Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Stone head of Geordie 'god' found

The 1,800-year-old carved stone head of a possible Geordie Roman god
The 1,800-year-old carved stone head of a possible Geordie Roman god
Students dig on the site at Binchester Roman Fort, near Bishop Auckland
The carved stone head was found at Binchester Roman Fort, near Bishop Auckland

An 1,800-year-old carved stone head of a possible Geordie Roman god has been discovered buried in an ancient rubbish dump.

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 20cm sandstone head, which dates from the 2nd or 3rd century AD, is similar to Celtic deity Antenociticus, thought to have been worshipped locally as a source of inspiration in war.

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

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

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.

The find was made as part of a five-year project at Binchester Roman Fort which is attempting to shed new light on the twilight years of the Roman Empire.

The dig is a joint project between Durham University's Department of Archaeology, site owner Durham County Council, Stanford University's Archaeology Centre and the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland.

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