Finds tray – medieval lion figurine

This small lion figurine, which probably dates to c.AD 1300-1500, was found last year by a metal-detectorist on cultivated land near St Teath in Cornwall. The 6.8cm-high animal, which is made from copper-alloy and weighs 173g, was most likely cast as a decorative element originally attached to one of the supports of a medieval candlestick or candle holder.

IMAGE: The Portable Antiquities Scheme/CC BY 2.0.

The lion is shown sitting upright on its haunches (a pose known as ‘sejant’) with its head angled to the side. Incised lines have been added to mark out facial features, including two almond-shaped eyes, a nose, and a mouth. The animal’s ears are pointed, and wavy grooves indicate a mane running from the top of the lion’s head to halfway down its body. The hind legs are equally well-defined, and small incised lines have been added to indicate front paws. On the back of the figurine, below the mane, further wavy grooves have been arranged to form a tail.

The animal sits on a rectangular base, and the hind legs show signs of wear indicating that the figurine may have been attached to the candlestick holder with a small bracket, now lost. A similar c.15th-century example, made of brass and still attached to its candlestick, survives in the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, while comparable detached copper-alloy figurines have been found across England, from Durham in the north to Kent in the south. The Kentish find (KENT-23BA75) is the only English example that still retains its square bracket, which protrudes at a right angle from the back of the object.

The zoomorphic figurine was returned to its finder after having been recorded on the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) database.

For more information on the find, see or search for CORN-3773E8 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 more than 1.5 million finds, visit Information for this find was provided by Tasha Fullbrook, Finds Liaison Officer for Cornwall, based at the Museum of Cornish Life in Helston..