Rare rectangular lead serving tray

Roman period, 1st century A.D.
W. 30 cm (11 13⁄16 in)

Private collection, prior to 1966
Private collection, Switzerland, from the above, thence by descent

A rare example of a Roman lead tray. The rectangular tray with angled edges. Decorated on the interior with incised and punched decoration. In the centre, two dancing cherubs, with a flaming altar between, surrounded by a rectangular foliate wreath. On each short edge, two curling volutes. The underside, with a dotted inscription and one another mark, probably designating the names of two successive owners

Lead was a common occurring material in the Roman world, it was cheap, malleable, and abundant, however, relatively few objects have been preserved from antiquity. Lead was often used to line copper cooking pots, to prevent the copper’s bitter taste from spoiling the food. Lead’s taste was sweet, and it was often used to flavour wine.
It is unclear what purpose this tray was put to, however it could have been used to hold anything from tickets, seals to morsels of food. The two owners’ names, would suggest this was a valued and treasured household item. 

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