[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 28 July, 2003, 11:19 GMT 12:19 UK
Capsule reveals cream of Roman society
The opened tin reveals the cream
The pot of ointment was still moist but smelled sulphurous
A Roman pot unearthed at an archaeological dig in London has been opened to reveal cream which is nearly 2,000 years old.

The sealed pot full of ointment, complete with finger marks, was discovered at a Roman temple complex in Southwark, south London.

The tin pot is about six centimetres wide and plainly decorated.

The substance was described as still wet but smelling "sulphurous".

Initial guesses of its function ranged from cosmetic face cream and toothpaste to something that was smeared on goats before they were killed.

The pot was found in a Roman drain and appears to have been deliberately hidden.

It was opened before the media at the Museum of London by museum conservator Liz Barham.

We've been asked several times what to expect in there, but I don't think we could have expected that it would be so full, or that it would be some kind of cosmetic, moisturising cream or whatever it is
Gary Brown, managing director
As she opened it, a strong sulphurous smell was released.

Ms Barham said: "If this is a sealed Roman container, those are Roman finger marks."

The discovery was unearthed in July by Pre-Construct Archaeology, whose managing director, Gary Brown, looking over Ms Barham's shoulder, said: "I'm astounded.

"We've been asked several times what to expect in there, but I don't think we could have expected that it would be so full, or that it would be some kind of cosmetic, moisturising cream or whatever it is.

"Clearly, Roman creams of any type, paint or cosmetic, do not normally survive in the archaeological record, we don't know if it's unique, but it's pretty exceptional."

The dig at Southwark
The excavation is in Southwark
Francis Grew, curator of the museum, said it was known that the Romans used asses' milk as a face cream.

The religious complex is the first in London and one of the most important ever seen in Britain.

The site is rare evidence of organised religion in London at the time and opens out a previously hidden district of the ancient city.

Two square Romano-Celtic temples have been found, with a possible guesthouse all contained within a precinct.

The small to medium-sized stone temple buildings date to around the mid-second-century AD.




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC London's Colette McBeth
"It is an ointment, or toothpaste and there's still a fingerprint in the cream"



SEE ALSO:
Stuffed dormice a Roman favourite
19 Jul 03  |  Northamptonshire
Police seek out Roman potter
21 May 03  |  Northamptonshire
Roman palace redraws London map
23 Jan 03  |  England
Roman fishy tale uncovered
08 Jul 02  |  England


RELATED BBCi LINKS:

RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific