A pair of amateur metal detectorists scouring a site in their native Gloucestershire stumbled upon a cache of unique bronze Roman artifacts, some of which are the first such items found in British history.
The cache, which dates back to the last decades of the ancient Roman occupation of Britain in the 4th century, was discovered by Pete Cresswell and his brother-in-law Andrew Boughton.
Among the artifacts was a complete bronze statue of a “licking dog” thought to be the first of its kind ever found on the island. Archeologists believe it’s an example of a “healing statue.”
In ancient Rome, dogs were considered to have healing properties because they aid their own healing process by licking themselves. Archaeologists believe that a healing temple could be in the vicinity, just waiting to be discovered.
“It’s not every day you come across a hoard of roman bronze! We have been metal detecting for a combined 40 years, but this is a once in a lifetime discovery,” Cresswell said in a statement issued by Gloucestershire County Council.
“As soon as I realized the items were of historical significance I contacted the local archaeology team, who were equally excited by the find. It’s a great privilege to be able to contribute to local and British history,” he added.
The licking dog is one of the few complete pieces unearthed by Creswell. The remainder, fragments of metal boxes, pieces of statues and bronze jewelry, seem to have been deliberately broken and hidden.
Archeologists speculate that they may have been stashed by an entrepreneurial metalworker, perhaps to be melted down and re-cast at a later date.
“This Roman hoard dates to the 4th century and mostly contains items that have been deliberately broken, ranging from small vessel fittings to a large bronze statue,”said archaeologist Kurt Adams.
“Most amazing of all is a complete and finely detailed standing dog statue, which is a unique find for British archaeology.”
For now, the exact location of the find is being kept a secret to stop other treasure enthusiasts contaminating the site. Experts are currently pouring over Cresswell’s treasure trove and will present their findings at the British Museum later this year.