The thank you post

Now the Nemi exhibition is over now and Fundilia is safely back in her box we’d like to thank you all for supporting us in our digital engagement with this fantastic exhibition. Thanks to the Nottingham Castle Museum and University of Nottingham for letting us work with them, in particular Ann Inscker and Katharina Lorenz. Thanks especially to our guest bloggers for your fantastic research and ideas. Most of all to those who followed our posts and tweets, we hope you enjoyed them and – although this blog has now come to a close – that we’ve got you excited enough about Nemi and her history for you to continue those conversations begun here. Look out for the odd special post in the future too!

We hope you made it to the exhibition but for those who didn’t here are a few of our favourite exhibits.


©Nottingham City Museums & Galleries. Photo: author’s own

Approaching the temple of Diana via the ‘Appian Way


©Nottingham City Museums & Galleries. Photo: author’s own

Model of an Etruscan temple found at Nemi, a small version of the actual ancient temple?


©Nottingham City Museums & Galleries. Photo: author’s own

A selection of the fascinating small votives dedicated by ordinary Romans at the sanctuary


©Nottingham City Museums & Galleries. Photo: author’s own

A votive tree! Hundreds of wishes and thanks hung by visitors.


©Nottingham City Museums & Galleries. Photo: author’s own

The fabulous matron, Fundilia Rufa, herself with two of our team, Cara and Rebecca.

©Nottingham City Museums & Galleries. Photo: author’s own

©Nottingham City Museums & Galleries. Photo: author’s own

Thank you!


The Rex Nemorensis

This week our guest blogger, Tom Oberst of the University of Exeter, takes us through what the ancient sources reveal about the mysterious and violent cult of the ‘King of the Grove’ at Nemi.

The temple beside the SpeculumDianae is one of the more conspicuous, tangible aspects of the history of the area. Yet, as so often is the case, it was the mysterious side that garnered so much interest in the late 19th Century. Sir James George Frazer wrote a monumental tome attempting to use these more mystical aspects to channel his universalist ideas about the progression of understanding from sympathetic magic via religion to science. His work was named The Golden Bough, a reference to a notorious cult, allegedly situated in the woods surrounding the temple in which the herm of Fundilia resided.

The Golden Bough by J. M. W. Turner, inspired by Virgil's Aeneid. Photo: Tate

The Golden Bough by J. M. W. Turner, inspired by Vergil’s Aeneid. Photo: Tate

This cult, now know as the cult of the rex nemorensis (lit. king of the grove), has not left any archaeological evidence of its existence except, arguably, the double headed herm, found in the Nottingham Castle Museum. The only real evidence we have for this cult are the numerous references in ancient literature. The archaeological data makes it quite clear that the temple was relatively popular, yet in literature the key words are the nemus or lucus (grove), usually described as sacred to Diana, but always located on the banks of Lake Nemi or near the ancient town of Aricia, modern day Ariccia. What this tells us is that there was something significant about the Arician grove, something that made Roman and Greek authors reference it in their prose and poetry, or use it as a topographical marker. Lake Nemi was clearly an important spot, Caligula relaxed on his floating palaces there, and Caesar had a mansion overlooking it (Suet. DivJul. 46), yet it consistently seems to be the surrounding woods that fascinate. I have complied a list of references I have come across to the grove or the cult of the rex nemorensis in my research on its thematic appearance in Latin epic poetry. There are surely more, unfortunately I have yet to come across them.

So what was this cult? Carin Green’s 2007 book, Roman Religion and the Cult of Diana at Aricia, dedicates a whole chapter to this discussion which is excellent and well worth a read for a more in depth analysis of the sources (although I feel she is a little too liberal with her analysis of the literary data). There was a small group which lived in the woods surrounding Lake Nemi who were ruled by a priest king, the rex nemorensis. Strabo (5.3.12) tells us that the priest had to be a fugitive, which has led many to assume that the majority, if not all, of the inhabitants of the grove were also fugitives. We know nothing about their lifestyle, whether they lived in the grove, or used it for purely ritualistic purposes. What we do know about is the rex.

