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The Roman collection contains over 10,000 objects, spanning the period from 89 BC to 400 AD. The collection ranges from thousands of small pieces of Samian pottery to complete stone-carved altars, thousands of coins to the first complete Roman Fleet Diploma found in the UK.  

The collection encompasses material excavated during the Victorian period, Durham University-led research excavations, particular those Eric Birley in the 1930s, metal detecting finds acquired by the Museum and donations.    

Oswald-Plique collection

The Oswald-Plique collection is an internationally important collection of Samian pottery from Gaul together with extensive associated archive material. It was the personal archive of Dr Felix Oswald, one of the leading early researchers in Samian pottery. The collection was acquired by Eric Birley for Durham University in 1950 and contains over 4,500 fragments of Roman Samian pottery.  

These fragments formed a reference for Oswald's Index of Figure Types on Terra Sigillata, 1936-7. In 1958, Stanfield and Simpson also used it as a reference for Central Gaulish Potters. These two works are still standard reference books in the study of Samian pottery. 

Lanchester Diploma

Found in 2016 by metal detectorist Mark Houston near Lanchester, this is the first complete Fleet Diploma to be discovered in the country, revealing the identity of one of Britain’s first named sailors. The diploma is made of a copper alloy and is now broken into eight fragments. Originally it would have consisted of two rectangular bronze plates attached together with metal wires. Explore more on the Lanchester Diploma. 

Piercebridge River Assemblage

Two divers gathered this collection of over 4,000 objects from the bed of the River Tees at Piercebridge, over the course of 30 years. Representing an important Romano-British votive offering deposit dating to the second and third centuries AD, this collection is unique in terms of its range of objects, including everything from Roman armour and sheep shears, to figurines and jewellery.

A coloured photograph of a number of objects found by divers in Piercebridge. Objects in the photograph include a spoon, scale armour, rings, coins, a fish hook, brooches and even the sole from a shoe.

Objects found by divers in Piercebridge. Objects in the photograph include a spoon, scale armour, rings, coins, a fishhook, brooches and even the sole from a shoe. 

A coloured photograph of a black vessel with dogs depicting in a hunting scene. A Nene Valley Ware hunting jug, found at Benwell Newcastle.