The recently unearthed ‘licking dog’ statue.

Metal Detectorist’s Roman Hoard Linked to a Temple that Likely Inspired The Lord of the Rings

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Two metal detecting enthusiasts made a “once in a lifetime” discovery when they unearthed a hoard of Roman bronze artifacts at an undisclosed location. The most exciting of the finds is an intact healing statue that has been linked to the Roman Lydney Temple. This is the same temple that inspired JRR Tolkien to add a key element to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings .

The Licking Dog Hoard

The Guardian reports that the 4th century bronze hoard was discovered by Pete Cresswell and Andrew Boughton in Gloucestershire. Archaeologist Kurt Adams, the Gloucestershire and Avon finds liaison officer, calls the finely detailed healing statue of a standing dog “a unique find for British archaeology.” It is the only known sculpture of a licking dog dating to Roman times to be found in Britain.

The Roman ‘licking dog’ healing statue.

The Roman ‘licking dog’ healing statue. (Eve Andreski/Portable Antiquities Scheme/ CC BY 2.0 )

Speaking on the find, Mr. Cresswell said :

“It’s not every day you come across a hoard of Roman bronze. We have been metal detecting for a combined 40 years, but this is a once in a lifetime discovery. As soon as I realized the items were of historical significance I contacted the local archaeology team, who were equally excited by the find. It’s a great privilege to be able to contribute to local and British history.”

Apart from the dog figurine with its tongue out, the other bronze pieces appear to have been deliberately broken and hidden. Archaeologists believe that the hoard was tucked away by a metal worker who probably wanted to melt and recast the bronze.

Romans in Gloucestershire

The licking dog statue has been found in a region that was a strong and important part of Roman Britain. Gloucester (Roman Nervia Glevensium or, less formally , Glevum ) was probably founded by the Romans around AD 90-98 and was of the highest order of Roman towns, denoted coloniae. These were either completely new settlements or based on a previously established fort. The latter is the case for Gloucester, which was built on the site of a fort which was used as a post for the expansion of the Empire into Wales. The area was then allotted to the veterans of Legio II Augusta, according to the Association for Roman Archaeology ( ARA). The town would then have been predominantly, if not exclusively, populated by Romans. After the removal of the military in AD 407, the town began to decline and would eventually be lost to the Anglo-Saxons in the sub-Roman period around the 5 th and 6 th centuries AD.

Visualization of 2nd century Gloucester by Philip Moss

Visualization of 2 nd century Gloucester by Philip Moss ( Gloucestershire Archaeology )


The Romans were in this area (and Britain generally) for over half a millennium. The area surrounding Glevum became heavily Romanized, with Roman towns (eg. Glevum, Corinium), many villas (some of which have been excavated such as Chedworth and Woodchester), forts and temples. One such temple found in the area is at Lydney Park Roman Camp, 20 miles (32 km) along the River Severn estuary. It is here we reconnect with the bronze dog statue.

Lydney Camp and Lydney Temple

The site of Lydney Camp was originally an Iron Age hillfort which was for a time mined by the Romans for iron ore around the 3 rd century. In the 4 th century, they built a Romano-Celtic temple dedicated to the Celtic deity Nodens, which is known due to inscriptions of the name found at the site.

The Celtic god, Nodens, is associated with healing, the sea, hunting and dogs – mainly due to representations of all of these aspects being found at the temple complex. The temple is thought to have been primarily dedicated to healing and includes a bath house. Nine dog statues or effigies have been found there, the most famous being the “Lydney Dog” Bronze. This dog iconography is representative of healing, as dogs were once kept in order to lick wounds and aid healing.

The Lydney dog was one among many dog themed artifacts found at the Lydney Temple or Temple of Nodens

The Lydney dog was one among many dog themed artifacts found at the Lydney Temple or Temple of Nodens (Credit: ARA)

The reason the new licking dog bronze has been tentatively linked with this temple , is that it is the only healing temple known in the area. However, the statue could be indicative that there is a hitherto unknown healing temple or shrine to be found in the vicinity.


this is cool ! did Tolkien keep a diary ???

Gary Manners's picture

Aparently so. Good luck getting your hands on it though!



Where might one find Tolkien's paper on Nodens?

Gary Manners's picture

I’m afraid I can’t say for sure where you might be able to read the Name Nodes but here are some more details. "The Name 'Nodens'" is the title of an essay by J.R.R. Tolkien, first published in July 1932 as Appendix I to Report on the Excavation of the Prehistoric, Roman, and Post-Roman Site in Lydney Park, Gloucestershire. In 2007, the essay was reprinted in Tolkien Studies, volume 4. You will find details of that publication here:

I hope that heads you in the right direction.


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