AN iconic Roman cavalry tombstone will be returned to Lancaster and officially unveiled by Lancashire County Council and the Lancashire Museums Service at Lancaster City Museum on Wednesday 15 October 2008.
The long awaited unveiling will be attended by a number of county councillors and partner agencies to witness this special event in celebration of its return to Lancaster.
The impressive tombstone, dating back to 100 AD, was discovered in Lancaster in November 2005 during an excavation in Aldcliffe Road by the Greater Manchester Archaeology Unit which is based at the University of Manchester.
Described by a number of scholars as ‘unique’ and of ‘significant archaeological importance’, the massive stone – almost six feet in height and approximately 1500lbs in weight, depicts a quarter master or junior officer of the ala Augusta [p.8] riding with the severed head of a barbarian enemy in his hand.
Since its discovery, Lancashire County Council and the Museums Service together with Lancaster City Council secured funding from the Museums, Libraries and Archives (MLA) Purchase Grant Fund, Haverfield Bequest (supporting research on Roman Britain), and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Specialist staff at the county council’s conservation studio in Preston have since worked to conserve the tombstone so it is suitable for permanent public display in Lancaster, where it will be placed in its most fitting setting at Lancaster City Museum, not far from the site where it has lain for almost 2000 years.
County Councillor Anne Brown, cabinet member for adult and community services said:
“It is fantastic that we have been able to save this important piece and keep it here in Lancaster for the people of Lancashire to learn from and enjoy. This is a great example of how Lancashire County Council along with the city council and other public bodies and agencies have worked in partnership together to preserve part of Lancashire’s heritage and continue to offer interesting and exciting exhibitions through our Museum’s to local people.”
Stephen Bull, curator of Military History and Archaeology for Lancashire Museums, added:
“I am extremely pleased that the tombstone has become part of the local collection in Lancaster and will now be on permanent display after a lot of hard work and effort from all involved with the project.
This stone provides a crucial insight into the history of the county, and an iconic piece of Lancaster’s dramatic past.”
City’s pride on line over Roman find
The plaque is in memory of Lucius Nisus Vodullius, a trooper in the Roman army, and depicts a figure on horseback carrying the head of a decapitated man.
A remarkable Roman find
Historian, Professor David Shotter, recently retired from Lancaster University, told The Visitor: “Such a decapitation scene is very rare on similar tombstones from Roman Britain, and is particularly significant because we are told in the accompanying inscription that this Roman soldier came from Trier (in Germany] and was, therefore, presumably a Celt.
“Celtic people traditionally believed that, by decapitating an enemy, the perpetrator would absorb the dead person’s mental and physical powers.
“It was common in western Europe in late pre-history for the doorposts of Celtic temples to be adorned with niches containing severed heads.
“The date of the stone is not given, but for a number of reasons, it is thought to have belonged to the later years of the first century AD.”