The Water Newton Treasure
The Water Newton Treasure is a hoard of silver vessels and plaques which is the earliest group of Christian liturgical silver yet found in the Roman Empire. It was discovered in a recently ploughed field at Water Newton, Cambridgeshire, the Roman town of Durobrivae, in February 1975. The hoard was much damaged by the plough. It consists of nine vessels, a number of silver votive plaques, and a gold disc. This type of plaque is well known from pagan temples bearing dedications to deities such as Mars, Minerva and Jupiter, but the examples found at Water Newton are the first to demonstrate the practice within a Christian congregation.
Many of the objects from the hoard bear the monogram formed of the Greek letters chi (X) and rho (P), the first two letters of Christ's name, and the symbol most commonly used by early Christians. Two bowls and one plaque have longer inscriptions in Latin. One of these, on a bowl, may be translated as 'I, Publianus, honour your sacred shrine, trusting in you, 0 Lord.' Other inscriptions give the names of three female dedicators: Amcilla, Innocentia and Viventia, who must also have belonged to the congregation. Individual pieces in the treasure were probably made at different times and in different places, and it is impossible to establish accurately the date at which they were hidden. The treasure may have been hidden in response to specific persecution of Christians or to more general political instability.