Roman-Era Statue of Venus, Goddess of Love, Discovered in England

The seven-inch-tall figurine likely stood in a household shrine in what is now Gloucestershire some 1,800 years ago

The white pipeclay Venus statuette before (right) and after (left) cleaning
The white pipeclay Venus statuette before (right) and after (left) cleaning Thousand Word Media / Cotswold Archaeology

Developers in Gloucestershire, England, recently received a sign of the goddess of love’s favor, unearthing a Roman-era statuette believed to depict Venus at the site of a new construction project.

“This figurine is in incredibly good condition and a wonderful find for Gloucester,” city archaeologist Andrew Armstrong tells BBC News.

Dated to around 1,800 years ago, the nearly seven-inch-tall female figure was found ahead of construction of a $145 million, multi-use commercial development called the Forum, reports BBC News in a separate article. (Interestingly, the Latin word forum refers to the central public square in an ancient Roman city.)

Dig Site
Archaeologist Dani Hurst holds the statuette found at the dig site in Gloucestershire, England. Cotswold Archaeology

“We know pieces like these were made in central France and the Rhineland/Mosel region of Germany during the first and second centuries [C.E.],” Armstrong says. “It seems certain the figurine is from this period and is a representation of Venus. She would most likely have stood in someone’s home shrine for the goddess.”

Known for her amorous abilities, Venus was the Roman goddess of love, beauty, victory, fertility and prostitution. Julius Caesar, who invaded Britain twice, in 55 and 54 B.C.E., claimed to be a descendant of the deity.

Roman legions conquered much of Britain beginning in 43 C.E. Gloucestershire, located about 90 miles west of London, was established as a Roman fort known as Glevum in 48 C.E.

Dani Hurst of Cotswold Archaeology discovered the clay statuette in September.

“This has been the most exciting find of my career in archaeology so far,” colleague Anthony Beechey tells BBC News. “The figurine provides an important tangible link between the people of Gloucester and their past.”

Statuette at Dig Site
The clay figurine is intact aside from a missing base. Cotswold Archaeology

Speaking with BBC News, lead archaeologist Marino Cardelli deems the Venus statuette of “inestimable historical value ... a testimony of the city’s history and culture.”

The figurine is made of pipeclay, a white clay found along the Rhine and Meuse rivers in what is now Germany. It is intact except for a missing base.

Nearby, the team found ruins associated with Whitefriars, a medieval Carmelite friary. Last year, Cotswold Archaeology and Gloucester City Council discovered Whitefriars’ remains beneath a demolished parking garage.

“We’d already discovered the medieval Carmelite friary and were hand-digging a new route for a culvert when Dani discovered [Venus] covered in mud, in what would have been a Roman rubbish dump,” Armstrong tells Melanie Greenwood of Gloucestershire Live. “Only its base was broken.”

According to BBC News, the team also unearthed the stone foundations of buildings that may have belonged to a suburb outside the Roman fort.

“Finding this statue, as well as the priory, has exceeded all my expectations,” Armstrong tells Gloucestershire Live. “It was beyond my wildest hopes. We are really looking forward to what else we can learn about Roman suburban living.”

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