About the Museum


The Shefton Museum, located within the Department of Classics, holds a small but widely recognised collection of artefacts from the Greek world. It was founded in 1956 by Professor B.B. Shefton (now Emeritus Professor of Classical Archaeology) with a grant of 20.00 from the University to purchase three Greek pots. Since then, it has expanded, thanks to a mixture University acquisitions, grants from other museums and academic bodies, and bequests and loans from outside benefactors, into a collection of over 800 objects. While comparatively small by the standards of most museums, it has gained an international reputation under the curatorship of Professor Shefton, and since 1984, that of his successor Professor Tony Spawforth. It also forms an invaluable resource for both teaching and research in Classics and Archaeology, and in related subjects such as art history, and in recent years has been increasingly used as an educational resource for local schools.

The Collection

The collection includes Roman, Near Eastern and Celtic items, but objects of Greek and Etruscan manufacture represent its main focus. The core of the collection is an extensive range of pottery, ranging in date from Mycenaean to Hellenistic. In particular, it holds some fine examples of Attic red-figure and over 100 pieces of Attic black-glaze pottery, as well as Attic white-ground lekythoi, used as oil flasks and often found as offerings at tombs. In addition to the Attic pottery, the museum has a collection of Corinthian pots, characterised by orientalising decoration using motifs adopted from the Near East. There are also examples of Mycenaean and Geometric pottery, red-figure of South Italian and Etruscan manufacture, and Etruscan bucchero pottery.

The museum also holds a smaller, but highly significant, collection of metal objects, mostly in bronze, of Greek and Etruscan manufacture. There are a variety of decorative fittings from metal vessels, and domestic items such as bronze jugs and bowls. Bronze figurines are also well represented, many of which would have been made as votive offerings for religious sanctuaries. The key part of the collection of metalwork is, however, the Greek arms and armour. The museum has several bronze helmets and other items of armour dating to the early 5th century BC, as well as a collection of Greek weapons which includes several Bronze Age swords and a rare bronze spear-butt, probably of Macedonian manufacture and dating to the late 4th century BC.

The museum also holds a collection of sculpture in terracotta and stone. The terracottas are principally small figurines, intended as decorative items or votive offerings, but there are also a number of architectural terracottas. These come from Sicily and Southern Italy and were used to decorate Greek buildings, in preference to the stone architectural sculptures used in other parts of the Greek world. The most striking of these, a Sicilian terracotta depicting the head of a gorgon and dating to the late 6th century BC, is the item used as the'logo' for the Museum and for the Department of Classics.

FOOT.GIF (15366 bytes) Many of the larger stone sculptures are part of a loan to the museum from the Wellcome Foundation which includes a number of Greek items and some later Roman sculpture. The sculpture collection includes a series of portrait busts and grave markers, but the most impressive piece is a large porphyry foot dating to the 3rd-4th century AD. This may have been a votive offering, possibly made to a healing god in thanks for the cure of a foot complaint, but it may also have come from a colossal statue, in which case the complete work would have been approximately 8m in height.