Christian amulet may be hoax
Wednesday 28 May 1997
When it was unearthed in a Roman grave in Somerset in 1990, it was thought to signify one of Britain's earliest Christian burials - a vital clue to how Christianity spread through the late Roman Empire.
The grave, possibly that of a priest, was thought to be the earliest in Western Europe to be positively identified as Christian. Analysis of the alloy at the time of discovery failed to date the piece accurately, but showed it was closer in make up to modern sterling silver than ancient Roman silver.
The amulet find drew experts from around the world. Local councillors renamed a street and a leisure complex after it. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, wears a replica of the cross.
But a leading expert on Roman art yesterday denounced the find as a fake and blamed its "discovery " on a 20th-century hoaxer. Dr Martin Henig, a lecturer in Roman Art at the Institute of Archaeology in Oxford, is convinced the 4.5cm-long amulet is a modern copy of a Roman brooch dug up in Sussex 100 years ago. The amulet's "christogram" design, an early church symbol, is similar to the design on the brooch.
"I was very excited when I heard about the amulet, but as soon as I saw it and handled it myself I was disappointed," Dr Henig said yesterday. "I experienced a sinking feeling - it was as though a reasonably good amateur silversmith had copied the Roman brooch.
"My guess is that they knew this piece of soil would be excavated and placed the piece there for a joke or because they have a grudge. It is not unprecedented."
Ian Ferris, director of Birmingham University's field archaeology unit which conducted the dig, maintains the amulet is the real thing. "Dr Henig is certainly a respected expert but we feel the context of the excavation makes the amulet's origins unimpeachable," he said.
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
- 2 Loom bands: Bids for dress made from colourful rubber pass £170,000 on eBay
- 3 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
- 4 L'Oreal cuts ties with Belgium supporter Axelle Despiegelaere after hunting trip photographs
- 5 The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week
Game of Thrones author George RR Martin says 'f*** you' to fans who fear he will die before finishing Westeros saga
Loom bands: Bids for dress made from colourful rubber pass £170,000 on eBay
Supermoon 2014: When and why will the moon look bigger and brighter this summer?
Tommy Ramone dies: Last surviving founder and drummer seminal punk band The Ramones dies aged 62
Gaza-Israel conflict: The terrible price Palestinian children are paying for Israel’s war with Hamas
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
War is war: Why I stand with Israel
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...
£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...
£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...
£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...