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Lindsay, who carries her numerous academic qualifications with ease, gave a highly informative and much enjoyed presentation to a nearly packed lecture room at Claremont, Leeds (19.05.12) .

Since Iron Age homes, usually round houses in small family compounds, were rarely, if ever left unattended and contained very little in the way of valuables which in any case could be buried under the floor, security was not really an issue before the advent of Roman rule c43BC, when rectangular buildings with solid, locking doors were introduced.

Speaking from her vast experience as an active excavator, Lindsay applied her analytical expertise to interpreting finds, beginning with keys and locks, made of wood, bronze and iron dating from c43AD. She warned us not to dismiss thin metal strips which could well be early Roman keys! Illustrated keys included those on finger rings- after all Roman clothing was pocket-free.  The shape of keys, locks and padlocks became increasingly complicated to keep ahead of the wiles of the thief (plus ca change! Author).

Lead “curse tablets” beseeching vengeance from the gods, were created by bereft victims of theft, numerous examples being found in bath houses, where items not guarded by slaves were easy pickings. Coin forgery was also a frequent crime, witnessed by finds   
of moulds, while clipping of coins provided the necessary materials and melted down bronze coins were discovered near Hadrian’s Wall.

Roman armies brought an increasingly international and mobile male population, particularly noticeable at the more distant forts, inevitably leading to boisterous, drunken, and sometimes violent behaviour. The bodies of a male and a female excavated from under the floor of an inn at Housesteads and a child’s body hidden under a paving slab at Vindolanda may well be testament to this.

Recorded crimes, ranged from murder, theft, and vandalism and punishment from fines, whipping, banishment to the salt mines and beheading. Perjury was rated a very serious crime - (meriting the wrath of the gods whose names were invoked?  Author). For the archaeologist, poisoning rarely leaves any trace, unlike a stabbing, but rape has been assumed from the find of a pair of ripped open, leather knickers.  

In summing up security finds Lindsay reported that keys and locks were predominant in the first and second centuries, but keys  etc. were fewer in the third and fourth when many more hoards were buried...reflections of troubled times.

Maureen Berlin

LOCKS, KEYS AND THE CRIMINOUS – SECURITY IN ROMAN BRITAIN
Summary of Lecture delivered on 19th May 2012 by Lindsay Allison-Jones (University of Newcastle )