Digging the Past

excavation photograph (image/jpeg)

Archaeology is the scientific study of past cultures and the way people lived based on things they left behind. Objects give us information about groups of people, language, religion, technology and values and Hull Museums archaeological collection is wide and varied. The collections include, boats preserved from the Humber and the Roos Carr figures, Roman mosaics and other artefacts, coins and much much more. Read our narratives to learn more about the past peoples of Hull and the surrounding areas.

Hornsea 'Anglo-Saxon' Cemetery Hornsea 'Anglo-Saxon' Cemetery

The Early Anglo-Saxon people of Hornsea believed in an afterlife. When they died, food and personal belongings were buried with them to aid them on their journey. Their grave goods are now part of The Hull & East Riding Museum's collections.

Objects in the collection

The Story of the Horkstow Mosaic The Story of the Horkstow Mosaic

This famous mosaic was found in 1797 by labourers preparing a kitchen garden at Horkstow Hall, Lincolnshire. Unfortunately they destroyed large areas of it before realising the importance of what they had unearthed - a mosaic floor belonging to great hall of a large and wealthy villa.

Objects in the collection

Romans Through the Looking Glass: Roman Glassware Romans Through the Looking Glass: Roman Glassware

At the Hull and East Riding Museum, there is a collection of Roman glass that is not only beautiful to look at but has a fascinating story to tell about its use during the Roman Empire. This story explains a little about where and how the glass was made and who would have used it.

Objects in the collection

The Rudston Charioteer Mosaic The Rudston Charioteer Mosaic

The Charioteer Mosaic is one of the most striking and unusual mosaics to have been found so far in Roman Britain. Named after the central figure standing on a 'quadriga' or four-horse chariot, it paved a large room at a 4th century AD villa near Rudston, East Yorkshire. It is thought to have been laid between about 325 and 350 AD.

Objects in the collection

The Rudston Aquatic Mosaic The Rudston Aquatic Mosaic

The Aquatic Mosaic paved the 'apodytherium' or changing room of the bath-house at the Roman villa near Rudston, East Yorkshire. It was discovered in 1933 together with the Venus Mosaic and the Swastika Mosaic.

Objects in the collection

The Horkstow Mosaic The Horkstow Mosaic

The Horkstow Mosaic is one of the largest and most interesting mosaics ever found in Britain. It was uncovered in 1797 by labourers making a kitchen garden at Horkstow Hall in Lincolnshire and would have graced a large hall at a very wealthy and sophisticated 4th century Roman villa.

Objects in the collection

The Oldest 'Ball' in Britain The Oldest 'Ball' in Britain

Hull museums are the owners of the oldest ball in Britain. This narrative describes this oddly shaped wooden bowling ball which dates back to the thirteenth century and discusses how it would have been used.

Objects in the collection

History of the Hull & East Riding Museum History of the Hull & East Riding Museum

This narrative tells the story of the Hull and East Riding Museum which is located in what is now known as Hull's Museum Quarter.

Objects in the collection

The Brantingham Geometric Mosaics The Brantingham Geometric Mosaics

The Roman villa at Brantingham, 3km northwest of Brough in East Yorkshire, was first discovered in 1941 when two geometric mosaics were found in a stone quarry known as the 'Cockle Pits'. They were recorded and then reburied. What followed is one of the biggest mysteries in Yorkshire archaeology.

Objects in the collection

The Rudston Swastika Mosaic The Rudston Swastika Mosaic

This remarkably complete mosaic is known as the Swastika or Geometric Mosaic and was found in 1933 at the Roman villa near Rudston, East Yorkshire. It came from the central room of the same house as the Venus and Aquatic Mosaics which are also displayed at the Hull and East Riding Museum. The mosaic measures 2.75m square and dates to the later 3rd century AD, the same date as the Venus Mosaic.

Objects in the collection

Everything you always wanted to know about mosaics Everything you always wanted to know about mosaics

Everything you always wanted to know about mosaics and had no one to ask. Read this narrative to find out more about mosaics, how they were made, what they were made of, how they chose their designs and who made them.

Objects in the collection

The Phoenix Project The Phoenix Project

Thomas Sheppard ignored suggestions about protecting the collections from the possibility of damage from air raids. Unfortunately in 1943 Hull's Municipal Museum on Albion Street took a direct hit by an incendiary bomb. The building couldn't be saved and hundreds of objects were lost. But workmen digging on the site of the museum some fifty years later made an interesting discovery...

