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Anatomy of an altar

To read an altar, we must first become familiar with its anatomy. For alongside the text inscribed on the die, we can also ‘read’ the function of the object from its shape and decoration.

The anatomy of an altar Laser scans of the four faces of the altar to Antenociticus from Benwell, Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle upon Tyne. © NU Digital Heritage

  • Focus : bowl shaped depression to receive offering
  • Pulvini: bolsters, depicted here as bunches of incense
  • Capital: the head of the altar
  • Die: inscribed surface
  • Base: The lower section of the altar. Some altars stood on a specially made platform

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Hadrian's Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier

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