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The Trimontium Museum Archive

Caracalla Intaglio: NMS ref X.2000.4

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Red jasper intaglio showing Caracalla, eldest son of Septimius Severus, in a youthful portrait. Early 3rd century. A beardless Caracalla such as this appears on coins from AD205-9, representing him as Augustus. The rich texture of his hair follows the late Severan patterned style. 

The intaglio was found by fieldworker and founder of the Trimontium Trust, Walter Elliot, inside the Trimontium Fort near the north gate.  

The find is of great importance. It adds significantly to the evidence suggesting that Severus concentrated his forces at Trimontium during his Caledonian campaign. This indicates that either Trimontium was occupied longer than previously thought or that it had a brief period of military activity during the Severan campaigns. Other evidence of 3rd century occupation include: pottery, a sliver of another intaglio and coins of Severus and his wife Julia Domna. 

According to J. W. Elliot & M. Henig, the intaglio also supports the theory that there was a workshop in Britain between c.208-212 for the making of ‘loyalty tokens’, used as imperial gifts and propaganda. 

The gem can be compared with two other red jasper intaglios. One from South Shields -now lost- showing Caracalla as Mercury. Another one from Birdoswald, Northumberland, depicting Caracalla’s younger brother Geta. 

This intaglio is on display at Trimontium Museum, Melrose, Scottish Borders – along with 4 others found at the Trimontium fort site in nearby Newstead.

For more information:

Image © National Museums Scotland. 

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