Objects in the collection

The Brigg Logboat The Brigg Logboat

One of the largest and most impressive exhibits in the Municipal Museum in Albion Street before the Second World War was the Brigg prehistoric logboat. It was discovered in April 1886 by workmen constructing a gasometer on the right bank of the River Ancholme in Lincolnshire. Older and larger than the Hasholme Boat, she was the largest logboat ever discovered in Britain.

Objects in the collection

Plaster Casts Plaster Casts

Discover the large collection of plaster casts of Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Medieval inscriptions and sculpture that were displayed in the Municipal Museum in Albion Street, Hull before the war.

Objects in the collection

Billy, Charley and the Shadwell Forgeries Billy, Charley and the Shadwell Forgeries

Not everything in a museum is what it appears to be! Find out in this story about Billy and Charley and their Medieval forgeries which fooled Victorian England.

Objects in the collection

The Leopards Panel The Leopards Panel

The so-called 'Leopards Panel' was found in 1971 at the 4th century Roman villa at Rudston, East Yorkshire. It formed the floor of a threshold into the room of the Charioteer Mosaic and may have been placed under an archway. Like its neighbour it dates to between about 325 and 350 AD.

Objects in the collection

Rock and Roll! - Or How to Lift a Mosaic Rock and Roll! - Or How to Lift a Mosaic

Rock and Roll! - Or How to Lift a Mosaic. This narrative will show you how mosaics are lifted out of the ground so they can be displayed in museums for all to see.

Objects in the collection

Roos Carr Figures: Faces From the Past Roos Carr Figures: Faces From the Past

In 1836 some labourers cleaning a ditch at Roos Carr, near Withernsea in East Yorkshire made a surprising discovery. They found a collection of well-preserved wooden objects including several 'warrior' figures with stone eyes, a wooden box, a serpent-headed boat, and various other wooden articles 'too much decayed to remove'. Discover the mystery behind these weird and wonderful objects.

Objects in the collection

Medieval Decorated Floor Tiles Medieval Decorated Floor Tiles

Before the thirteenth century, most tiled floors were mosaics. As they were costly and complicated to lay, floor tiles started to be made that had decoration on them. They were hand-made and fired in kilns that were often nearby the building they were made for. They featured animals, plant patterns, coats of arms and some even copied the geometric mosaics that they replaced. Discover them for yourself...

Objects in the collection

Samian Ware: From the pottery to the table Samian Ware: From the pottery to the table

The Roman period is famous for many things like gladiators, mosaics and emperors, but it also saw the introduction of a red glossy pottery, called Samian ware. Find out in this story where and how it was made and who would have used it.

Objects in the collection

Roman Brooches Roman Brooches

One of the most common discoveries at Roman sites in Britain are brooches. This is not surprising as the Romans used them to fasten their clothing. They come in many different types and are a very useful tool in helping date archaeological sites.

Objects in the collection

The Brantingham Tyche Mosaic The Brantingham Tyche Mosaic

The so-called 'Tyche Mosaic' was discovered in 1961at the site of a large villa near Brantingham, about 3km northwest of Brough in East Yorkshire.The mosaic features a distinctive figure at the centre wearing a crown and surrounded by a nimbus or halo. Some experts believe this figure is a 'Tyche' (pronounced tie-key), a personification of a province or tribe, and this has given the mosaic its name.

Objects in the collection

Roman Coins in Britain Roman Coins in Britain

At its height the Roman Empire stretched through Europe, Asia and Africa, and encircled the Mediterranean. Throughout this empire all citizen, including those in Britain, used the same coins. Read an introduction to just some of the coins that the 400 year occupation brought to Britain.

Objects in the collection

Roman Coin Designs (part 1). Emperors, Empresses, Gods and Goddesses Roman Coin Designs (part 1). Emperors, Empresses, Gods and Goddesses

Getting information across the empire was no easy task for the emperor. Romans had no newspapers, radio or television and most of the population was illiterate. Coins were a good way for emperor to get his ideas across and show images which celebrated the power and glory of Rome. Read about just some of the designs and why they were used, starting with Emperors, Empresses, Gods and Godesses.

Objects in the collection

Roman Coin Designs (part 2). Animals, The Army, Places and Buildings. Roman Coin Designs (part 2). Animals, The Army, Places and Buildings.

Getting information across the empire was no easy task for the emperor. Romans had no newspapers, radio or television and most of the population was illiterate. Coins were a good way for emperor to get his ideas across and show images which celebrated the power and glory of Rome. Read about just some of the designs and why they were used.

Objects in the collection

The Roman Mint The Roman Mint

Countless Roman coins were made during the Roman Empire. Find out how they were made and when they were made in Britain.

Objects in the collection