Double headed herm possibly depicting the Rex Nemorensis. Photo: figurine with Victorian excavation label. Photo: ©Nottingham City Museums & Galleries

Double headed herm possibly depicting the Rex Nemorensis. ©Nottingham City Museums & Galleries. Photo: author’s own

The rex was part of a perpetual tragedy in which successor became succeeded in a bloody fight to the death. Sources differ about the nature of the rite but there they all agree that at some point, the rex carried a sword with him, and could be challenged by a fugitive for kingship of the grove. Servius, in his Fourth Century commentary on Vergil’s Aeneid, mentions the significance of a bough, a branch which had to be broken off in order to commence the challenge (A. 6.136). Despite the fact that Servius is our only source about the bough in this context it is one of the most well known features of this rite, thanks to Frazer and his dubious assertion that this bough is Vergil’s aureus, the ‘Golden Bough’ (6.136). Frazer’s reasoning is dubious because he claims that the aureas is the bough of the Arician cult, whereas Servius claims that it is merely an allusion. This blasé interpretation of sources is something one becomes accustomed to after reading a few pages of The Golden Bough. Ancient authors who are often overlooked are Ovid (Ars. 1.259-62; Fast. 3. 269-72), Pausanias (27.4), Servius (A. 6.136), Strabo (5.3.12), Suetonius (Cal. 35. 3) and Valerius Flaccus (2.300-5) who all mention a king, usually a priest to Diana, who wanders around the Arician grove carrying a sword, and explain that his successor was chosen through a murderous or sacrificial duel. Unfortunately they do not elaborate on how this duel was fought.

A second important extratextual clue our literary sources can give us is the dates in which they were written, or were written about. Our sources range from the 1st Century B.C. to the 4th A.D., which, although this is not conclusive proof of its actual longevity, does display the extent of its fame.

So there you have it! A brief outline of the elusive rex. There is a lot of conjecture out there about the rite’s practices, symbolism and participants, and I would advise erring on the side of sceptical if you go on to read the suggested ‘further reading’ (below), but I do hope I’ve whetted your appetite about one of the more fascinating characters of ancient Italy.

Suggested reading:

Alfoldi, A. (1960) ‘Diana Nemorensis’, AJA 64: 137-144.

Dyson, J (2001) King of the Wood: The Sacrificial Victor in Vergil’s Aeneid, Oklahoma.

Frazer, J. G. (1890) The Golden Bough, abr. Fraser, R. (1994) Oxford.

Green, C. M. C. (1994) ‘The Necessary Murder: Myth, Ritual, and Civil War in Lucan, Book 3’, CA 13: 203-33.

Green, C. M. C. (2006) Roman Religion and the Cult of Diana at Aricia, Cambridge.

MacCormick, A. G. & Blagg, F. C. eds. (1983) Mysteries of Diana: The Antiquities from Nemi in Nottingham Museums, Nottingham.

Dissecting the Past: writing the biography of an anatomical votive

In this week’s special guest-post, Dr. Jessica Hughes of the Open University, shares her research on the fascinating ‘dissected’ female figurine found at the Nemi sanctuary


Terracotta Roman female figurine with open torso. Excavated from Nemi sanctuary. Photo: ©Nottingham City Museums & Galleries

In 2009 a team from the Open University went to Nottingham to record some audio-visual material for a new course on Greek and Roman mythology. Part of the course focused on the sanctuary at Lake Nemi, where the mythical figure Hippolytus was said to have been taken by Artemis/Diana after he had been raised from the dead by the healing god Asklepios. As an introduction to this site and its material culture, we recorded Dr Katharina Lorenz from the University of Nottingham talking about four objects in the Castle Museum collections: the famous herm of Fundilia, a terracotta oil lamp depicting a street entertainer, a terracotta votive model of a temple (which may or may not represent the temple of Nemi itself) and another votive model of a woman without a head, whose torso was ‘opened’ to reveal her intestines, rather like the later anatomical models used for teaching dissection to medical students.

