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Rare Roman Pottery with 'Christ' Symbol Found in London

03-31-2016

A pottery fragment bearing Christian symbols has been found among a number of artifacts unearthed in West London.

The find reveals that during the 4th century early Christ followers were living in Brentford in Roman times.

The piece, while homely in sight, has been described as a "tantalizing find" because it sheds light on the spread of Christianity from London, or Londinium as it was known, during that time.

The artifact was originally excavated in 1970 during digs at Brentford High Street, but records do not indicate that its value was noticed at that time.

Volunteers at the Museum of London's Archaeological Archive recently made the discovery of two significant symbols found on the pottery.

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

The piece is marked with a monogram of a chi (X) and rho (P), the first two letters of the Greek word "Christos," meaning Christ.

"Christian symbols from the Roman period are rare, especially from sites within Londinium's surrounding Hinterland, which includes moder Brentdor and there are only a few examples within our collections relating to London," Corsini told The Daily Mail

Roy Stephenson, head of Archaeological Collections, told MailOnline that he has only found six examples of Christian symbols on Roman artifacts from London.

"Although we can't say from one object 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," Corsini said.

Stephenson said Christianity was one of many religions followed by residents of Londinium, although no Roman church was ever founded in the city.

He explained that Christianity was not forced on people as society was tolerant of many beliefs.

"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," he said.

However, this discovery is reshaping expert views of Brentford as it would have been in Roman times. Stephenson said Brentford may have been more cosmopolitan than originally thought.

Although the pottery shard itself is speculated to be the base of a bowl, its discovery is shedding light on the town.

The artifact is now on display at the Museum of London for the first time.

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