SATURDAY 18.10.14 at 5PM
For over two millennia, clays with perceived medicinal or alexipharmic properties have been recovered in bulk, processed into small troches or pastilles and stamped with a device or ‘seal’ as an indicator of their origin; this practice lent them their commonly applied name – terra sigillata or sealed earth. The first records are confined to the Mediterranean and Aegean regions, but early in the post-medieval period other sources in central and northern Europe came to be exploited. The history of this process of expansion is traced, the principal products of the major sources are identified by their respective seals, and some assessment is made of the validity of claims made for the effectiveness of such clays.
Arthur MacGregor spent almost thirty years as a curator in the Department of Antiquities at the Ashmolean Museum, where his responsibilities and interests spanned the period from the Roman empire to the nineteenth century. His publication record there includes volumes on the museum’s Roman engraved gems, on Anglo-Saxon and Migration Period antiquities, and on the museum’s founding collection from the seventeenth century. He has a long-standing interest in the history of collections, which has resulted in several edited books and a monograph, Curiosity and Enlightenment (Yale University Press, 2008). He co-founded the Journal of the History of Collections (Oxford University Press), currently in its twenty-sixth year, which he continues to edit. Another of his interests, on the interface between man and the animal world, led to another volume, Animal Encounters. Human and Animal Interaction in Britain from the Norman Conquest to World War One (Reaktion Books, 2012). A further volume, The Cobbe Cabinet of Curiosities (Yale University Press), is currently in press. He is also co-general editor of The Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo (Royal Collection) and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and of the Linnean Society of London.