Archaeologists unearthed a “spectacular” statue of an ancient Roman god during an excavation in the United Kingdom, researchers said.
The stone statue depicts Triton, a fish-tailed god of the sea, according to a Sept. 13 news release from the Canterbury Archaeological Trust (CAT). Triton was the son and minion of Neptune, who was synonymous with the Greek god Poseidon.
The figure was uncovered on the outskirts of Teynham, a village in England’s southeastern county of Kent. It was dug up in advance of a housing development project planned for the area.
The statue appeared to have been “ritually placed” inside an abandoned clay water tank along with burnt material, according to CAT.
A photo released by archaeologists reveals the cleaned and restored figure, which appears to have two twisting, serpentine tails and the upper body of a man.
Ancient Romans believed Triton lived in a golden palace at the bottom of the sea, according to research from the University of Pennsylvania’s classics department. He was typically depicted as a merman clutching a conch, which, when blown on, was believed to affect the weather.
The statue was located near a large Roman complex, believed to be the ruins of a mausoleum first discovered in 2017, archaeologists said.
The complex, which may have been dedicated to a variety of maritime gods, likely served as a burial site for a well-to-do local family.
Elite Roman families typically laid their deceased members to rest in multigenerational mausoleums used to commemorate the dignity and longevity of the family, according to the book Roman Tombs and the Art of Commemoration.
“The choice of tomb décor is an indicator of the patron’s attitude toward that inevitable aspect of life that is death,” according to the book A Companion to Roman Art.
The discovery sheds light on the rich Roman heritage in England, once a province in the sprawling Roman Empire, archaeologists said.