Archaeologists from the Museum of London Archaeology, UK, in cooperation with SWIP Property Trust and Endurance Land, have uncovered an extraordinary Roman sculpture. The 65-cm-tall sculpture was unearthed at Endurance Land’s hotel development site in London. It is made from Oolitic limestone in the form of an eagle grasping a serpent in its beak.“Our sustainability policy ensured we engaged with Museum of London Archaeology from the outset and it is a testament to the professional approach of the team that the find was discovered intact in such wonderful condition,” said Jonathan Fletcher of Endurance Land.
According to the archaeologists, the find dates to the 1st or 2nd century CE.“It’s not everyday that a fine Roman sculpture is discovered in pristine condition on one of our development sites. As a responsible developer, it’s great to be part of the project team that helped make this discovery happen,” said Calum Flockhart of SWIP Property Trust.
Depictions of eagles and serpents are typically Roman but the closest comparison to this sculpture comes from Jordan.
The symbolism is understood as the struggle of good, the eagle, against evil, the snake. This theme is common in funerary contexts and an important Roman cemetery is known to have been located on the site. “This statue once adorned a rich mausoleum, the foundations of which were also uncovered during excavation,” the archaeologists said.
The lack of weathering on the statue corroborates this theory, as does the absence of detail on the back of the sculpture; suggesting it once sat it an alcove. Described by experts as amongst the very best statues surviving from Roman Britain, the skill of the craftsman is apparent, with the forked tongue of the snake and the individual feathers of the eagle still clearly discernible today