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The Tessera Hospitalis sculpture was unveiled on the 1 October 2011 at the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea.

The Tessera Hospitalis is an ancient symbol of friendship and long distance ties. From archaeology and the ancient comedy of Plautus, Poenulus, we know that some 3000 years ago friends exchanged such objects stretching their bonds to each other over hundreds of miles and generations. In a world of the ancient Mediterranean, where people were often on the move, hospitality was key.

This sculpture has been inspired by the ancient Tessera Hospitalis, a small unique token made of ivory, metal or clay, which could be in any shape - a lion, boar, ram, gheko or an abstract symbol … It was made in two parts, each friend holding on to a half as a promise and as a marker of identity to be presented next time they, or their children, reunited. This modern sculpture is an interpretation of the ancient Tessera and what it represents. It is not static but mobile, as it is only one half of the whole. Each shape has been uniquely created by a pupil from one of the 9 Swansea schools that took part in the project Future Memory in Place, Cila, Cwm Glas, Cwmrhydyceirw, Dylan Thomas, Hendrefoilan, Morriston, Parkland, Sea View and St. Helens, as well as other members of the Swansea community. Each of them is the guardian of their Tessera which links them to this monument and the moment of its creation.

What will be the stories of the Tesserae of this sculpture - only those who made them and hold the other half will know - as they extend their ties to each other and the ancient port of Swansea into the future and across the globe.


Restricted Access: Some items in this collection are restricted, as they contain high resolution images. In order to request access to any such restricted data, please contact Dr Elena Isayev and Catrin Webster.


Recent Submissions

  • Tesserae Box Insert 

    Isayev, Elena; Webster, Catrin (University of Exeter, 2013-01-12)
    This is an explanatory insert put into cases which each contained an individual ‘tesserae’. These tesserae were returned to their designers after they had been cut from the Tessera Hospitalis sculpture (displayed at the ...
  • Tessera Hospitalis Sculpture Poster 

    Isayev, Elena; Webster, Catrin (University of Exeter, 2013-02-12)
    This is an explanatory poster of the Tessera Hospitalis sculpture (displayed at the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea), which was made as part of the AHRC-funded 'Future Memory in Place' project. This project united ...
  • The Making of the Tessera Hospitalis Sculpture - Photos 

    Isayev, Elena; Webster, Catrin (University of Exeter, 2013-02-12)
    These photos record the making of the Tessera Hospitalis sculpture, later unveiled at the National Waterfront Museum (Swansea, 1 October 2011), as part of the AHRC-funded 'Future Memory in Place' project. Two items exist, ...

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