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Metal detector finds silver ring for a bloodthirsty god

PART of a Romano/British ring found by a Leighton metal detectorist in fields near Hockliffe has been declared treaure.

The ring, which has provided archaeologists with the missing link to a bloodthirsty ancient Celtic warrior god, was unearthed by Greg Dyer of Churchill Road in September 2005.

At an inquest last Tuesday, Beds coroner David Morris told the court that the piece of ring, thought to be from the third century AD, contains 2.98 grammes of silver.

The piece of jewellery, inscribed with the words 'Deo Tota Felix' is currently in the British Museum waiting to be valued.

In a report, the museum said that the missing part of the ring would almost certainly be inscribed with the word 'Vtere', as the four words together mean 'Use this ring happily'.

Former U.S. Navy sailor Mr Dyer said he was not expecting the find to make his fortune and any money paid would be shared with the landowner.

“It depends how they value something like this,” he said.

“The silver content is probably only worth a pound or two and I don’t know what price they can put on its historic worth.

“I’m only really expecting a token payment, but if it’s too small other detectorists making similar finds might be tempted to keep them.”

Mr Dyer said he took a photograph of his find and posted it on the internet where it was seen by Adam Daubney, Lincolnshire Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which helps record archaeological finds.

Mr Daubney said metal detectorists in and around Lincolnshire have been digging up Roman-era finger rings with the mysterious letters TOT inscribed on them for several years, but this is the first known example to be found in the south.

Experts in Roman history had for some time suspected that TOT was a misspelled abbreviation of the Celtic deity Toutates, so he decided to research further and found 44 examples of the TOT rings, mostly from Lincolnshire and dating from the second and third centuries AD, the time of the Roman occupation of Britain.

Toutates was one of the principal deities of the Celtic world, although little is known about him.

“There are two main sources that mention Toutates,” said Mr Daubney.

“The first was the Roman poet Lucan, who wrote from between AD39 to 65, and refers to him as the ‘dreaded Toutates’.

"A document in the ninth century also describes worshipers of Toutates offering human sacrifices to him.”

The document goes on to say how followers would kill their offerings, often babies, by plunging them head-first into a vat of liquid until they drowned.

Although rings with the names of Roman gods have previously been found in Britain this is the first time that a ring bearing the name of a local god has been identified.

“It is very, very rare to be able to look at an artefact from this period and say it is native British and not Roman and with this you can say that,” said Mr Daubney.

The cult of Toutates is thought to have died out with the Saxon invasions of the fifth century and the introduction of Christianity.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme is a voluntary scheme to record archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales and more information can be had by logging onto www.finds.org.uk .

 
 
 

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