Hoxne Pepper Pot

The Hoxne (pronounced Hoxon) "Empress" Pepper Pot 400 AD Silver

Brief IdentificationEdit

The Hoxne (pronounced Hoxon) Hoard Pepper Pot or the "Empress" Pepper Pot was found at Hoxne, Suffolk, England on 16 November, 1992 . The piece, known as the Piperatorium in Latin, served as a vessel to transport the valuable spice Pepper from mainly the Indian subcontinent. Dating back from around 400 A.D., the Empress Pepper Pot was primarily silver. Found as part of the Hoxne Hoard , the Pepper Pot was a rare find demonstrating the Roman occupation of Britain. It currently is located residing in The British Museum in London, England.

The pepper that filled the pepper pot was grown in India. There were extensive trading links between the Romans and the peoples of the east. Spices were transported from India to the Red Sea, across the desert to the Nile and then from Egypt traded around the Roman empire by river, sea and land. Other routes may have come through Palmyra in Syria. Many Roman coins and pottery and glass fragments have been found in southern India, suggesting trade in manufactured goods and wine.

Technical Evaluation

The "Empress" Pepper Pot is a Roman masterpiece. It was made of silver, but was made gilded some to give it a golden appearance. The added gold leaf through gilding gave the piperatorium a new golden finish in certain spots and added to its decoration. The Hoxne Hoard , with which the pepper pot was discovered, was a collection of over 15,000 gold coins and other precious jewelry and small items. The total Hoxne Hoard is believed to be from the one family of Aurelius Ursicinus.

While the Hoxne Hoard is very valuable and very large, it is commonly believed that the original owner had much greater wealth than just this collection. The pepper pot is called "Empress" to describe the shape. The vessel is made up of the upper torso of a woman, with small holes located at its base to release the spices that it held inside [McClanan 60].

Local Historical ContextEdit

At the time between 43 A.D. to 400 A.D., Britannia was the Roman Province encompassing the lands of Great Britain. Around the time period which corresponds to the Hoxne Hoard Pepper Pot, Roman Britain was coming to an end. Fragmentation within the Roman Empire was causing its power to weaken and the empire's ability to govern Britannia was weakening as well. As Roman leaders in Britain realized that they were unable to maintain control of the people, they organized a military withdrawl.

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Over 15,000 coins were found along-side the "Empress" Pepper Pot among the Hoxne Hoard

This military withdrawal posed a problem for Roman's living in Britannia however. No longer would there be a stable military force to protect their possessions or, even more so, the people. It can be assumed then that some Roman civilians chose to leave Britain to feel more at ease about their lives and their possessions. In the case of the Hoxne Hoard, historians believe that a family leaving Britain at the time of military withdrawal left some of there wealth behind. The coins found among the Hoard are mostly from the time period before Constantine III. This means that the Hoard must have been left between 397 A.D. and 450 A.D. at the latest. Most historians happen to believe that the Hoard is from 407 A.D., as the coins found had dates from 397 A.D. to 405 A.D.

The "Empress" Pepper Pot was one of four piperatorium found among the Hoard, but finding such a great number of them together is very rare . Because they are hollow artifacts, often piperatorium were destroyed over time or melted down.

World-Historical SignificanceEdit


Pepper became a valuable commodity in Roman culture from between 100 AD and 400 AD

Britannia like much of the Roman Empire lacked spices for trade. The most valuable spice at the time was pepper from India. Due to its great value to the Romans, piperatoriums were used as extravagant transportation vessels to secure the spice on its long treck from India to territories as far away as Britannia.

The Roman Army withdrew from Britain around 400 A.D. as the rest of the Roman Empire experienced fledgling power control and governing effectiveness. This lack of power was due in large part to a decentralization of authority in large part due to the split of the Empire into East and West in 395 A.D.

Pepper became a major part of the Roman diet between 100 A.D. and 300 A.D. and quickly became one of the most valuable commodities in the world. For example, pepper became such a valuable commodity that in 408 A.D. the Visogoths besieged Rome and demanded payment that included 3,000 pounds of pepper .


McClanan, Anne. Representations of Early Byzantine Empresses: Image and Empire. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. "the hoxne hoard." Accessed April 18, 2011.

The British Museum. "Hoxne hoard pepper pot." Accessed April 17, 2011.

Saxon Advent. "The Hoxne Treasure." Accessed April 18, 2011.

The School of Applied Arts. "History: Gilding." Accessed April 19, 2011.

The British Museum. "The Hoxne Hoard." Accessed April 17, 2011.

History of Britian. "Aurelius Ursicinus at Hoxne." Accessed April 20, 2011. "Eyewitness: Caesar's Britian (III), 54 B.C." Accessed April 20, 2011.

BBC - A History of The World. "Episode 40 - Hoxne Pepper Pot." Accessed April 19, 2011.

The British Museum. "Coins from The Hoxne Hoard." Accessed April 20, 2011.

Ancient Encyclopedia of History. "Pepper." Accessed April 19, 2011.