In the kitchens of ancient Rome the skimming ladle played an important role alongside utensils such as the harpago (meat hook) or the trulla (small ladle, dipper). With its long metal handle it was used for stirring pieces of food in a large pot and removing them without any liquid.
The well-crafted piece shown here is from between the third and first century BC. It is made of bronze, a precious material at the time, and perforated with a star pattern. This skimming ladle was probably used to filter wine, which was very thick in those days: the sediment had to be removed before drinking. In ancient Rome, wine was often cut with hot water. It could also be drunk cold by adding melted snow that had been poured through a colum (a deep sieve).
Skimming ladles for wine were later adopted by the Christian church. Called couloires, they were used for purifying the wine for communion. Similar ladles may be found in the inventory of many churches today.