This is an antefix. These had a decorative panel on the front which had a projecting lug of clay on the reverse. The front panel was decorated by pressing the clay into a mould carved to the desired shape.
Roman Roof Tiles Explained
To understand how they were used we need to explain about Roman roof tiles, tegulae and imbrices. Tegulae are flat rectangular tiles with a raised flange down each long side. They were laid in columns side-by-side on a roof. The junctions between the tegulae flanges were then covered by imbrices, which were almost semi-circular in cross-section. The roof tiles were held in place by mortar. Imbrices could also be used to cover the ridge line of the roof. There are two ways an antefix could be used: firstly, they could infill the end of the imbrices at the end of the ridge of the building; secondly, they could infill the ends of the imbrices at the eaves of the roof.
Why Is This Antefix Rare?
While imbrices were common in the Roman Mediterranean area, the further north and west you went in the Roman Empire the rarer they became. They are rare in York. The two commonest designs from York both feature a face, and the example from the Micklegate excavation is the less common of the two designs. The projecting lug on the back is missing. It is a really unusual find.
Visit The Yorkshire Museum For More
If you want to see complete examples go to the Yorkshire Museum, when you get enter go straight ahead into the Roman exhibit room, and the antefixes are to the immediate right of the entrance.
Written by: Jane McComish, Project Officer