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Incredible Roman bronze unearthed in Gloucestershire

Published
27.09.2017

Lucky metal detectorist’s breathtaking find is first in British history

news

A hoard of ancient Roman bronze artefacts discovered in Gloucestershire includes a unique sculpture of a ‘licking’ dog, never found before in Britain – and archaeologists have a fascinating theory about its origins and why it was hidden.

The discovery was made by a local metal detectorist who contacted the archaeology team.

The licking dog is an example of a healing statue, and may be linked to the Roman healing temple at Lydney.

However there is also the possibility that a previously undiscovered Roman temple may be sited elsewhere in Gloucestershire.

The artefacts appear to have been deliberately broken and hidden – with the exception of the dog statue, which, fortunately, remains intact. Archaeologists believe the items could have been stashed by a metal worker who intended to retrieve them at a later date in order to melt and re-cast them.

The artefacts are of such significance that they need to be kept under special conditions for insurance reasons, and are currently being stored at Bristol museum, where they are being photographed and catalogued on an online database.

Experts are piecing together the clues, and the findings will be presented by the British Museum at a launch event, likely to take place around the end of the year.

A catalogue of the items is being created, you can view it here: https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/865434

Cllr Nigel Moor, cabinet member for fire, planning and infrastructure said: “How wonderful to have made such an astonishing discovery, and what a fantastic coup for Gloucestershire! The prospect of more hidden treasures buried here in the county is an exciting one indeed for local residents and historians alike Congratulations to Pete Cresswell on making this find and fitting another piece into the jigsaw puzzle of Gloucestershire’s rich heritage.”

Finder Pete Cresswell, who discovered the items with his brother in law Andrew Boughton, said: “It’s not every day you come across a hoard of roman bronze! We have been metal detecting for a combined 40 years, but this is a once in a lifetime discovery.

“As soon as I realised the items were of historical significance I contacted the local archaeology team, who were equally excited by the find. It’s a great privilege to be able to contribute to local and British history.”

Archaeologist Kurt Adams, Gloucestershire and Avon Finds Liaison Officer, said: “This Roman hoard dates to the 4th century and mostly contains items that have been deliberately broken, ranging from small vessel fittings to a large bronze statue. Most amazing of all is a complete and finely detailed standing dog statue, which is a unique find for British archaeology.”

The Treasure Act 1996

Under the Treasure Act (finds. org.uk/treasure) finders have a legal obligation to report all finds of potential Treasure to the local coroner in the district in which the find was made. The success of the Act is only possible through the work of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, advising finders of their legal obligations, providing advice on the process and writing reports for coroners on Treasure finds.

The Act allows a national or local museum to acquire Treasure finds for public benefit. If this happens a reward is paid, which is (normally) shared equally between the finder and landowner. Interested parties may wish to waive their right to a reward, enabling museums to acquire finds at reduced or no cost. Rewards are fixed at the full market value of the finds, determined by the Secretary of State upon the advice of an independent panel of experts, known as the Treasure Valuation Committee.

The administration of the Treasure process is undertaken at the British Museum. This work involves the preparation of Treasure cases for coroners’ inquests, providing the secretariat for the Treasure Valuation Committee, and handling disclaimed cases and the payment of rewards.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme

Thousands of archaeological objects are discovered every year, many by members of the public, particularly by people while metal-detecting. If recorded, these finds have great potential to transform archaeological knowledge, helping archaeologists understand when, where and how people lived in the past.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme (www.finds.org.uk) offers the only proactive mechanism for recording such finds, which are made publicly available on its online database. This data is an important educational and research resource that can be used by anyone interested in learning more.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme is managed by the British Museum, and funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport through a grant, the British Museum and local partners. Its work is guided by the Portable Antiquities Advisory Group, whose membership includes leading archaeological, landowner and metal-detecting organisations.