Hyping and Pondering the Bosham Head

This one’s interesting primarily because it demonstrates that hype can be informative … the so-called “Bosham Head” is a huge, highly-eroded lump of stone found a couple of centuries ago which was clearly once the head of a statue of some sort. There was a lecture series this week  where the head is housed (Chicester’s Novium Museum) and all this week we’ve been getting hints that they have used laser scanning to possibly identify the head.  Early in the week, Culture24, e.g., mentioned one guy:

A 26-stone head found in a flower bed in a Hampshire vicarage garden could represent Nero, the rarely-glimpsed Emperor whose first century rule over the Roman Empire began when he was a 14-year-old.

Known as the Bosham Head, the spectacular cranium imposes itself within the Collections Discovery Centre at Fishbourne. Archaeologists have been using 3D scanning in a bid to determine whether it was carved seperately from its body.

“The Jupiter Stone found beneath the post office on West Street depicts the iconic image of the three graces, although only two women are shown,” says Anooshka Rawden, the Collections Officer at Chichester’s Novium museum.

“Academics often debate whether the Romans produced art at all or whether they simply copied and adapted original work by the ancient Greeks.

“Perhaps the maker decided two looked better than three, or the third grace didn’t fit the space.”

Portraits of Nero were often destroyed as a backlash against his reputation for cruelty.

“It is really exciting that more information about the Bosham Head is being uncovered, including new speculation as to who it may depict,” says Eileen Lintill, of Chichester District Council.

“It has always been a bit of a mystery to museum staff as to who it was meant to represent. [...]

Yesterday, the News reiterated that with a bit more detail:

Dr Miles Russell, a senior lecturer in prehistoric and Roman archaeology from Bournemouth University, believes the object, known as the Bosham Head, could be a bust of the Roman Emperor Nero.

Little is known about the 26st stone head, which is on display at the Novium Museum, Chichester. It was found many years ago in a flower bed in the vicarage garden at Bosham.

Emperor Nero came to Britain at the age of 14 and ruled the Roman Empire from 54 to 68 AD. Depictions of him are rare as he was regarded as a cruel leader and portraits of him were destroyed. [...]

Then the Daily Mail waded in, attributing a different identification (although seemingly crediting the same identifier):

Archaeologists at Bournemouth University used 3D laser scans to pick out facial features and a distinctive hairstyle, which led them to conclude that the statue was of Emperor Trajan.

Miles Russell, a senior lecturer in prehistoric and Roman archaeology at the university and Harry Manley, from the school of applied sciences, led the study, which has been assisted by The Novium museum.

It concluded the statue, made of Italian marble was set up by Trajan’s successor, Hadrian, on a visit to Britain in AD 121-122 and would have greeted visitors as they entered Chichester Harbour.[,,,]

Depending on the angle, it does seem to be more Trajan-like than Neroish … then again, they both seem to have had that bowl-cut thing going on in their statuary:

From the statue in Rome. The Emperor Nero.

From the statue in Rome. The Emperor Nero. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Head of Trajan (reign 98–117 CE), from an over...

Head of Trajan (reign 98–117 CE), from an oversized statue (around 2.70 m height). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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