Giles MacDonald Lettering
01295 277554

A Roman gravestone

A new Roman gravestone made in collaboration with The Oxfordshire Museum.

In 2003, just outside Bicester, archaeologists discovered 20 fragments of a Roman gravestone – smashed into pieces and used as building material. Carved with the name of a Roman soldier and details of his career it represents the earliest biographical information about someone from Oxfordshire.

As a way of understanding more about the gravestone and how it might have been made The Oxfordshire Museum invited the workshop to carve a replica. In many ways the tools, the hammers and chisels, and the basic technologies used to handle the stone have remained the same. Carving letters today we recognise some of the processes and decisions involved in making similar objects.

The result is an exploration rather than an exact copy of the original. The inscription – the carved lettering – has a vibrancy and interest. Even though we might not understand what it means the carving has an attractiveness that comes from the shapes of the letterforms and their arrangement.

The inscription reads:

Dis Manibus/ L(ucius) Val(erius) L(uci filius) Pol(lia tribu) Gemi/nus For(o) Germ(anorum)/ vet(eranus) Leg(ionis) [I]I Aug(ustae)/ an(norum) L h(ic) s(itus) e(st)/ he(res) c(uravit)/ e(x) t(estamento)

“To the souls of the departed: Lucius Valerius Geminus, the son of Lucius, of the Pollia voting tribe, from Forum Germanorum, veteran of the Second Augustan Legion, aged 50(?), lies here. His heir had this set up in accordance with his will.”

Giles Macdonald

Giles MacDonald designs and makes lettering for memorials and buildings; for inscriptions to commemorate events; for plaques, tablets, headstones and public art.

If you’d like to discuss a possible lettering project we’d love to hear from you. Email the workshop on or call 01295 277554