Rare Wing From A Roman Bronze Eagle Found In Gloucester

Archaeologists from Cotswold Archaeology discovered an extremely rare wing from a Roman bronze sculpture of an eagle when they were investigating a site at Brunswick Road in Gloucester, ahead of the construction of the Greyfriars Quarter development by Linden Homes.

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. An x-ray image, taken before the object was cleaned and stabilised, clearly shows the extent of the surviving detail which is representative of plumage and flight feathers.

The most likely interpretation is that the wing came from a figurine of an eagle. The eagle was of particular significance to imperial Rome, adopted by the military as a symbol of strength and prowess, and eagles were also an attribute of the god ‘Jupiter’. Finds of Roman bronze sculpture are incredibly rare in Britain and very few depictions of eagles are known from the province.

Ed McSloy from Cotswold Archaeology said: “It is very unlikely that this was an eagle from a Roman legionary standard – it’s more likely that it became detached from a figurine of the god ‘Jupiter’, although some other possibilities can’t be entirely excluded. It could have come from a representation of the messenger god ‘Mercury’ (who had wings on his helmet or heels), or from the winged goddess ‘Victoria’ (equivalent of the Greek ‘Nike’).”

Sue Scholfield, sales and marketing director for Linden Homes, said: “It’s extremely exciting to discover such a rare find and to learn that Gloucester was such a prestigious city. We will be passing the wing to The Museum of Gloucester once the conservation work is complete, so everyone is able to access such an important local find.”

Andrew Armstrong, city archaeologist at Gloucester City Council, said: “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 wing was uncovered as part of a series of archaeological digs at Greyfriars, which is located in the southern corner of Roman Gloucester. This area contains hugely important 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.”

Cotswold Archaeology has been working on the Greyfriars site for the last three years and the investigations are now drawing to a close. Neil Holbrook, the company’s chief executive, said: “This find once again demonstrates that Gloucester was a high ranking city in Roman Britain and that its public spaces must have been equipped with a number of bronze statues of gods and emperors. They would have formed a constant visual reminder of the heart of the Roman empire for the discharged army veterans who made up most of the population of the Roman city.”

Quality homes are now being built on the site; Greyfriars Quarter is a well-designed new development of one and two bedroom apartments, plus three and four bedroom homes. Located in the very heart of Gloucester, the development name pays homage to the friary church which was adjacent to the development, originally founded in 1231 – the remains of which can still be seen.

For more information about Greyfriars Quarter visit the sales and marketing suite off Brunswick Road, Gloucester, GL1 1HT, open daily 10am to 5pm, call 01452 404519.

Illust. 1 The eagle’s wing before conservation
Illust. 1 The eagle’s wing before conservation
Illust. 2 An x-ray shows the fine depictions of plumage and feathers
Illust. 2 An x-ray shows the fine depictions
of plumage and feathers
Illust. 3 The eagle’s wing after conservation
Illust. 3 The eagle’s wing after conservation

-ENDS-

Media can contact Emma Mackay on 01626 356666 or 07738312960 for more information, images and interviews with Linden Homes.

25 May 2016

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