One of the most iconic objects in our Archaeology collection, this piece of broken pottery was found in an excavation in Manchester city centre in 1978.
It dates from 180 AD. Back then, Manchester was a Roman settlement called Mamucium, consisting of a fort – where soldiers lived and military life was organised – and a civil area that developed outside the fort called vicus. Foreign troops serving in the Roman army came to attend the Mamucium fort. They came from the provinces of Germania, Galia, Hispania… the multicultural Manchester that we know and love has been that way for a long time!
This fascinating Latin inscription may be the earliest evidence of Christianity in northern Britain. It reads ROTAS OPERA TENET AREPO SATOR or ‘Arepo the sower guides the plough with care.’
The words read the same in all directions. Re-arranged the letters spell out Pater Noster or ‘Our Father’, crossing at the N. This omits letters A and O. In the Bible, Jesus said: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.”
The Manchester Wordsquare might have been used as a secret symbol, demonstrating belief in Christianity at a time when the Christian Church was being oppressed by the Roman authorities. Others think it was simply a word puzzle or pastime.
What do you think?