Head Of Unknown Roman God Discovered In Ancient Rubbish Dump

9 July, 2013

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Follow us: - Archaeologists have unearthed an 1,800-year-old carved stone head of what is believed to be a Roman god. The god's identity remains unknown for the moment.

The discovery was made at Binchester Roman Fort, near Bishop Auckland, in County Durham in an ancient rubbish dump.

The sandstone head, which measures about 20 cm by 10 cm was found by first year Durham University archaeology student Alex Kirton.

The carved stone head dates from the 2nd or 3rd century AD and resembles the Celtic deity Antenociticus.

A similar sandstone head, complete with an inscription identifying it as Antenociticus, was found at Benwell, in Newcastle upon Tyne, in 1862.

Stone head of an unknown Roman god. Image credit: Durham University

Dr David Petts, Lecturer in Archaeology at Durham University, said: "We found the Binchester head close to where a small Roman altar was found two years ago.

We think it may have been associated with a small shrine in the bath house and dumped after the building fell out of use, probably in the 4th century AD.

"It is probably the head of a Roman god -- we can't be sure of his name, but it does have similarities to the head of Antenociticus found at Benwell in the 19th century.

Antenociticus is one of a number of gods known only from the northern frontier, a region which seems to have had a number of its own deities.

"It's also an excellent insight into the life and beliefs of the civilians living close to the Roman fort. The style is a combination of classical Roman art and more regional Romano-British traditions. It shows the population of the settlement taking classical artistic traditions and making them their own," Dr. Petts said.

Alex, 19, from Bishop's Stortford, in Hertfordshire, said: "As an archaeology student this is one of the best things and most exciting things that could have happened."

He added: "It was an incredible thing to find in a lump of soil in the middle of nowhere -- I've never found anything remotely exciting as this."

Image credit: Durham University

Now, archaeologists have to figure who the head represents.

Some of the facial features appear to be African, though this remains speculative.

"This is something we need to consider deeply," Dr. Petts said. "If it is an image of an African, it could be extremely important, although this identification is not certain."

"We may never know the true identity of this new head, but we are continuing to explore the building from which it came to help us improve our understanding of late Roman life at Binchester and the Roman Empire's northern frontier in Northern England, "Dr. Petts explained.

See also:
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