Finds tray: Roman candle-holder

IMAGE: Lincolnshire County Council.

This is a probable Roman candle-holder, made of copper-alloy. It was recently found by a metal-detectorist near Wellingore in Lincolnshire.

Probably dating to the 2nd-3rd centuries AD, the holder is formed into a zoomorphic creature. While the elongated S-shape of its body is suggestive of a sea creature, perhaps a dolphin, the head has curving ears, worn circular eyes set high on the head, and a sharp hooked beak, which is more reminiscent of a griffin. Behind the head is a small projection with a central slot, which is where the support of the candlestick would have once attached. Towards the other end of the creature, the body curves into what was probably once a three-fluked tail that would have formed the base of the support of the holder, but which has since been broken. The object is very abraded and pitted with a light green patina, but a small patch of gilding on the back is still apparent, suggesting that this object was once richly decorated.

While hybrid animal forms on candlesticks from this period are relatively common, the depiction of a griffin seems to be rare. Sea-griffins do appear on other objects and forms of art from the Roman period, however, including in several mosaics found across southern Britain, where they are frequently found among a menagerie of other oceanic creatures, both real and fantastic.

For more information on this candle-holder, see or search for LIN-A1DD21 on the PAS database.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme is an initiative, funded by the DCMS, to encourage the voluntary recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales. For more information on the Scheme, and to browse its database of more than 1.5 million finds, visit Information for this find was provided by Lisa Brundle, Finds Liaison Officer – Lincolnshire.