Edinburgh, Cramond, Cramond Ferry

Statue (roman)

Site Name Edinburgh, Cramond, Cramond Ferry

Classification Statue (roman)

Alternative Name(s) Cramond Ferry Steps; River Almond; 'cramond Lioness'

Canmore ID 183719

Site Number NT17NE 211

NGR NT 1890 7702

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Ordnance Survey licence number 100020548. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Edinburgh, City Of
  • Parish Edinburgh (edinburgh, City Of)
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District City Of Edinburgh
  • Former County Midlothian

Archaeology Notes

NT17NE 211 1890 7702

See also NT17NE 3.00.

(Location cited as NT 194 767). Cramond fort: erosion over the winter of 1996/1997 exposed part of a Roman sculpture lying in river silts immediately adjacent to the ferry steps on the E side of the River Avon [Almond], next to the fort [NT17NE 3.00]. It was found by the ferryman, Mr Robert Graham. Excavation and recovery were directed by Mr M Collard (for City of Edinburgh Archaeology Service) and Mr F Hunter (for the National Museums of Scotland). After consideration under the Treasure Trove legislation, the sculpture was assigned to both institutions jointly.

The sculpture, in a non-local white sandstone, 1.52m long, 0.46m wide, and 0.55m high, shows a lioness devouring her prey, a naked bearded male torso. The plinth, which had broken off, was found nearby: it showed two snakes emerging from under the lioness's body. The iconography, relating to the destructive power of death and the survival of the deceased's spirit, indicates that it came from a funerary monument.

L J F Keppie 1998.

The Cramond Lioness was first spotted by the local ferryman in late 1996, and excavated from the river bed in January 1997 by teams from the Archaeology Service of the City of Edinburgh Council and the National Museums of Scotland. It is an exceptionally fine piece of carving, and dates from the Roman period of occupation at Cramond in the 2nd and early 3rd centurues AD. The lioness, carved from a single block of sandstone, is 1.5m long, and depicts a crouching lioness with her paws on a naked man's shoulders, and his head in her mouth. On the plinth, two snakes emerge from below the lioness' belly. Pieces with a similar subject matter, of carnivores devouring prey, areccommon through the Roman empire, and are interpreted as symbolising the destructive power of death.

The piece was most probably originally part of a large tomb monument of an important Roman office, perhaps the fort commander or an important dignitary. At present, it is unknown where such a monument would have stood at Cramond. The sculpture has also drawn renewed attention to the possible existence of a Roman harbour at Cramond. Further investigation of this site is planned, particularly as active erosion is taking place and may expose further remains to damage.

The finder was granted a reward under Treasure Trove law, and on account of his prompt reporting. The sculpture is now in the joint ownership of Edinburgh City Museums and the National Museums of Scotland. Conservation (to remove salt and staining) is in hand, only the slow drying process remaining to be completed. The sculpture will be placed on display at the City Art Centre, Edinburgh, in August 1998, before being moved to the (new) Museum of Scotland in November. It is hoped she may subsequently be displayed at Cramond.

M Collard 1998 [NMRS, G/98338/NC].

NT 1890 7702 An archaeological excavation was undertaken at the Cramond Ferry steps, and involved further work at the find site of the Roman statue of a lioness, discovered in 1997. Further quantities of Roman midden material were excavated from the silts associated with the Cramond lioness statue, and further information was gathered regarding the position of the River Almond's E bank during the Roman period.

Sponsor: City of Edinburgh Council.

J A Lawson and D Reed 2000.

(Location cited as NJ 190 767). Cramond fort: excavation was carried out by Mr J Lawson and Mr D Read of City of Edinburgh Archaeology Service, for City of Edinburgh Council, in advance of repairs to the foundations of ferry steps on the E bank of the River Almond, and close to the findspot of the lion sculpture. The profile of the river in Roman times was identified, and two wooden stakes were removed for radiocarbon dating. Midden material included a leather shoe, cereal grains, pottery, bone and stone fragments, the last possibly belonging to the plinth of the lioness statue. Environmental samples were taken, and sediment coring undertaken.

L J F Keppie 2001.

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