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20.06.2021

Crocodile figurine of Roman date

A zoomorphic figurine in the form of a crocodile cast in copper alloy. The animal is very well moulded with its neck and head, and tail, rising upwards from a flat underbelly. The tail tapers as it curves, reaching a maximum height of 27.7mm above the flat underside. The legs are bent back on themselves and each foot terminates in three toes. The upper surface of the body is decorated to render the animal's leathery skin. Uppermost are two longitudinal grooves crossed by numerous transverse grooves to create a field of irregular squares and rectangles, three across. The flanks and legs have been decorated using a punched circular pattern; again, the decoration is not quite symmetrical. The raised head tapers to a snout. Teeth are delineated in an open jaw and the eyes are raised mouldings. The greyer colour of the underside of the body suggests that the figurine might have been soldered to another surface, perhaps as part of a scene; otherwise it does function as a standalone piece. The artefact generally has a dull green patina, with areas of brighter corrosion on the head, tail and flanks; some of these latter have spots of orange-brown corrosion product showing through. The rendering of the head in particular (it is quite small, with its pointy snout) suggests a slight lack of familiarity with crocodilia; it is supposed that a more accurate rendering would be within the ken of the maker given how well made the artefact is overall. The slight irregularities within the decoration have already been noted. These factors suggest that this object has a certain antiquity, and is most likely to be of Roman date. The Romans are known to have worshipped the Egyptian crocodile god Sobek (who was inextricably linked with the River Nile).

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