Carthage Treasure

Bowl from the Carthage Treasure

Carthage, 4th- early 5th Century

Silver, D. 16.9 cm


The bowl is decorated with five pastoral scenes, four around the rim and one in the central medallion. The same figures occur in each scene - a shepherd, his dog and one or two of his flock, either sheep or goats. The shepherd rest upon his crook or reclines on rocky ledges. Trees with double leaves (possibly palm trees) and a vine create landscape settings, enhanced by grasses engraved in the background. In one scene a round tower appears. Each group around the rim is separated from the next by a large male or female mask in profile. Such Bacchic masks combined with pastoral or hunting scenes are a prominent theme on high-quality silver vessels from the third and fourth centuries. Other examples in The British Museum are the large dish from the Caubiac treasure and two bowls from the Mildenhall Treasure. It is assumed that the silver items found in the Carthage treasure all belonged to a single family, the Cresconii, whose name is inscribed on one of the dishes. They were an important family in North Africa in the fourth and fifth centuries when Carthage was second only to Rome in importance.

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Silver bowl from the Carthage Treasure

Carthage, c. 400

Silver, D. 124.00mm


This simple, elegant vessel has a hemispherical bowl on a high tapering foot. The shape of the foot is echoed by the open knop of the lid. The exterior of the bowl, foot and lid are subtly faceted. A group of five similar vessels were found at the end of the nineteenth century in Kostolac (ancient Viminacium) in Serbia. A plate with a rim decorated with hunting scenes and masks, similar to the bowls in the Carthage treasure, was found with them. The similarity between the Kostolac silver, which was probably made in local workshops on the Danube, and the Carthage silver illustrates the homogeneity of silver production in the Late Antique world. Silver plate played an important role in the domestic, political and economic life of the Roman Empire. Wealthy families like the Cresconii who owned the Carthage Treasure owned large quantities of silver. A complete set of domestic plate comprised argentum escarium ('eating silver') and argentum potorium ('drinking silver'). This vessel is very similar in form to the chalices which developed in the Early Byzantine period.

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The Byzantine Legacy
Created by David Hendrix Copyright 2016