raised the pointed request that access would be allowed by the owner, the Marquess of Northampton, so that scholars could study the finds in more detail and clarify the outstanding archaeological questions. However, given the controversy surrounding the acquisition of the hoard by the Marquess, the ensuing court case in New York (regarding the lack of due diligence undertaken prior to purchase) and the subsequent unsaleability of the treasure on the open market (thereby rendering it basically worthless as an investment, which was the stated original intent of the purchase), it seems unlikely that increased access for study will be granted.

To be continued!

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