Mini figure of Roman goddess uncovered at Arbeia

The figure of the Roman goddess Ceres uncovered in South Shields Credit: Arbeia Fort

Volunteer archaeologists have unearthed a miniature bronze figure of a Roman goddess from Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields.

Helpers from the WallQuest community archaeology project and the Earthwatch Institute dug up the figure of the goddess Ceres which is thought to be a mount from a larger piece of furniture.

Ceres was the goddess of agriculture, grain and fertility. Arbeia was a supply base where thousands of tons of grain were stored in granaries to feed the army stationed along Hadrian’s Wall.

This is the second goddess that the WallQuest project has found at Arbeia in two years. In 2014, a local volunteer found a carved stone head of a protective goddess, or tutela.

At first I didn’t believe the goddess was real since the condition seemed pristine and the detail was incredible, but then our site supervisor fell eerily-quiet triggering a hum of authentic excitement.

Amanda Seim, the Earthwatch volunteer who found the Ceres figure

Visitors to Arbeia this summer will be able to see both of these newly discovered goddesses on display. The excavations, which are taking place just outside the south-west corner of the fort, can be viewed by visitors and will continue until September.

Who was the Roman goddess Ceres?

  • Ceres was the Roman goddess of agriculture, grain.

  • She was the daughter of Saturn and Ops, the sister of Jupiter, and the mother of Proserpine.

  • Ceres was a kind and benevolent goddess to the Romans and they had a common expression, "fit for Ceres," which meant splendid.

  • As goddess of agriculture, she was credited with teaching humans how to grow, preserve, and prepare grain and corn. She was thought to be responsible for the fertility of the land.

  • Ceres was the only one of the gods who was involved on a day-to-day basis in the lives of the common folk. While others occasionally "dabbled" in human affairs when it suited their personal interests, or came to the aid of "special" mortals they favored, the goddess Ceres was truly the nurturer of mankind.

  • Ceres was worshipped at her temple on the Aventine Hill, one of the Seven Hills of ancient Rome. Her festival, the Cerealia, was celebrated on April 19.