This Romano-British copper-alloy figurine was found last year by a metal-detectorist near Marlborough in Wiltshire. It weighs 98.5g, and stands 62.5mm tall.
The figure’s head (which is much larger than the body) is tilted slightly upwards, and its hair is finely detailed, forming thick rows, possibly representing plaits, which are pulled to the back of the head. This individual has lentoid eyes and a long, blunt nose with a moustache. There is also a beard, arranged on either side of the face, where (as with the hair) incised marks have been added to give texture.
The figurine is heavily swathed by a cloak with a wide collar. No arms are visible, and the cloak lies across the body in oblique folds that meet at the front. Feet protrude from the bottom of the cloak, standing on a rectangular base.
The back of the object is flat, apart from a small stool (indicated by a transverse rib) located part-way down the body to show that the figure is seated. The base is slightly concave, and has traces of a white substance, possibly solder, which might suggest that the item was part of a larger object.
The seated pose, beard, and cloak are reminiscent of philosophers, and Rev Prof Martin Henig has identified the figurine as Epicurean or possibly Epicurus himself, albeit a very local version. This would suggest that the artefact’s owner was educated and culturally sophisticated, despite their possibly rural base. Other bronze figurines representing seated philosophers have been found elsewhere in the Roman world, but none parallels this Wiltshire find.
For more information about the object, see https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/1041377 or you can search for WILT-81FA47 on the PAS database.
The Portable Antiquities Scheme is an initiative to encourage the recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales. For more information on the Scheme, and to browse its database of over 1.5 million finds, visit www.finds.org.uk. Text for this find was written by Sophie Hawke, Finds Liaison Officer for Wiltshire, based at the Salisbury Museum.