Writing tablet

These are are joining fragments of a wooden backing for a Roman wax writing tablet. They were recovered from the waterlogged and lower deposits of a well on the St Loyes site in Exeter. The well remained in use until the end of the 2nd century or start of the 3rd century AD and so the tablet must date to well before this period.
The tablet was recessed both sides, Side A with a plain recess, Side B with a deeper recess in the middle for the seals of witnesses. In format this is the second tablet (of three) of a triptych used for legal documents. There is now no trace of the black wax filling, and almost no sign of any incisions left by the stilus. The tablet was re-used for an ink text, apparently a letter, but writing is only visible on Side A. The text looks like the ‘address’ of a letter, with the recipient’s name in Line 1. The most likely restoration is [Ve]ro, ‘to Verus’, although other names are possible such as Carus and Varus. In Line 2, he would have been described by his rank or occupation, which makes arm[...] an attractive reading, whether for arm[orum custodi], ‘armourer’, or a reference to armamentarium, ‘the armoury’. Several other fragments of tablets were found on the site but none with legible letters.
The tablet was made from silver fir wood (Abies sp.), this wood was often used for making tablets. This genus is not native to Britain and the wood must have been imported.
Accession Loan No.
Collection Class
Exeter archaeology
Common Name
writing tablet
Simple Name
Full Name
writing tablet
whole width 150 mm; whole length 75 mm
Cultural Group
Period Classification
Roman (43-410)
Production Year Low
Production Year High
Family Group

Collector / Excavator
Exeter Archaeology
Collection Site Name
St Loyes College (2010)
Collection Town
Collection County
Collection Country
United Kingdom: England
Collection Area Region
Northern Europe
Collection Continent

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