An ancient wooden figure has been unearthed by archaeologists, and the 2,000-year-old “gift for gods” may reveal that Britons were rapidly “Romanised” after being invaded.
HS2 excavations of a 1st century AD ditch in Buckinghamshire uncovered the two-foot tall oak sculpture, one of only a handful of wooden figures from this period ever found in the UK.
The rare carving preserved by layers of thick clay may have been deliberately placed in the ditch 2,000 years ago, experts have said, and may represent a local god or the body of a worshipper hoping to be healed.
The totem sports a Roman hairstyle and short tunic, despite experts believing it was placed in the ditch very soon after imperial troops invaded Britain in the 1st century, indicating that locals may have been quickly "Romanised" by incoming continental fashions.
Iain Williamson, an archaeologist for Fusion JV working at the site, said the figure found near Three Bridge Mill has “hair bobbed at the back and cut fairly short”.
He added: “It gives the impression of a more Romanised figure that perhaps we could expect, rather than native dress.”
The carving sports a Roman hairstyle and short tunic, despite experts believing it was placed in the ditch very soon after imperial troops invaded Britain in the 1st century
While the dress shows Roman influences, the sculpture, which shows signs of expert carving and long-term care, may have been tied to local religious traditions."
Mr Williamson said: “It could be the effigy of an ancestor or a local god, it could have been there as a totem to look out and protect the landscape.
“They could also be more personal. We have examples in France of pilgrims and they are depositing these as gifts to the gods, for healing.
“They are giving a depiction of themselves so the gods know who to cure. That’s one theory.
“They are given as a gift for the god here, probably so they know who they are dealing with.”
Experts are set to precisely date the wood and determine whether it was grown in Britain, or on the continent and then brought across the Channel by newcomers to the island.