‘TOT’ Finger Rings

Types of finger rings inscribed with 'TOT'.

Types of finger rings inscribed with ‘TOT’.

Finger rings with bearing the inscription ‘TOT’ are well known finds in Roman Britain. These rings date to the second and third centuries AD and are a group that display strong regionalism. Up to seventy of these are known, the majority of which have been found in the region of the Corieltauvi, especially in what is now Lincolnshire.

The inscription ‘TOT’ is an abbreviation of the deity Totatis, who was one of the principle Celtic deities in Gaul and Britain. The abbreviation ‘TOT’ is most commonly engraved in silver rings but a few are copper alloy and rarely in gold. One ring from Hockliffe, Bedfordshire (in the civitas of the Catuvellauni) has an expanded inscription reading ‘DEO TOTA’ which affirms that ‘TOT’ should be read as an abbreviated form of the god Totatis. The name of the Celtic deity is read as Toutatis, Toutates, Teutatis, Toutiorix and Teutanus according to a number of inscriptions from the Roman world.

These rings offer a further opportunity to comment on the regional popularity of a Celtic deity in the Roman period. Totatis is notably absent from inscriptions in Lincolnshire other than finger rings, although three stone inscriptions from other regions of Britain bear witness to him and his conflation with the god Mars. The names of Mars and Totatis are also associated in the hoard from Barkway, Herefordshire, probably from a temple or shrine dedicated to Mars.

headfirst

Beyond Britain ‘Toutatis’ is known from various stone inscriptions in Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary and even Rome. Furthermore, Toutatis is referred to in the Bellum Civile written by the Roman poet Lucan (AD 39-65) and the Berne Scholia, annotations to a 9th-century manuscript of the Bellum Civile described the worship of Toutatis entailing human sacrifice, carried out by the means of plunging the victim headfirst in a vat of liquid until drowned.

It may be worth drawing attention to the popularity of the boar as a symbol on the metalwork of the Corieltauvi, which feature a number of small life-like figurines on Corieltauvian coinage, and perhaps most famously, on the Witham shield. The boar is perhaps a martial emblem and to be symbolically linked to Mars and Totatis.

The findspots of ‘TOT’ rings appear in all but a few cases to lie within the boundaries hypothesized for the Roman period civitas of the Corieltauvi, which are usually thought to be based on the Iron Age tribal area, as reconstructed from coins and major geographical features such as the river Trent as well as the territorium for the colony at Lincoln. On the basis of the name’s etymology – the Proto-Celtic world teuta means ‘people’ or ‘tribe’ – Toutatis has been interpreted as being the ‘tribal protector’. This interpretation is reinforced by the strong Coreltauvian distribution of the rings.

With every new discovery of ring and inscription the deity who was once just an enigmatic abbreviation becomes more established as a key tribal deity in Roman Britain.

Some examples of ‘TOT’ rings:
Primary material: Silver
Unique ID: LIN-49FA33
92%20Caenby%20Corner
Primary material: Copper alloy
Unique ID: LIN-4A2603
94%20Willoughby%20on%20the%20Wolds
Primary material: Silver
Finger Ring 020468
020468
Primary material: Silver
Unique ID: LIN-B34626
2009_T742
Primary material: Silver
Unique ID: LIN-25CD0D
LIN25CD0D
Primary material: Silver
Unique ID: LIN-B2E964
LIN9264
Primary material: Silver
Unique ID: LIN-0E52F5
LIN9215
Primary material: Silver
Unique ID: LIN-DF32B4
2014_T85
Primary material: Silver
Unique ID: LIN-4DD4D5
86_Catterick



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