Date:

Pristine Roman sculp​ture discovered by a​rchaeologists​

Archaeologists have discovered an extraordinary Roman sculpture in the form of an eagle firmly grasping a writhing serpent in its beak.

The find was uncovered on a site in the City of London, ahead of development of a 16 storey 291 bed hotel by Scottish Widows Investment Partnership (SWIP) and its development partners Endurance Land. The team from MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) were at first hesitant to announce the discovery and to proclaim its Roman origins, owing to its almost unbelievable condition.

- Advertisement -

Specialists have now confirmed that the sculpture dates to the 1st or 2nd century AD. Depictions of eagles and serpents are typically Roman but the closest comparison to this sculpture comes from Jordan. The symbolism is understood as the struggle of good, the eagle, against evil, the snake. This theme is common in funerary contexts and an important Roman cemetery is known to have been located on the site. Archaeologists believe that this statue once adorned a rich mausoleum, the foundations of which were also unearthed. The lack of weathering on the statue corroborates this theory, as does the absence of detail on the back of the sculpture; suggesting it once sat it an alcove.

Described by experts as ‘amongst the very best statues surviving from Roman Britain’, the skill of the craftsman is apparent; with the forked tongue of the snake and the individual feathers of the eagle still clearly discernible today. Some 65cm tall and 55cm wide, the sculpture is made from oolitic limestone from the Cotswolds. A well-known and celebrated school of Romano-British sculptors worked in the area but to date examples of their exquisite work has been scant and fragmentary.

Michael Marshall, MOLA Finds Specialist, said: “The eagle is a classically Roman symbol and this new find provides a fascinating new insight into the inhabitants of Roman London and demonstrates their familiarity with the iconography of the wider classical world. Funerary sculpture from the city is very rare and this example, perhaps from inside a mausoleum, is a particularly fine example which will help us to understand how the cemeteries and tombs that lined the roads out of the city were furnished and the beliefs of those buried there.”

Reverend Professor Martin Henig, said: “The sculpture is of exceptional quality, the finest sculpture by a Romano-British artist ever found in London and amongst the very best statues surviving from Roman Britain. Its condition is extraordinary; the carving as crisp as on the day it was carved. All it has lost is the surface paint, probably washed away when it was deposited in a ditch.”

Calum Flockhart, Investment Manager, SWIP Property Trust, said: “This has been an exciting project for the SWIP Property Trust not only from a real estate perspective but from an archaeological one too. It’s not every day that a fine Roman sculpture is discovered in pristine condition on one of our development sites. As a responsible developer, it’s great to be part of the project team that helped make this discovery happen.”

- Advertisement -

The object will go on display for 6 months at the Museum of London from the 30th of October 2013 so that members of the public can see this rare and remarkable piece in all its glory.

Header Image : 1. Minories Eagle and Serpent (c) MOLA, Andy Chopping

Contributing Source : MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology)

- Advertisement -
spot_img
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
spot_img

Mobile Application

spot_img

Related Articles

Study confirms palace of King Ghezo was site of voodoo blood rituals

A study, published in the journal Proteomics, presents new evidence to suggest that voodoo blood rituals were performed at the palace of King Ghezo.

Archaeologists search for home of infamous Tower of London prisoner

A team of archaeologists are searching for the home of Sir Arthur Haselrig, a leader of the Parliamentary opposition to Charles I, and whose attempted arrest sparked the English Civil War.

Tartessian plaque depicting warrior scenes found near Guareña

Archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology of Mérida (IAM) and the CSIC have uncovered a slate plaque depicting warrior scenes at the Casas del Turuñuelo archaeological site.

Archaeologists find a necropolis of stillborn babies

Excavations by the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap) have unearthed a necropolis for stillborn and young children in the historic centre of Auxerre, France.

Researchers find historic wreck of the USS “Hit ‘em HARDER”

The Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) has confirmed the discovery of the USS Harder (SS 257), an historic US submarine from WWII.

Archaeologists uncover Roman traces of Vibo Valentia

Archaeologists from the Superintendent of Archaeology Fine Arts and Landscape have made several major discoveries during excavations of Roman Vibo Valentia at the Urban Archaeological Park.

Archaeologists uncover crypts of the Primates of Poland

Archaeologists have uncovered two crypts in the collegiate church in Łowicz containing the Primates of Poland.

Giant prehistoric rock engravings could be territorial markers

Giant rock engravings along the Upper and Middle Orinoco River in South America could be territorial markers according to a new study.