L0037289 Ivory anatomical figure of a pregnant woman

Ivory 17th century medical figure of a pregnant woman with removable internal organs. Photo: Wellcome Images

While each of the objects was fascinating in its own way, the ‘dissected woman’ was my personal favourite, not least because I was in the process of researching a book about ‘anatomical votives’ – models of the human body and its parts that were dedicated in ancient sanctuaries. The Nottingham figurine was one of the most unusual and striking examples of this phenomenon, and when I was invited to give a paper at a conference about votive offerings the next year, I jumped at the chance to go back to Nottingham to have another look at her. With the help of the Castle Museum curator Ann Inscker, I began to do some research into the various stages of this object’s ‘biography’, from its manufacture, dedication and subsequent disposal in a ‘sacred pit’ within the Nemi sanctuary, to its excavation by Savile in 1885, its journey from Italy to England, and its modern display in both physical and digital form.

Needless to say, some stages of the votive’s biography were much easier to reconstruct than others. We could access quite a lot of information about the manufacturing process from a close visual analysis of the figurine itself, which was made in two parts – front and back – from reddish clay pressed into moulds that had themselves been made from another ‘prototype’ figurine. Examining the figurine also shed light on later stages of its life: for instance, the surprisingly good state of preservation suggested that the model had been placed gently amongst the other objects in the votive pit where it was discovered – rather than carelessly discarded, as people often think in relation to this sort of findspot. And of course, the handwritten label that had been carefully glued to the figurine’s back gave insight into nineteenth-century practices of excavation, recording and interpretation (the fading ink letters read ‘Anatomical Votive Offering for some internal malady or childbirth from Artemision, Nemi, 1885’).


Reverse of terracotta Roman female figurine with Victorian excavation label. Photo: ©Nottingham City Museums & Galleries

Further information about the figurine came from comparing it to other objects, both in and beyond the Castle Museum collections. One exciting moment in the research process came when Ann found another, previously-overlooked fragment of a figurine that was identical to part of the dissected woman, suggesting that there may have been more than one such model amongst the votives dedicated at Nemi. At other times, ‘general knowledge’ about anatomical votives from other sites in Italy helped to to fill in the gaps in the figurine’s own, inevitably patchy narrative.

L0058445 Votive male torso, Roman, 200 BCE-200 CE

Terracotta Roman male figurine with open torso. Excavated from Isola Farnese, near Rome, 1871-1900. Photo: Wellcome Images

For example, while the dedicant of this figurine did not inscribe their offering with their name or any clue as to the motivation for their offering, other votive body parts from the ancient world do sometimes have inscriptions, findspots or other things that connect them to healing, making this a plausible interpretation for our figurine too. And while we have no trace of where this votive was dedicated and displayed at Nemi, the evidence from other sanctuaries can suggest possible locations – round the bases of the temple’s cult statue, for instance, or (as was the case at the nearby site of Lavinium) on the top of altars that were used for the performance of animal sacrifice.

Roman relief from Louvre showing haruspex (divinator of entrails, left) waiting to inspect after a sacrifice. Photo: Flickr aegean-blue.

Roman relief from the Louvre showing haruspex (divinator of entrails, left) waiting to inspect after a sacrifice. Photo: Flickr aegean-blue.

This mention of sacrifice leads on to what was, for me, the most compelling aspect of writing the figurine’s life story – that is, thinking about how its symbolic meaning changed and acquired different layers as it moved through history and across cultures. The more I looked at this offering in relation to its original context, the more I became convinced that the imagery of sacrifice had been deliberately evoked in order to add meaning to the object for ancient viewers. The iconography of the dissected torso bore many similarities to depictions of the sacrificial butchery of animals and the related ritual of prophesying the future from the appearance of the entrails. Meanwhile, other objects and narratives from the Nemi site related to human sacrifice, such as a now-lost marble relief showing the killing of the ‘Rex Nemorensis’ (complete with his ‘protruding entrails’, according to one nineteenth-century description). And human sacrifice lay at the core of the sanctuary’s own mythical foundation narrative, in which Orestes had rescued his sister Iphigenia from a life of sacrificing human victims to the Tauric Artemis before bringing her to Nemi along with that goddess’ cult statue. In fact, sacrifice and healing were closely linked concepts in classical antiquity, and it may be that the dedicant of the figurine was aware of this connection, using the figurine to represent his or her status as a sacrificial gift handed over to the care of the goddess.

