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‘Priceless’ Roman Head Statues Found at British Cricket Club

Rosemary Giles
Photo Credit: Harald Tittel / picture alliance / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Harald Tittel / picture alliance / Getty Images

Carlisle, England was once called Luguvalio, then Carleol, by the Roman occupants that called it home. Although the area is now a British town, it was home to the Romans stationed at one of their northern outposts, as shown by their proximity to Hadrian’s Wall and the discovery of a cobbled Roman road in the area. This rich past has led to some intriguing historical finds in recent years.

Carlisle archaeology

The most recent discovery was made by a team of archaeologists who began a dig in May 2023 at a rather unique site, the Carlisle Cricket Club. They had been working in the area for years and found various artifacts during this time: over 1,000 pieces of pottery, coins, weapons, and gemstones since 2021.

Roman re-enactor wears authentic armor while holding an eagle staff in front of Hadrian's Wall.
Roman re-enactor stands next to Hadrian’s Wall in Carlisle, England, September 3, 2016. (Photo Credit: Ian Forsyth / Getty Images)

There were over 30 stones found in January 2023 alone! Detailed tiles were also discovered, which led them to believe that the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus was somehow connected to the site. The area contains such a wealth of material that over 400 volunteers are helping with excavations, as well as a team of professionals from the Wardell Armstrong archaeology firm.

A Roman bathhouse

Yet it’s the two massive Roman sculptures that are of interest at the moment, found on only the second day of the dig. They were located in an area of the cricket club that was once an old Roman bathhouse, the largest building on Hadrian’s Wall. The sandstone sculptures have been identified as two Roman gods and dated back to roughly 200 AD based on the age of the building where they were found.

Two people in jumpsuits stand inside a Roman bath while they scrub the stone.
Employees clean the historic Roman Baths in Bath, England, March 27, 2018. (Photo Credit: Matt Cardy / Getty Images)

Since they were only recently pulled out of the ground, the team hasn’t had time to conduct an in-depth analysis of them. According to the lead archaeologist at the site, Frank Giecco, the find “truly shows the significance of the Bathhouse and raises the site to a whole new level of importance with such monumental sculpture and adds to [the] overall grandeur of the building.”

Giant heads

They are massive on their own, but the archaeologists believe that they were once part of larger statues that would have been around 12 to 15 feet tall. Giecco said it isn’t abnormal to find statues like this when excavating bathhouses, “but sculptures of this size are really special.” What makes the find even more special is that it was made by the volunteers, not the team of professionals. One of the volunteers on the team recalled the “really exciting” moment that the find was made.

They said, “It was when all the real archaeologists, the professionals, got excited and started crowding round themselves that I realised it was properly something to be excited about.” They were right, as Giecco said he has never found anything like it in his 30 years of working as an archaeologist.

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Although many artifacts have already been unearthed, there is a chance that the team could find even more. The dig will be ongoing until late June 2023, and open for public tours until then.

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Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.