Details Volunteers found the original of this fascinating cavalry altar at Vindolanda Roman Fort during excavations in the spring of 2021.
Found amongst the stones of the floor in a section of the site that the Vindolanda archaeologists believe to be part of a fourth-century cavalry barracks.
As there is no inscription on the altar identifying the God shown on this charming altar, it has been up to the archaeologists at Vindolada to interpret the attributes shown on the altar to try and identify him.
There are two primary candidates, Mercury and Mars.
The figure is depicted with a helmet with possible wings, and he is shown next to a horse or donkey. These are classic attributes of Mercury, the God of travel and messengers.
It is also possible that this altar depicts Mars, whose common attributes include a spear, a helmet and muscular nude physic. All these features are shown in this carving.
It is also possible that the soldiers who were active in these fourth-century barracks merged the attributes of these two deities to create their own God. This character would be someone who would guide and protect the soldier, and they would have kept this altar in a niche on the wall watching over them. This piece is likely to undergo further testing, and one of the questions that researchers will hopefully answer is whether or not the altar painted it in bright colours. We look forward to discovering the answer and think it would look brilliant painted.
The original altar was carved out of sandstone, so we have used clay that mimics the gritty texture of the original to create the right look and feel to the piece.
Approx. 320 mm tall, 165 mm diameter
This replica Roman has been hand made in Northumberland by Potted History, based on an original artefact. It has been fired to a temperature of between 1200°C. This process often results in variations of the surface colour and texture, as is found with original Roman artefacts and giving each piece a unique character.
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