Archeologists working at a dig site in north-eastern England's County Durham recently made a remarkable discovery in what is believed to be an ancient garbage dump. What the researchers were surprised to find in the pile of rubbish was a stone carving.
Researchers suspect the relic, which was constructed of sandstone, might be the head of a Roman God, reported Live Science.
On July 3, researchers from Durham University announced they'd found the ancient artifact while working at a site at Binchester Roman Fort. This is a "major Roman Empire fort built around A.D. 100," according to the Live Science report.
The statue, found by Durham University archaeology student Alex Kirton, is described as being 8 inches long (20 centimeters) and is estimated to be about 1,800 years old.
The stone head appears to have been tossed away with other ancient trash.
"It is probably the head of a Roman god — we can't be sure of his name, but it does have similarities to head of Antenociticus," David Petts, a Durham University archaeologist who was involved in the dig, said in a statement. "We may never know the true identity of this new head, but we are continuing to explore the building from which it came to help us improve our understanding of late Roman life at Binchester and [the] Roman Empire's northern frontier in Northern England."
Some of the features of the face are described as being possibly African, but this is reportedly speculative.
“This is something we need to consider deeply. If it is an image of an African, it could be extremely important, although this identification is not certain," added Petts.
According to a news release from Durham University, the statue head was found in a location near a small Roman altar that was uncovered about two years ago. The head found at Binchester is believed to have been buried with trash at what is suspected to be an ancient Roman bath house.
"We think it may have been associated with a small shrine in the bath house and dumped after the building fell out of use, probably in the 4th century AD," said Petts.
What researchers would like to know is the identity of the head, but this information might be difficult to access. However, there is a theory the likeness may be that of a local deity recognized in Binchester.
Experts hope to explore more at the site and try and learn the definitive identity of the head, but they admit it may be difficult to figure out, if ever. Either way the find will enable researchers to improve understanding of life during the Roman Empire in this region of the United Kingdom.
"As an archaeology student this is one of the best things and most exciting things that could have happened," said Alex Kirton, 19, the student who made the find. "It was an incredible thing to find in a lump of soil in the middle of nowhere – I've never found anything remotely exciting as this."
Some areas of the Fort are open to the public while much of this piece of ancient civilization has yet to be uncovered in the surrounding fields. What has already been learned is that the Fort had an underfloor heating system, the aforementioned bath house, and that soldiers from many regions of the Roman Empire stayed at Binchester. A commander's living quarters have also been found.
The work at Binchester Roman Fort is a five-year project. At this time no formal peer-reviewed scientific journal has been submitted about this exciting find.