An extremely rare find of a wing from a Roman bronze sculpture has been found in Gloucester. Archaeologists from Cotswold Archaeology made the find in Brunswick Road where they are investigating a site ahead of the construction of the Greyfriars Development by Linden Homes.
The wing is 14cm long and when found it was covered with a thick layer of soil and corrosion. It has now been cleaned to reveal finely cast detail representative of plumage and flight feathers. The form and treatment of the wing is similar that seen on eagle statuettes and other eagle imagery from the Roman world.
The eagle was of particular significance to imperial Rome, an attribute of the god Jupiter and adopted by the military as a symbol of strength and prowess. Wings that are eagle-like in form are also a feature of Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory and equivalent of the Greek Nike. The form and some other details of the Gloucester wing make it likely that it comes from a winged victory statuette.
Finds of Roman bronze sculpture are extremely rare finds from Britain, and very few depictions of Victoria or eagles are known from the province. The Gloucester example was recovered from the earthen bank which lay immediately behind the Roman city wall.
Chief Executive Neil Holbrook 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 with the heart of the Roman empire for the discharged army veterans who made up most of the population of the Roman city.”
Cotswold Archaeology has been working on the Greyfriars site for the last three years and the investigations are now drawing to a close. The wing will be passed over to Museum of Gloucester once conservation work is complete.