Beautifully Carved Sandstone Relief Uncovered at Vindolanda

by johnsmith

A sandstone relief which depicts a horseman has been uncovered during at the site of Vindolanda, an ancient Roman military fort and settlement on Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, England.

The ancient sandstone relief found at Vindolanda, England. Image credit: Vindolanda Trust.

The ancient sandstone relief found at Vindolanda, England. Image credit: Vindolanda Trust.

The sandstone relief was uncovered by two Vindolanda volunteers, Richie Milor and David Goldwater, who had been assigned to uncover a flagged floor inside a 4th century building of the ancient fort.

They quickly realized the rugged stone that lay face up amongst the larger smooth flag was something special.

“I saw one of the legs of the horse first and then the pointed top of the relief,” Goldwater said.

“We are just absolutely elated, very proud to be part of this discovery, it was actually very emotional,” Milor added.

“Whether you find something or not we love coming to this site, playing our small part in the research that takes place, but finding this made it a very special day indeed.”

The complete sandstone, which measures 16 by 31.5 cm (6.3 by 12.4 inches), would have originally been fitted into a recess.

Vindolanda archaeologist Marta Alberti and colleagues are now piecing together all the clues to try and establish who the carving may represent.

The nakedness of the man means he is probably a god, rather than a mere cavalryman, he is also carrying a spear in his left arm, a common attribute of the god of War — Mars,” Alberti said.

“However, when you look at his head, the two almost circular features could be identified as wings: a common attribute of Mercury — god of travel.”

“Horses and donkeys are also often associated with Mercury as a protector of travelers.”

“Another clue is not in the find itself but where it was found,” she added.

“The stone floor was very close to that of a large 4th century cavalry barrack.”

“The units residing in the part of the fort may have had their own interpretation of Mars, or Mercury, or a third and so far unidentified version of the god merging the qualities of both.”

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