Museum news

The latest on acquisitions, exhibitions, and key decisions.

Wall’s African warrior revealed

A century after it was discovered in a Roman cemetery at Wall, Staffordshire, a lead figurine thought to represent a wrestler has been re-identified as an African warrior thanks to research by English Heritage.

Photo: English Heritage.

The 1st-century artefact, which stands 55mm high, is thought to have been a grave good in a cremation burial at what was then a key staging post on Watling Street, the Roman military road to north Wales. It is thought to have been made on the Continent and depicts a man wearing an armlet on each upper arm and a necklace of large beads. At the time of discovery in the 1920s, this individual was interpreted as an enslaved person, but reanalysis in the 1990s saw him identified as a wrestler sitting on the ground with folded legs. It has since been revealed, though, that the object’s soft metal has been affected by heat – possibly from contact with hot cremated remains – distorting its lower half, and new research by English Heritage Curator Cameron Moffett has not only confirmed that the figure once stood upright, but has also identified a previously unobserved socket in his right hand which may have held a bronze spear, creating a warrior image that was common in Classical art. This is only the fifth representation of a black African person known from Roman Britain.

Cameron said: ‘This object actually depicts an African warrior, standing tall and carrying a spear, and the fact that it was a grave good indicates that it would have been a significant possession to its owner.’

For more information, see http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/ lead-figurine; we will also be covering this find in greater detail in an upcoming issue of CA.

A Stonehenge story

A recently extended exhibition at Stonehenge collecting personal stories about the Neolithic monument, has attracted an anecdote stretching from Salisbury Plain to Melbourne, Australia. As the daughter of the site’s 1930s custodian, Jean Grey spent her childhood among the famous stones, growing up in a cottage provided by the Ministry of Works at Stonehenge Bottom. Although this house has since been demolished, earthworks still testify to its location, and its appearance is captured in photographs, English Heritage Historian Susan Greaney said.

Photo: Jean Grey.

Although Jean has since moved to the other side of the world, she and her granddaughter Emma contacted English Heritage to share her memories for the Your Stonehenge exhibition (CA 360). She said: ‘Dad was the custodian of the Stones. He cut the grass and maintained the area round the huge monoliths and made sure no one damaged them. Occasionally school groups would arrive by charabanc for a conducted tour, and sometimes visitors who were wealthy enough to have their own transport. Most of the time it was a quiet safe place for me to play around the Stones. No neighbours. No other children. No electricity, and only an outside earth toilet. There was no rubbish collection – a pit was dug in the far corner of the back garden and everything was buried, including my father’s old, chain-driven motorbike!  The Ministry of Works wages were not very generous and the rabbits my father trapped helped to supplement our diet, and my parents both worked in the vegetable garden. Even now, Stonehenge has a lasting place in my memory – the summer days and the skylarks.’

Your Stonehenge has been extended to August 2022 and will feature a series of new displays. If you have a story of the part Stonehenge played in your life, please email YourStonehenge@English-Heritage.org.uk.


Eric Ravilious: Downland Man

Wiltshire Museum
Until 30 January 2022

Digging up memories

Online exhibition
Until 31 December 2021

Ancient Greeks: science and wisdom 

Science Museum, London
17 November 2021-5 June 2022

Cultures of Cloth in the Medieval East Midlands 

University of Nottingham Museum
Until 20 February 2022

Textile Treasures

Norwich Castle Museum
Until 20 February 2022