A wing from a Roman bronze sculpture, discovered by archaeologists during construction of our Greyfriars Quarter development, has been deposited at the Museum of Gloucester and is now on public display.
Archaeologists from Cotswold Archaeology made the discovery when they were investigating the Brunswick Road site in Gloucester. Recovered from the earthen bank which lay immediately behind the Roman city wall, the 14cm long wing was covered with a thick layer of soil, although some cast-in detail was visible in places.
Professor Martin Henig analysed the wing and confirmed: that it’s made from an alloy of lead and bronze, that the fine detail is in keeping with a 1st century AD date, and that other examples are known from Gloucestershire.
Initially it was thought to be an eagle’s wing but Professor Henig believes it is probable that the wing was originally attached to a statuette of Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory, as the attitude of the wing is unlike that in the majority of depictions of Roman imperial eagles. A further clue comes from the absence of decoration from one surface of the wing; the undecorated surface was not intended to be viewed, as would be the case if the wing was fixed to the back of a figure such as Victoria. No complete statuette of Victoria has survived from Roman Britain, however a full-size statue from Brescia, northern Italy and a statuette from Lyon in France both show Victoria with wings held in a similar ‘falling’ attitude.
Figures and images of Victory would probably have been frequently seen in important Roman military sites, such as Gloucester. Professor Henig concludes that “it is tempting to see the bronze being in some way related to the end of the legionary fortress at Gloucester and its conversion into a colonia (a civilian town which housed army veterans)”.
Laurie Coleman, principal fieldwork manager at Cotswold Archaeology, who managed the archaeological fieldwork, said: “This has been a fantastic project and we have learned a huge amount about the Roman town and the people living within it. Linden Homes has been hugely supportive throughout our work and it is great to make such an evocative discovery towards the end of many years’ hard work, and for it to be made available for public display at the Museum so quickly.”
Chris Harris, managing director for Linden Homes, said: “We are delighted to pass the wing to The Museum of Gloucester to enable everyone to access such an important local find. It’s incredibly exciting to learn about the area’s rich history and imagine what Gloucester must have been like in the 1st century.”
Andrew Armstrong, city archaeologist at Gloucester City Council, commented: “The discovery of the Roman wing is fascinating. It’s a great example of how important archaeological remains can be discovered and protected during modern building works. The area contains hugely significant archaeological remains dating from the Roman and medieval periods and I’m really pleased that Linden Homes has taken such a proactive and positive approach to conserving these important remains for future generations.”
Councillor Lise Noakes, cabinet member for Culture and Leisure at Gloucester City Council, said: “I was amazed at just how much detail the wing contained; it’s just wonderful that we’ve made such an ancient discovery and that others will be able to view it at The Museum of Gloucester.”
David Rice, curator at the Museum of Gloucester commented: “We are delighted to be able to show visitors this fantastic find at the Museum of Gloucester alongside other rare survivals from the Roman city.”
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