Rare finds in Ribchester

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TWO exciting finds discovered in Ribchester - one considered to be the most exciting of its kind for two decades - go on display at the village's Roman Museum this weekend.

One is a Roman finger ring shaped like a snake and made out of bronze, which was discovered just a month ago floating in the River Ribble, only a stone's throw from the museum.

And the other is also a bronze terret ring - measuring 5cms in diameter and actually found in Ribchester 30 years ago - and which is believed to have been part of a horse's harness.

The discovery of the finger ring marks the first time a piece of jewellery has been found in the village since the major excavation of l989-90 in St Wilfrid's churchyard.

Both rings are believed to date back to the 1st or 2nd century AD and museum curator Patrick Tostevin says he is highly delighted with the finds and even more so that they have been donated to the museum.

He says the Roman snake ring was spotted by a Nigel Tucker, from Maghull as he walked along the opposite side of the River Ribble from the museum.

"He noticed something glinting in the water and he assumed it was gold and after picking it out of the water recognised it as being possibly of some age. He brought it to the museum to see if we were interested and could identify it and I identified it as a Roman ring made out of bronze. He has now donated the ring to the museum," said Mr Tostevin.

He went onto say that apart from knowing it is Roman, he has not researched its history in any great detail yet, but believes it is 1st or 2nd century AD and was probably worn by a man as it has got quite a large diameter.

"I am very pleased with the find because we haven't had a find like this for some considerable time. I don't think a piece of Roman jewellery has been discovered in Ribchester in the last 20 years since l990 when quite a few rings were found during a major excavation in St Wilfrid's churchyard.

"It is the most exciting Roman object to be handed in by a member of the public for several years," said Mr Tostevin, adding that it is also very well preserved. The ring is exactly as it was handed in to the museum and he explained that sometimes bronze objects did survive remarkably well in water logged conditions and looked like gold.

And no sooner than the finger ring had been donated to the museum, than along came the terret ring found by former Ribchester resident Philip Heyes when he was a young teenager, 30 years ago near to the allotments. Philip has emigrated to New Zealand and his mother Rita has decided to donate it to the museum.

Measuring approximately 5cm across, again the ring is bronze and Mr Tostevin explains terret rings were known to have been used to guide reins, fitting to a horse's harness.

He said: "They are traditionally thought of as Iron Age but of course Ribchester was a horse riding fort and so it is possibly a piece of cavalry equipment from when Ribchester was a cavalry fort.

"This is very exciting as well and to the best of my knowledge it is the only terret ring we have in the collection."

To have both objects donated to the museum "came as a complete surprise" conlcuded Mr Tostevin.