Our Collections

Horse brooch found at Arbeia
Horse brooch found at Arbeia

Archaeologists have been excavating at Arbeia since the 1870s.

The finds recovered by the early excavators form the focus of the collection at Arbeia which is one of the largest and most significant from Hadrian's Wall.

The collection includes coins, engraved gemstones, jet ornaments, seal boxes, imperial seals, brooches pins and other jewellery as well as a military hoard included swords and other equipment. There is also a large collection of pottery including a range of cookware and elaborately decorated plates, dishes and other tableware.

Some of the standout larger pieces in the collection are the inscribed stones, altars and graffiti that refer to individuals and places across the Roman Empire as far as Syria in some instances.

Recent excavations have taken place on the interior of the Fort and the current excavation taking place in the south west corner of the site has come about after considerable research that was undertaken into the civilian settlement (vicus).

The excavations and research have helped provide a broad and balanced picture of life at Arbeia during the Roman occupation.

Impressive finds

Jet pin in the shape of head
Jet pin in the shape of head

Regina Tombstone
The tombstone shows Reginia sitting in a wicker chair with her jewellery box and basket of wool beside her. Reginia came from southern Britain and was the slave, and later the wife, of Barates from Syria.

Complete Ringmail Suit
This is the best preserved ringmail suit in the country, recovered from a barrack building destroyed in a large fire. Those with sharp vision will not only spot the individual 7mm links, but also the tiny 1mm rivets closing the links.

Victor Tombstone
The tombstone shows Victor reclining on a highly decorated couch being served a drink by a slave. Victor came from North Africa and was the slave of a soldier from Spain.

Head of a Northern Goddess
This is a small, finely carved female head with every part delicately carved including her eyes, nose, mouth and hairstyle with traces of pink paint on the face as well as a bit of red on her lips. The head wears a mural crown which is a crown in the form of a town wall with battlements meaning she is a protecting goddess.

Jet Objects
Arbeia has one of the finest collections of Roman jet in the country. The collection includes finger rings, bracelets, beads, an animal head and spindlewhorls.

Donations to the collection or bringing in items for identification

Please get in touch with us (via phone, email or letter) before bringing in your items to describe what you would like to offer, or what you need help with identifying. Send us a photograph if possible.

We’ll reply letting you know if your offer is something we can accept, if we need more information, if we cannot accept your offer or to arrange a time for you to bring your item in.

There are a variety of reasons that we may not be able to take your donation. We have a Collections Development Policy that we must use when making a decision.

Please note that unless there are compelling and legitimate reasons, hazardous objects and substances will not be accepted.