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Baryshnikov A. Ye.
The Heads of Emperors Statues in the Rivers of Albion: the Problem of Artifacts Interpretation

This paper considers a group of statuary heads found in Britain. They all, whether made of marble or bronze, were parts of emperors sculptures but were cut off and thrown into the rivers (heads of Claudius and Hadrian are best-known). Motives of beheading these statues are uncertain. Some scholars (e. g. M. S. Sadovskaya) suggested that the heads were cut off by rebellious Britons. We offer another explanation based on several arguments. Firstly, rivers and springs, lakes and bogs were sacred places for Britons. Material objects such as jewelry and rarer human bodies were placed into their waters as votive offerings. Secondly, we can notice that such sacred places were linked with the Celtic cult of human head, .172 and the best-known example of this connection is the group human skulls found in the river Walbrook. Old religious traditions of Britain interacted with new imperial customs such as a cult of the Emperor. The beheading of statues and the placement of their heads into the water could be the part of the ritual based on mixing Roman and British habits, a result of cultural interaction in the province, British interpretation of Roman imperial cult. Here we can draw an analogy with small busts found in the shrines of Willingham Fen, Llanio etc. It must be said that the main problem is lack of sources. We can study only few heads and for most cases the context is unclear. So our hypothesis must be checked again later when new artifacts will be found.


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