Roman sculpture found in a Scottish river

Recovered in 1997 from the mouth of the River Almond in Cramond, near Edinburgh, the Cramond Lioness is a sculpture dating back to Roman times.

It portrays a male prisoner being killed by a lioness.

It was Robert Graham, a local ferryman, who uncovered the sculpture from the mud of the river.

It remains unknown how the monument found its way to the water, however it is thought to be linked with the nearby Cramond Roman Fort and is believed to have lain in the river for close to 1800 years.

While the sandstone has begun to erode, the shape of the lioness sinking her teeth into the skull of a naked and bound barbarian can clearly be made out.

Significantly less prominent than the main feature, there are traces of where two snakes were once carved into the base, which are said to symbolise survival of the soul. They represent the endurance of the spirit, even in the face of vicious death.

While the five-foot long statue is undeniably Roman, the artist’s style is far from classical.

It is thought most likely that a Celtic sculptor was commissioned to create the beast for a Roman burial tomb between 76 AD and the mid-second century, which is when the Romans settled in Scotland.

This statue is the only one of its kind from Scotland, although similar monuments depicting a lioness killing smaller animals have since been uncovered in England, mainly at the tombs of Roman officers and officials.

With Roman burials exceedingly rare in this country, the Cramond Lioness is, undoubtedly, an artefact to take pride in.

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This feature was originally published in 2016.