Friday, October 10, 2014


THE face of a goddess who was worshipped in the days when Hadrian and Antinous visited Hadrian's Wall has seen the light of day for the first time in 1,800 years.

The small, finely carved stone female head was unearthed by a volunteer on the community archaeology project WallQuest at Arbeia Roman fort in South Shields, near Newcastle, England.

The eyes, nose, mouth and hairstyle are all delicately carved, and traces of pink paint still survive on the statue's face.

It is thought that she is Brigantia, goddess of the Brigantes, the tribe whose territory included what is now northeastern England.

A statue of Brigantia was found near Dumfries in southern Scotland in 1731 and also wears a mural crown.

It is also known that this northern goddess was worshipped at South Shields as an altar dedicated to Brigantia was discovered in 1895 only 100 meters away from the current find spot. 

The altar can be seen on display in Arbeia Fort Museum.

"The Roman army was anxious to placate the goddess of what may have been seen as an inhospitable and hostile region, and these finds suggest that there may have been a shrine to Brigantia – the northern goddess – somewhere close to the present excavation site," said WallQuest project manager Nick Hodgson.

The head was found in an aqueduct channel that was filled in about AD 208 to make way for the enlargement of the Roman fort when it was turned into a supply base for Hadrian’s Wall.

"It looks as if the shrine got in the way of the extension to the fort and had to be demolished, and the statue was broken up then," said Nick.

Alex Croom, keeper of archaeology at Tyne Wear Archives and Museums, said: -"The Romans believed that every place had a deity which looked after that location and perhaps they thought Brigantia must be the one. The statue would have been painted and part of a shrine."

Other representations of gods found at South Shields include Mercury and Mars.

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