The vast Roman empire stretched from the Tyne to the Tigris and long-distance networks were developed over land and sea, encouraging trade and movement of peoples.
Several displays focus on Roman life in Oxfordshire. Oxford was an important centre for the pottery industry with the gritty clay from Boar’s Hill, on the outskirts of Oxford, being particularly suited for making grinding bowls. Household vessels made from Oxfordshire clay were distributed throughout southeast England and further afield by road and river. A nearby display follows the changing fortunes of Shakenoak, a Roman farm near Witney, 15 miles from Oxford as it changed from being an affluent fish farm to abandoned homestead in the closing years of Roman Britain. Another case shows a fine collection of pewter plates excavated from near Appleford.
Other areas of the gallery feature objects from further afield such as the bronze letters from Hadrian’s Gate in southwest Turkey, marking the Emperor’s visit there in AD 130.
Skilled craftsmanship is highlighted in the superb example of the Felix gem which has a display of its own. Adjacent to this is a panel on the Twelve Caesars with observations from the imperial biographer Suetonius set beside images of the emperors on coins, cameos and gems. Fine examples of jewellery with delicate necklaces, rings and hairpins are displayed in a low case.