Wimpole archaeological dig uncovers Celtic goddess figurine and 2,000-year-old settlement

A 5cm copper alloy human figurine was the key find during the Wimpole archaeological dig. Picture: J

A 5cm copper alloy human figurine was the key find during the Wimpole archaeological dig. Picture: James Fairbairn - Credit: Archant

An archaeological dig at Wimpole Estate has uncovered a settlement dating back 2,000 years – including a small figurine thought to represent the god of fertility.

Hundreds of artefacts were uncovered during the National Trust’s dig at Lamp Hill, which suggest the settlement was built between 100BC and 150AD.

Among the 300 finds were coins, cosmetic implements, horse harness fittings, brooches and a ring.

One find has excited archaeologists more than any other as Shannon Hogan, National Trust archaeologist for the East of England, explained.

“The most striking find of the dig for me was a small 5cm copper alloy human figurine, made in the second Century AD,” she said.

“The faceless individual appears to be holding a ‘torc’ – a high status Celtic neck ring and is thought to represent the god ‘Cernunnos’ – the god of fertility.

“Talking to the finds specialists, it is possible that this item is one of only two figurines of this particular deity to have ever been discovered.

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“However, to me, this figurine represents more than this deity, it almost seems like the enigmatic ‘face’ of the people living in the landscape some 2,000 years ago.

“The artefact is Roman in origin, but symbolises a Celtic deity and therefore exemplifies the continuation of indigenous religious and cultural symbolism in Romanised societies.”

The findings seem to suggest that the settlement was self sustaining, while imported pottery and fragments of glass vessels point to a strong trading network.

However, there were some objects found – such as a military uniform fittings, a spearhead and an axe head – that led archaeologists to believe it could have been used by the Roman military.

The site was a popular visitor attraction during the summer months, with around 2,500 people coming to take a look at findings on daily tours and open weekends.

The excavation work also saw more than 60 volunteers recruited to assist with the dig, while National Trust staff from across the East of England also got involved,

The National Trust is hoping to unravel the mystery of the site when post-excavation work gets under way.

Findings will be cleaned, catalogued and analysed, with the hope of them being used at future Wimpole exhibitions.