Rare 2000 year old figurine among finds of an archaeological dig on the Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire

Press release
The 2000 year old figurine discovered during the dig on the Wimpole Estate. It is thought to represent the god ‘Cernunnos’.
Published : 12 Dec 2018

An archaeological dig at the National Trust’s Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire has uncovered a Late Iron Age to Early Roman (c.100 BC – 150AD) rural settlement on the site which is now home to a working farm and Georgian mansion house.

Among the finds is an extremely rare, 5cm long copper alloy human figurine, most likely made in the 2nd Century AD. The faceless individual appears to be holding a ‘torc’, which is a high status Celtic neck ring, and is thought to represent ‘Cernunnos’, the Celtic god of wild things. It is the only metal figurine of this Celtic god known in Britain. 

Shannon Hogan, National Trust Archaeologist for the East of England, said: “This is an incredibly exciting discovery, which to me represents more than just the deity, Cernunnos. 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 settlement is believed to have been at the centre of a strong trading network, with around 300 metal objects uncovered during the dig. The discoveries include coins, cosmetic implements, horse harness fittings, Roman military uniform fittings, a spearhead, an axe head, key handles, brooches, a ring as well as scrap lead and a number of iron nails and other utilitarian objects. 

Following an initial geophysical survey in 2016, Oxford Archaeology East undertook a trial trench evaluation to examine the identified ditches and enclosures, which yielded pottery dating to the Late Iron Age-Early Roman period (c. 100BC to 150AD). Subsequently 1.6 hectares was earmarked for full archaeological excavation in 2018.

The finds from Wimpole are being cleaned, catalogued and analysed and will form the basis of future exhibitions at Wimpole.