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Forgotten artifact reveals extraordinary Christian secret

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By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
4/5/2016 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)

Evidence of early Christians in Londinium may change history.

After its excavation in the 1970s, a piece of pottery was placed in the Museum of London's Archaeological Archive, where it sat untouched for nearly four decades.

When volunteers for the museum noticed it, they discovered something that could change the way the world views ancient London forever.

Londinium may have been home to Christians earlier than previously believed.

Londinium may have been home to Christians earlier than previously believed.

Highlights

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)
4/5/2016 (3 years ago)

Published in Europe

Keywords: Pottery, Christians, pot, archaeology, Londinium


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - London's early name was Londinium and did not include a Christian population until the fourth century, after Roman rule.

The pottery fragment discovered in the museum's archive had been lost among several forgotten fragments discovered beneath what is now Brendtford, west London.

Upon closer inspection, the Greek "chi" (X) and "ro" (P) were discovered. Combined, they are the first two letters of the Greek "Christos," meaning Christ.

Archaeology Collections Manager Adam Corsini stated: "At first we noticed there was some sort of mark on the pot and then quickly realised the significance of what we had.

"Christian symbols from the Roman period are rare, especially from sites within Londinium's surrounding Hinterland [which includes modern Brentford] and there are only a few examples within our collections relating to London."

Roc Stephenson, the Head of Archaeological Collections, told Mail Online there are only 6 other examples of Christian symbols etched into Roman artifacts from Londinium - all of which were discovered in central parts of the city with "nothing in the outskirts."

Though other objects with the Greek X and P have been discovered, Corsini admitted: "[W]e can't say ... that Roman London and its Hinterland were practicing Christianity, it does suggest that Christians were at least present at some point in 4th Century Roman Brentford."

Ancient pottery indicates Christians may have been in London earlier than currently believed.

Ancient pottery indicates Christians may have been in London earlier than currently believed (Museum of London).

 Stephenson explained Londithium practiced religious tolerance and Christianity was not forced onto others. Religions were so tolerant of each other that several examples of two or more merging have been discovered.

"The layout of the Temple of Mithras in London wasn't unlike that of a church, with an altar at the front," Stephenson described. "There was a certain amount of similarity between religions.

London was a port with new ideas coming in - not just goods like olive oil and wine - ideas permeated from London to Brentford - one day's journey away at the time."

Of the pottery, Stephenson said: "I don't think the pot's anything unusual in itself - probably the base of a bowl. We can't say for sure that it's a liturgical or part of a set like those found in more recent churches, but why else would you do it? We don't know if the monogram was made when the pot was, or scratched into it before or after it was broken."

The pottery fragment with the Christian words is currently on display at the Museum of London for the first time. 

Meanwhile, volunteers continue to explore other fragments and artifacts located in small collections within the Museum.

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