The Roman excavations at Arbeia originate from the 1870s. The finds recovered by the Victorian excavators form the focus of the present collection which is one of the largest and most important from Hadrian's Wall.
The collection includes coins, engraved gem stones, jet ornaments, seal boxes, imperial sealings, brooches, pins, ear-rings and military equipment, including a hoard of swords. There is also a large collection of pottery ranging from cooking wares to highly decorated tablewares. A rich collection of inscribed stones, altars and graffiti refer to individual people and places as diverse as France, Spain and Syria as well as Southern Britain.
At Arbeia, modern excavations of the interior of the Fort have taken place but considerable research has also been undertaken in the civilian settlement (vicus). This has provided a broad and balanced picture of life at Arbeia during the Roman occupation of the site.
Some of the most impressive finds include:
Complete Ringmail Suit
This is the best preserved ringmail suit in the country, recovered from a barrack building destroyed in a large fire. Those with sharp eyesight will not only see the individual 7mm links, but also the small 1mm rivets closing the links!
This tombstone shows Regina sitting in a wicker chair with her jewellery box and basket of wool beside her. Regina came from southern Britain and was the slave, and later the wife, of Barates from Syria.
This tombstone shows Victor reclining on a highly decorated couch being served a drink by a slave. Victor came from North Africa and was the slave of a soldier from Spain.
The Fort has one of the largest collections of lead seals in the country. Some of them show the heads of the Emperor Septimius Severus and his two sons, who almost certainly visited Arbeia when they came to Britain. The sealings were used on official military supplies, perhaps in a similar way to modern customs sealings.
Arbeia has one of the finest collections of Roman jet in the country. The collection includes finger rings, bracelets, beads, an animal head and spindlewhorls.