In pictures: The 2,000-year-old pristine Roman eagle sculpture found under London

Roman Eagle

Image source: © MOLA/ Andy Chopping

A pristine Roman sculpture of an eagle wrestling a snake has been discovered by archaeologists on a site in the city of London.

The astonishing find was made near Aldgate at the site of a hotel development by Scottish Widows Investment Partnership (SWIP) and its partners Endurance Land.

The sculpture is so perfectly preserved that it made the team from MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) hesitant to announce the discovery immediately and to proclaim its Roman origins.

Specialists have now confirmed that the sandstone eagle dates to the 1st or 2nd century AD, and has been described as being “amongst the very best statues surviving from Roman Britain”.

Roman Eagle and archaeologist

Image source: © MOLA/ Andy Chopping

Reverend Professor Martin Henig, said: “The sculpture is of exceptional quality, the finest sculpture by a Romano-British artist ever found in London and amongst the very best statues surviving from Roman Britain. Its condition is extraordinary; the carving as crisp as on the day it was carved.”

Some 65cm tall and 55cm wide, the sculpture is made from oolitic limestone from the Cotswolds. It is thought that this particular statue was carved to decorate a mausoleum, the foundations of which have also been unearthed.

Michael Marshall, MOLA finds specialist, said: “The eagle is a classically Roman symbol and this new find provides a fascinating new insight into the inhabitants of Roman London and demonstrates their familiarity with the iconography of the wider classical world.

Roman Eagles

Image source: © MOLA/ Andy Chopping

“Funerary sculpture from the city is very rare and this example, perhaps from inside a mausoleum, is a particularly fine example which will help us to understand how the cemeteries and tombs that lined the roads out of the city were furnished and the beliefs of those buried there.”

Jonathan Fletcher, director of Endurance Land, said: “Our sustainability policy ensured we engaged with MOLA from the outset and it is a testament to the professional approach of the team that the find was discovered intact in such wonderful condition.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • Anonymous

    "Specialists have now confirmed that the sandstone eagle dates to the 1st or 2nd century AD"

    "Some 65cm tall and 55cm wide, the sculpture is made from oolitic limestone from the Cotswolds."

    Sandstone or limestone? Make your mind up.

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