Cernunnos figurine possibly found in Cambridgeshire, England


The National Trust’s Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire, which now comprises a working farm and a Georgian mansion house, also boasts its fair share of late Iron Age and early Roman history (circa 100 BC – 150 AD). Pertaining to this incredible legacy, archaeologists (from the National Trust), conducting their excavation on the site, came across a 5 cm long copper alloy human figurine, probably dating from 2nd century AD. And while the statuette, holding a torc (high-value Celtic neck ring) is seemingly ‘faceless’, researchers have hypothesized that it represents Cernunnos – the ‘Horned One’, the Celtic god of animals, forests, and fertility. Quite intriguingly, if the object indeed portrays the ancient Celtic deity, this would be the first that a metal figurine of the ever-enigmatic Cernunnos has been found in Britain.

As Shannon Hogan, National Trust Archaeologist for the East of England, said –

This is an incredibly exciting discovery, which to me represents more than just the deity, Cernunnos. It almost seems like the enigmatic ‘face’ of the people living in the landscape some 2,000 years ago. The artefact is Roman in origin but symbolises a Celtic deity and therefore exemplifies the continuation of indigenous religious and cultural symbolism in Romanised societies.

On the historical side of affairs, there is only a single known evidence for the full name Cernunnos, and it comes from the Pillar of the Boatmen carved by the Gaulish sailors in circa 14 AD. Considered as one of the important reliefs of the Gallo-Roman religion, the pillar additionally depicts other Roman deities like Jupiter and Vulcan. However, interestingly enough, the visual representations of the horned deity (as one of the Celtic gods) predates such inscriptions and names by centuries.

Artist’s conception of Cernunnos. Source: Pinterest

To that end, one of the apt examples would pertain to an antlered human figure featured in a 7th-4th century BC dated petroglyph in Cisalpine Gaul and other related horned figures worshipped by the Celtiberians based in what is now modern-day Spain and Portugal. And the most well-known depiction of Cernunnos can be found on the Gundestrup Cauldron (circa 1st century BC).

As for the site itself, its potential as a Iron Age/Roman era ‘trove’ was revealed by a geological survey conducted by the Oxford Archaeology East in 2016, and it was then followed up by trench digging that yielded pottery from the period. Over the period of two years, the estate further yielded around 300 metal objects, including coins, cosmetic implements, horse harness fittings, Roman military uniform fittings, a spearhead, an axe head, key handles, brooches, a ring as well as scrap lead, and a number of iron nails. Most of these items are planned to be preserved and catalogued for exhibition at the Wimpole estate itself.

Source/ Featured Image Credit: National Trust