Early 19th century ivory mug showing Iphigenia as preistess of Artemis on the right and Orestes on the left, about to take her to Nemi. Photo: Walters Art Museum

Early 19th century ivory mug showing Iphigenia as preistess of Artemis on the right and Orestes on the left, about to take her to Nemi. Photo: Walters Art Museum

For later viewers far from the sanctuary of Nemi, these sacrificial resonances would have been less intrusive, and indeed most later commentators focus – as the author of the figurine’s label did – on the ‘medical’, healing function of the votive. When the figurine was included in the innovative virtual sanctuary created by the University of Nottingham it was represented alongside other anatomical offerings in a category of votives related to physical well-being. Here, the visitor to the site is given the opportunity to (re)dedicate votives from Nemi by sending them to another online correspondent for whom the votive might have meaning (in this case, perhaps a friend with tummy ache?!). This is a really good example of how later ‘receptions’ of votives can simultaneously take us away from, and draw us closer to, the original meanings and functions of votives. Here, the emailing of a votive to a mortal rather than a divine recipient seems like the ultimate act of secularisation; however, at the same time, it also potentially restores to the votive some of its empathic, emotional and transactional qualities – qualities that have often been sidelined in academic and antiquarian discussions.

I haven’t yet been to the new exhibition to see how the dissected lady has been presented, but I’m really looking forward to going and updating my object biography with this latest stage in the figurine’s story. In the meantime, our OU students continue to enjoy looking at and hearing about the different votive objects from Nemi, and discovering how the ritual practices surrounding Diana can complement (and sometimes complicate) the rich body of mythological narratives about the goddess of Nemi.

The Anatomy of Ritual is Dr. Hughes’ forthcoming book on ancient anatomical votives.

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Nemeton in the Medieval World

In part one of her special guest-post Dr. Kelly A. Kilpatrick from the Institute for Name-Studies, University of Nottingham, explained how the name ‘Nemi’ connects our sacred place with others across the pre-Christian world. In this second part she shows how this special place-name persisted in the Christian world: 

The previous post discussed the development of the pre-Christian functions and interpretations of nemeton sites. With the decline of the Roman Empire and the spread of Christianity across Europe, new and distinctive attitudes towards pre-existing nemeton places developed. Nemeton sites in post-Roman Gaul often became the focus of Christian missions. The poet Venantius Fortunatus (530-600) describes how the relics of St Vincent put the demons to flight at Vernemetis (Pompéjac) in the poem Basilica S. Vincentii Vernemetis:

Nomine Vernemetis voluit vocitare vetustas, quod quasi fanum ingens Gallia lingua refert. ‘The ancient wished to call it by the name Vernemetis, which refers, as it were, to a great shrine in the Gaulish language’. (Venanti, 12-13).

This place-name is also recorded in the Passion of St Vincent d’Agen as Reonemetum (a corruption of regione Nemeti/ Nemetum). A chapter heading from the Indiculus superstition et paganiarum, the only surviving document from a series of synods held between 741 and 747 concerning missionaries to Saxony and Frisland, also indicates that sacred forests (or  shrines in groves) were known as nimidas and still used in pagan worship. Sources such as Fortunatus and the Indiculus indicate that nemeton sites retained many of their pre-Christian characteristics, but with the adoption of Christianity, nemeton place-names, like many other pre-Christian religious sites, were modified to fit within the contexts of Christian ideology.


Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum. Photo: Wikipedia Commons

There are fewer records of nemeton place-names in medieval Britain and Ireland. Old Irish nemed, ultimately a derivative of nemeton, came to be applied in many different contexts within medieval Irish society. The most common use of nemed in early Ireland was in relation to the Church. In medieval texts this term eventually came to simply mean ‘a sanctuary’ (in some cases ‘glebe-land’), and it is frequently associated with cell ‘chapel’. The term also developed to form an abstract in Old-Irish law referring to a person with certain privileges and immunities. The best source for the medieval Irish interpretation and functions of nemed is found in O’Mulconry’s Glossary from the Yellow Book of Lecan (Kilpatrick, Appendix III).

The evidence for nemeton place-names in medieval England is appreciably greater due to the records in the Domesday Book (completed in 1086). The nemeton place-names (spelled in English as nymet) first recorded in Domesday are borrowings from Brittonic and are clustered in Devon, with one outlier in Gloucestershire. Nearly all of them survive today. In Devon they are located within the immediate vicinity of the Rivers Yeo, Mole and Troney, which were previously known by the name Nymet. C. E. Stevens suggested that Nymet was the name of a forest through which these rivers flowed. There is evidence of nemeton place-names in this area of Devon from the Roman period. Nemetostatio is very near Nymet Tracey and Nymet Roland. Similarly, the Romano-British name Nemetobala located at Lydney, Gloucestershire, was directly across the Severn from Nympsfield. It is ‘almost certain’ that the nemeton-element of Nympsfield is derived from its close proximity to the Uley Shrines complex .


River Mole, Devon. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The region with the largest concentration of place-names in nemeton is Scotland, where at least twenty-six have been identified. They are, however, poorly documented. These sites have often been labelled as pre-Christian religious centres, though it should be noted that there is ample evidence of early Christian activity within the vicinity of most nemeton place-names in Scotland, and a number are closely associated with place-names in cell ‘chapel’. Geographically, the nemeton place-names in Scotland (excluding Rosneath in Argyll) are found in the former region of Pictland, which suggests they are derived from a developed Pictish form of nemeton (Taylor, 152; Goldberg, 178). Whether the Scottish nemeton place-names are pre-Christian places of worship which developed into Christian sites in the Middle Ages or early ecclesiastical sites interpreted similarly to the medieval Irish definition−or a combination of both−requires further study.

Modern Nemeton pns in Devon and Cornwall

Nemeton place-names in Devon and Cornwall.

In Cornwall, the modern place-name Trenovissick (from earlier Trewarnevas) is of interest. The name is formed from Cornish tre ‘estate, farmland’ plus earlier *uer ‘great’, and *neved, and means ‘estate of the great sanctuary’.  It is likely that tre was later prefixed to an existing name *Uerneved.  The name would be identical to the Romano-British and Gaulish name Vernemeton, and if so, it may be a rare survival of an early nemeton site. The nemeton-based names that have survived in Cornwall are located within a particular geographical area.  They are also not far west of the cluster of English nymet place-names and rivers in Devon, near the earlier Romano-British Nemetostatio.

Scottish place-names in 'nemeton'.

Scottish place-names in ‘nemeton’.

The available evidence suggests that there was a sharp contrast between the survival and function of nemeton place-names inside and outside the former areas of the Roman Empire. It is clear that the manner in which this term was interpreted changed significantly from the ancient world to the medieval, especially with the adoption of Christianity. From the Late Antique period the element was typically associated with a pre-Christian sanctuary of some kind, and was possibly a place that housed a shrine. By the early medieval period the term had evolved Christian connotations, and came most commonly to be associated with the Church. Though the word nemeton was retained in the various Celtic languages spoken in the medieval period, from the early Irish usage it is clear the word evolved within a Christian context, though certain aspects of the original meaning were preserved.

Citations and Suggested reading:

Goldberg, M., ‘Ideas and Ideology’, in D. Clarke, A. Blackwell and M. Goldberg (eds.), Early Medieval Scotland (Edinburgh, 2012), pp. 141-204.

Kilpatrick, K. A., ‘A Case-Study of Nemeton Place-Names’, Ollodagos: Actes de la Société Belge d’Études Celtiques, 25, Appendix III.

Stevens, C. E., ‘The Sacred Wood’, in J. V. S. Megaw (ed.), To Illustrate the Monuments: Essays on Archaeology Presented to Stuart Piggot (London, 1976).

