The New Inscription from Cirencester: A Few Thoughts

The Petrified Muse

A couple of days ago, the discovery and excavation of a Roman tombstone at Cirencester (Gloucestershire) – largely undamaged and still in its original setting (in situ, as the professionals say) – has been publicised in no unspectacular terms.

The BBC, for example, suggested that this was a ‘unique’ Roman tombstone. The Discovery News praised the ‘rare intact’ Roman tombstone.

Did I say rare? I meant ‘super-rare‘ of course: thank you, Huffington Post, for keeping it real.

At any rate, the Gloucestershire Echo is confident: the tombstone makes ‘archaeological history‘. And of course, wherever something has been found, the ubiquitous, inevitable, and pointless claim that this site is ‘a Pompeii’ must be made (however silly or inappropriate) – like here on the webpages of Culture 24.

Time to step back a bit and to look at the object in question –…

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The Hare Mosaic II

Since last week’s discussion of the hare mosaic I’ve been thinking again about the place of the ‘hare’ in ancient religion.

For all the talk of its potential significance in its namesake mosaic, the significance of the hare in ancient religion is a veritable mystery and uncovering the reason would add such great flavour to an already absorbing piece of art.

For the sake of a reason, my best guestimation would be that the hare, as well as the goose and cockerel, were all the zoomorphic representation of a native deity or at least the animal companion of.  Such companions are widely known from ancient pagan religions such as the cockerel and ram being associated with Mercury.   A parallel can also be drawn to a local belief, across the Cotswolds where a series of sculptures dedicated to a local deity all portray a figure associated with a bird, given the area possibly a wood pigeon.  

This to my mind would suggest that, if the hare was taboo as food or a hunting item and looked after or revered by the native British, then being the associate to a deity would be a most plausible explanation for such behaviour and worship. Nevertheless this is just conjecture and should be treated as such, but it never hurts to enquire and it would certainly be plausible. Furthermore even if it is a valid assumption  the next mystery is who was this deity, and what powers did it behold?  It seems history loves nothing more than a mystery.