Possible Image of Roman God Unearthed at Vindolanda
BBC News reports that two volunteers discovered a piece of sandstone carved with an image of a donkey or horse and a naked man holding a spear at Vindolanda, a Roman fort along Hadrian’s Wall in northern England.
It was found intact near a 4th Century cavalry barrack and it is believed to depict either the Gods Mars or Mercury, although there is no inscription.
The artefact will be on display at the fort’s museum from Thursday.
Site archaeologist Marta Alberti is now piecing together clues to try to establish who the carving represents.
Ms Alberti said: “We are looking at something we have never seen at Vindolanda before and we might not see again.
“The nakedness of the man means he is probably a god, rather than a mere cavalryman, he is also carrying a spear in his left arm, a common attribute of the God of War Mars.
“However, when you look at his head, the two almost circular features could be identified as wings, a common attribute of Mercury – god of travel.
“Horses and donkeys are also often associated with Mercury as a protector of travellers.”
The carving – which measures 6.2in (160mm) wide and 12.4in (315mm) tall – is very well preserved, Ms Alberti said.
It was unearthed by volunteers Richie Milor and David Goldwater who have taken part in annual digs at the fort for the past 15 years.
Mr Milor said: “We are just absolutely elated, very proud to be part of this discovery, it was actually very emotional.
“Whether you find something or not we love coming to this site, playing our small part in the research that takes place, but finding this made it a very special day indeed.”
Due to the pandemic, Vindolanda had to close for many months and furlough staff.
It has is so far raised more than £130,000 of a target of £200,000 as part of its Survival Appeal.
The excavations at Vindolanda will continue until 24 September.