chapter  2
15 Pages

Circular lead tanks and their significance

The accumulation of evidence for a Christian component in the Thetford Treasure has resulted in a clear indication that the hoard was not entirely pagan in its origins. To deny this conclusion is to deny the long-accepted identification of a number of Christian symbols and inscriptions. Toynbee (1953: 13) once commented that while Christians borrowed widely from pagan art motifs, pagans themselves did not have any ‘inducement’ to use Christian symbols; elsewhere she wrote that she knew of no instance where a Christian symbol (she was referring to the chi-rho at Frampton) had been accorded a position of prominence in a pagan context (Toynbee 1968: 181). Pagan cults did not need to borrow from Christian symbolism; the reverse was usually the practice. In the Thetford Treasure, the situation we have is not that a pagan cult absorbed such symbols (Johns and Potter 1983: 40); rather that a group of Christians, renouncing their faith, ‘paganised’ their property and added it to the treasure of a small and exclusive cult they formed as part of the pagan revival in the latter half of the fourth century.