Roman artefact found in cupboard
Published 15/03/2013 | 10:31
A Roman stone relief of a Cotswold deity which has been missing for over 100 years has turned up in a castle cupboard.
The artefact, dated 150-350AD, was first found in 1875 during an archaeological dig on the site of what was once a Roman villa in Stancombe Wood, on the estate of Sudeley Castle.
Emma Dent, who was the castle's owner at the time, logged the discovery in her diary together with drawings of the relic.
Historians came across the diary in the 1960s but found no trace of where the Roman altar God had gone, or whether it still existed.
It turned up in a basement cupboard during a routine clear out earlier this month of the archives at the Gloucestershire castle, famous for being the place where Katherine Parr, Henry VIII's last wife, is buried.
Historians have identified the engraved figure, who wears a conical cap, tunic and cloak and holds a bow and arrow, as Cotswold deity Apollo the Hound Prince (Apollo Cunomaglos), not Mars, as they had initially thought from the drawings.
Experts believe there are only seven other known depictions, four from the Cotswolds and three from London. They say the discovery is a significant find for Roman religious history and reveals more about the worship of local gods.
TV presenter and historian Dan Snow said: "Finds like this don't come up very often, particularly in such unusual circumstances. The Romans had such an important impact on British history and finds such as these help us understand better how they lived and the role of religion in their culture."
The Rev Dr Martin Henig, an archaeologist and historian who recorded the relief as 'lost' in his book on Roman sculpture, said: "The authentication of the subject as Apollo Cunomaglos with his bow and arrows is of major significance in furthering our understanding of Roman religion in western Britain.
"Whilst archaeologists had until recently thought that the 19th century drawings of the relief depicted the god Mars, the rediscovery of the stone at Sudeley has revealed his true identity."