Archaeologists find ancient stone head which could be Roman Geordie god
The 1,800-year-old stone head, thought to be of the local god Antenociticus, was found by archaeologists at a 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 second or third century AD, is similar to the 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, 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 fourth 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.
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.”
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 archaeology department, Stanford University’s archaeology centre, the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland, and the site owner, Durham county council.
The Roman God of Benwell – Antenociticus