Uncovering Hidden Stories

Power and Identities

People have expressed themselves and their identity through items of jewelry and other personal equipment from the earliest times. Archaeology collections include many objects which had symbolic and other cultural values for their owners. Some items express notions of power and status, others more personal or practical achievements.


Female statuettes from Upper Palaeolithic are often called Venus figurines. The statuettes were carved from soft stone (such as steatite, calcite or limestone), bone and ivory, or formed from clay and fired. Most have been discovered in Europe, but others have been found as far away as Siberia and Eurasia. Most date from the Gravettian period (26,000 - 21,000 years ago) like The Lozenge.

The Italian egyptologist Ippolito Rosellini and the French scholar Jean Louis Champollion, led the Franco-Tuscan archaeological expedition to Egypt between 1828 and 1829. Funded by the Grand Duke of Tuscany Leopold II and the King of France Charles X, the expedition lasted 16 months and advanced understanding of Egyptian civilization. Artists who followed Rosellini produced iconographic and graphic material in pencil, tempera and watercolor of bas-reliefs and paintings in the temples and tombs of Ancient Egypt.

This gold torque was part of a cache found in a bog in Granta Fen, Cambridgeshire, England, with other gold & bronze objects (many of which are now in the British Museum, London). It is a fine example of twisting bars of gold which was a highly skilled technique that developed in Europe in about 1200 BC, possibly influenced by Mediterranean styles. Such torques showed the social standing, identity, power and influence of the wearer within Early Bronze Age societies.

The Griphomachia depicts the heroic struggle against the griffin, which represents a paradigm as a sign of political legitimation. This figure belongs to the sculptural group of Cerrillo Blanco (Porcuna, Spain). The group is the best example of monumental sculpture and the best preserved of the Iberian and Protohistoric Mediterranean societies (5th century BC, Iron Age).

The Battle of Alesia is one of the famous military engagements in the Gallic Wars, Caesar’s campaign in Gaul (present day France and Belgium). Napoleon III was passionate about Caesar and the Gallic Wars and in april 1861 asked Félicien de Saulcy, Alexandre Bertrand and general Casimir Creuly to supervise excavations at Alise-Saint-Reine. More than 100 workers dug the ditches of Caesar’s Siege from 1861 to September 1862. The Album des fouilles d'Alise-Sainte-Reine, published in 1862, contains more than 350 archives from the excavation.

This military diploma which was found in the Netherlands confirms the citizenship of a Batavian cavalryman, his wife and daughters. Issued on 20 February 98 AD the diploma was part of the honourable discharge procedure of veterans from the military.

The signet ring of Childeric I (c. 440-481/482) was found in his grave in 1653. Childeric was the first king of the Salian Franks, who ruled over parts of northern Gaul as allies of the Romans (foederati), and the ring depicts him as the highest military commander and king. After Childeric’s death, his son Clovis I staged an elaborate funeral in Tournai to emphasise his own political claim to rule in Gaul.

The image shows the town crier, one of the officials of Cricklade’s Court Leet which was first established in the 12th century. In the days before the majority of the population could read or write it was the Town Crier’s duty to keep the local people informed about important events. Today, the Town Crier is a popular figure in the local community. He wears traditional uniform and his colourful waistcoat is embroidered with the fritillaries that are found on Cricklade’s North Meadow.