Roman, Imperial Period, ca. 3rd to 4th century CE. A shallow spoon made from a silver-copper alloy (64% silver) known as a cochlearium in Latin. A small tang connects the ovoid bowl to the needle-shaped handle which gradually narrows to a point for use in extracting snails or seafood from their shells. The spoon is a fascinating cultural object, often a prized personal item at a time when the average person owned very little; spoons made of precious metal were so highly valued that they were often listed in inventories of noble households. In fact, they were so treasured that cochlearia made of silver have been found in various treasure hoards. Size: 5.875" L x 1" W (14.9 cm x 2.5 cm); quality of silver: 64%; total weight: 13.9 grams.
From the British Hoxne Hoard, which is the largest collection of late Roman silver and gold found in Britain (and contains the largest collection of gold and silver coins from that time period found anywhere in the Roman Empire), we know that spoons of a later date, from the Christian period, are usually inscribed with Chi-Rhos or other Christian symbols. The lack of inscription on this piece suggests that it is from a pre-Christian time or was owned by a pagan family.
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Neil Phillips collection, New York, New York, USA, acquired in the 1980s
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Minor nicks to bowl edges, slight bending to overall form of handle, with very light abrasions, otherwise intact and excellent. Fine patina throughout.