In a rare and exciting find, Museum of London archaeologists working have uncovered a Roman eagle statue that is described to be in almost pristine condition. Found on the floor of a ditch in September 2013, the statue's carved details include an eagle with a serpent prey in its beak.
The only damage the relic reportedly has is a broken wing. The incredible find was located on the last day of excavations that were being performed before a hotel complex was to be built.
One of the best preserved examples of Romano-British art
Bloomberg News reported at first workers thought it was an angel or cherub. But as they continued to excavate, they realized it had bird-like features and realized it was an eagle.
The statue is described as Roman style art, but having been carved in Britain. Archaeologists say the relic is one of the best examples of Romano-British art ever discovered. Previous finds in Britain have been unusual, and any artifacts that have been found, were typically in poor condition.
Not this eagle though. According to The Guardian, the statue, which was carved from Oolitic limestone that came from the Cotswolds, was carefully preserved, even though the tomb it likely decorated was destroyed.
The destruction of the tomb was estimated by archaeologists to have occurred over 1,800 years ago, with preservation of the statue occurring at that time. Experts have approximated the time frame of the eagle's origin to be as the late first or early second century A.D.
The statue is approximately 25 inches in height (65 centimeters), and experts say it is considered to be priceless.
Additionally, there is no evidence of any weathering on the artifact. However, some surface paint has worn off, and experts indicate this was probably due to it being placed in a ditch.
Symbolism of eagles in ancient history
During ancient Roman times, eagles were representative of prestige and/or strength. They were also used as funerary emblems. Archaeologists indicated that in Roman symbolism, an eagle would represent good, while a serpent characterizes evil.
It is theorized that the eagle statue once decorated an affluent mausoleum, which was evidenced by no detail located on the statue's back. According to a Museum of London press release, the foundations of a mausoleum were also identified during work.
Statue currently on display
Experts cleaned up the astonishingly preserved statue and subsequently placed it on display at the Museum of London for six months. At this time, the statue is owned by the Scottish Widows Investment Partnership Property Trust and Endurance Land, a company that is a development partner of the trust.
Previous finds in London in 2013
Over the past year, many remarkable finds have been found in the city of London. In October, a find that involved Roman skulls discovered under London streets was announced. Earlier this year, a 14th century Black Death graveyard, which included numerous preserved skeletons of victims, was uncovered.
Other finds include 150 pieces of 9,000-year-old flint, mammoth bones and ancient gold.