Roman soldier’s belongings bring crowds to fort

STAR ATTRACTION ... visitors are flocking to Arbeia to see the Shield Boss and other artefacts.
STAR ATTRACTION ... visitors are flocking to Arbeia to see the Shield Boss and other artefacts.

THE prized possessions of a Roman soldier, which lay buried for almost 1700 years in the Tyne, is bringing visitors flocking to South Shields.

The world famous Shield Boss is the star attraction at The Glory of Rome: Arbeia’s Greatest Treasures exhibition at Arbeia Roman Fort, South Shields.

Experts have shed light on the fascinating history of the artifact – the central structure of a Roman Shield.

The Boss, which would have protected the soldier’s hand during battle, was discovered in 1866 at the mouth of the Tyne, during a dredging operation to widen and deepen the shipping channel.

It was part of a collection of submerged treasures, which included coins, an inscribed bowl and a cooking pan and is the only complete Shield Boss of its particular type in existence.

Archaeologists believe it was lost when a Roman ship was caught in a storm, sank in or around 180AD.

The boss, which is made of copper alloy, would have been one of around 1.5 million made for legionary soldiers in the duration of the Roman Empire and belonged to Roman legionary Junius Dubitatus.

Alex Croom, keeper of archaeology at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, said: “Soldiers had to buy their own weapons and it must have cost him quite a lot of money as it was coated in silver.

“Thankfully, for us, he had punched his name in the metal and also that he was under the command of Julius Magnus.”

No trace of the vessel has ever been found.

“There are so many shipwrecks at the mouth of the Tyne that a few rotting timbers would be impossible to locate,” said Mr Croom. “And no one knows what became of Junius although it is likely he went down with the ship.

The Glory of Rome exhibition will be on display at Arbeia Roman Fort until December and admission is free.

For more information about the summer events programme visit