THIS has been an amazing summer of archaeological discoveries along Hadrian's Wall in northern Britain ... ranging from hundreds of Roman shoes to bronze sculptures of deities ... and even to the first-ever Roman kitty-cat skull.
Some 350 shoes have been unearthed at Vindolanda Roman Fort since April. They include small children's shoes, ladies slippers and Roman army marching boots ... all showing signs of wear and having been repaired.
Experts believe the shoes were dumped in 212 AD ... thus accidentally preserving them for succeeding centuries.
Other recent discoveries include the tiny bronze bust of the god Apollo. You can be forgiven for thinking the bust could be Antinous ... since Antinous was often identified with Apollo.
But the characteristic top-knot hair style shows it is Apollo.
The Vindolanda team also unearthed the 2,000-year-old skull of a Roman cat ... the first Roman feline to be found at that site in 40 years of digging.
As the small skull was cleaned and photographed, dig personnel quipped that they hoped to find the wooden cat flap next!
Meanwhile nearby, volunteers working at Arbeia, a Roman fort in South Shields, England, have discovered a beautiful and amazingly crafted bronze figure of Ceres, the Roman goddess of grain, agriculture and fertility.
Ceres was an appropriate goddess for Arbeia, as it was the supply base for grain, thousands of tons of it, which were stored in the granaries there and used to feed the army that was stationed at Hadrian's Wall.
Thought to have once been attached to a larger furniture piece, this is the second goddess in two years the Wallquest project has unearthed at Arbeia.
In 2014, another volunteer discovered the head of a protective goddess, a tutela, carved out of stone.
The site of the only permanent stone granaries left in Britain, the fort, constructed sometime around 120 AD, was occupied until the 5th Century AD when the Romans left Britain.
One possible interpretation of Arbeia is "fort of the Arab troops," which refers to a time when Mesopotamian boatmen were garrisoned there.
It was not uncommon for Roman forts to be manned by troops from somewhere else within the empire, where they often assimilated and recruited locally.
Ceres, the goddess of the harvest, was credited with teaching mankind how to grow, and then preserve and prepare corn and grain. She was also believed to be responsible for the fertility of the land.
The only god involved in the day-to-day lives of common people, she is typically portrayed holding a scepter or a farming tool with one hand, and a basket of fruit, grain or flowers with the other.
Hadrian's Wall, also known as the Roman Wall, was a defensive fortification in the Roman province of Britannia during the rule of Hadrian, Roman emperor between 117 CE and 138 AD.
Built along the River Tyne, it was constructed to mark the northern limit of the Roman Empire. The total length of the wall was 80 Roman miles or 73 modern miles (117.5 km).