The votes have been counted, the expert panel of judges (well, Toby, Arran and Gary) have debated and the winner of the inaugural Archaeology Live! Find of the Year award has been decided.
Despite facing stiff competition from some stunning finds such as an ornate Viking spindle whorl, an incredbly delicate glass ring from the Roman period, two medieval bone die and some beautiful, highly symbolic medieval and post-medieval pot sherds; the artefact lovingly referred to as ‘Dino’ has come out on top, with 42% of the public vote!
Found in July 2014 by Katie Smith, a familiar face on Archaeology Live! excavations, this object was discovered in the backfill of a post-medieval refuse pit. Dating to the 15th century, it is a fragment of a Hambleton Ware lobed bowl, a drinking vessel that combined old traditions with new technology.
Lobed bowls were popular from the late 14th to early 16th centuries and were a continuation of the bawdy old tradition of communal drinking, where large bowls of delightful libations would be passed around groups of merrymakers. Originally, these vessels would have mainly been made of wood, however, as ceramic manufacture became more affordable for the middle classes, bowls such as these began to replace the older wooden vessels.
As the decades passed, they became increasingly elaborate, with figures of mythical creatures, people and animals set within the bowls. As the contents were imbibed, the figures would slowly be revealed. Examples such as this one, found at 1-5 Aldwark in 1976 feature two human figures seemingly deep in conversation.
The identity of these figures may never be known, but wonderfully impractical objects like these invite us into the minor rituals of domestic medieval life.
Katie’s figure, despite it’s somewhat dinosaur-esque appearance, may be a stylised cockerel or dog. Perhaps it could be a mythical beast from some allegorical tale of the 1400s. Specialist analysis in late 2015/early 2016 may finally reveal Dino’s true identity, but it remains open to debate at present – which is, of course, half the fun!
Who/what ever the figure turns out to be, Katie’s find remains a wonderful insight into a more playful side of medieval life and highlights the wealth of symbolism and imagery that would have been commonplace at the time. While we can never know what merriment Dino may have bourne witness to, we can at least hold the very same object six centuries later and allow ourselves to imagine. Such objects bring us closer to the everyday people of medieval York and this is a deserving winner.
Toby will start work on the T-shirt design in time for the spring training excavation in April, where the race begins to find the most exciting find of the 2015 season. What wonderful objects and stories remain buried around the ancient church of All Saints, North Street? Join us in the spring to find out!
As the old cliche goes, onwards and downwards!