Friday, July 5, 2013


EXPERTS in Britain have unearthed a bust of an obscure and mysterious curly-haired deity who may have been the guise of Antinous as he was worshiped by Roman Legions stationed at Hadrian's Wall.

The 1,800-year-old carved stone head of the local war god Antenociticus was discovered buried in an ancient rubbish dump at a fort near the Wall.

The discovery was made by a first-year archaeology student at Binchester Roman fort, near Bishop Auckland in County Durham, as the team dug through an old bath house.

The 20 cm (8 inch) sandstone head, which dates from the 2nd or 3rd Century AD, is almost certainly the Celtic deity Antenociticus, thought to have been identified with Antinous and worshipped locally as a source of inspiration in war.

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

Dr David Petts, a 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 possibly a local god, though it could have been worshipped at the other end of the wall."

Antinous in the guise of Antenociticus is not mentioned at any other Romano-British site or on any inscriptions from Europe, which is why it has been identified as a local deity.

Archaeologically there is a period of time in AD 126 to 127 when we have no record of where Hadrian was. We do know, however, that the wall was completed in Ad 128.

It is believed he would have come to Britannia to oversee the final stages of the wall. It is further believe he would have brought Antinous with him.

That is why the locals (mostly of mixed Roman and British blood, by then) connected Antinous to a local deity Citicus and re-named him Antenociticus.

Hence the mysterious ruined temple dedicated to Antenociticus, beside the wall.

Alex Kirton, 19, from Hertfordshire, who found the head, said: "As an archaeology student this is one of the best things and most exciting things that could have happened.

"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."

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