Taylor, S., The Place-Names of Fife, vol. I (Donington, 2006).

Venanti Honori Clementiani Fortunati, Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Berlin, 1881).


3D-Scanning Fundilia: Research on the statuary finds from the Sanctuary of Diana at Nemi

Dr. Katharina Lorenz, director of Digital Humanities Centre at University of Nottingham, has been exploring how to connect with the ancient finds at Nemi through twenty-first century digital means. Following a successful talk at Nottingham Castle Museum as part of the Treasures of Nemi exhibition programme she shares with us her experience of 3D scanning the star exhibit of the show, the herm of Fundilia Rufa.

Over the last two years, I have been working on a project concerned with the 3D scanning of the two portrait statues of Fundilia, the herm statue in the Nottingham Castle Museum and Galleries (NCMG) and the full-body statue in the collection of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen. This research is thoroughly multi-disciplinary: it involves archaeologists (myself, Ann Inscker at NCMG, and Jane Fejfer and Mette Moltesen in Copenhagen), Human-Computer-Interaction specialists (Damian Schofield and Matthew Andrews at SUNY Oswego) and a forensic anthropologist (Stephanie Davy-Jow at the University of South Florida), along with Nottingham University Classics students, who helped scanning the herm statue in 2011.


Scanning campaign with Nottingham students, Nottingham Castle Museum and Galleries, January 2011. Photo: Katharina Lorenz

Enhanced artefact documentation
So why 3D-scan Roman portrait statues? There are two reasons why I started this project. The first, basic reason is that 3D scanning technology facilitates enhanced artefact documentation, a major concern in archaeological heritage management: with 3D-scanning technology, an object – in our case, a portrait statue – can be reproduced digitally in a non-invasive, quick and cost-effective way. In a case such as that of the two Fundilias this also means that distributed objects can be reunited virtually with each other, and within their original context, in order to conduct different types of contextual analysis (how did the statues appear in the room in which they were put up? When/how would visitors to the sanctuary see them?), without the need to travel from museum to museum or to the site.

In addition, this type of enhanced artefact documentation can also help to bring out object details not visible to the human eye – the 3D scanner with its high visual resolution works as if a microscope. So, for example when 3D-scanning the herm statue in Nottingham, the student team observed a sequence of indentations on the mantle of the statue, so far never recorded, which we were later able to interpret as a decorative pattern, and an indication that the statue had originally been painted (this is now confirmed after examination by the Copenhagen Tracking Colour project).

Scanning_Fundilia_20110516_webuse_2 (1)

Scanning campaign at Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, May 2011. Photo: Katharina Lorenz

“Big Data” and formal analysis
The second reason for choosing 3D-scanning technology as a means of studying Roman portrait statues is that the scanning produces large data sets – sets of quantitative measurements of the statues – which can support different types of advanced statistical analysis. This part of the project is still ongoing.
What interests me here is to what extent the measurements that the 3D scans produce – measurements capturing the statues in their spherical volume with an exactitude that could not be produced by the more traditional types of manual measurement – can help us to understand the formal and stylistic relationship of the statues better. The central questions for a classical archaeologist like me here are: how similar are the two portrait representations (we know they both show Fundilia because the inscriptions on the statues tell us)? Can we tell whether one was made before the other, ie. one statue served as the model for the other statue (this would have implications for the dating of the statues, and – possibly – also for their respective importance)?
Key to answering these questions is close scrutiny of the portraits of each statue, their faces. Traditionally, classical archaeologists rely on visual autopsy for this type of enquiry: they study the portraits very closely and compare all the individual features in order to elicit an interpretation. But this type of visual autopsy comes with an error margin caused by subjectivity: different interpreters might quite literally look at things differently.


The model of the Copenhagen Fundilia during 3D-scanning. Photo@ Katharina Lorenz

The field of Roman portraiture studies has for the past century been concerned with reducing this element of subjectivity – by means of developing robust protocols that make the analyses and interpretations of individual interpreters transparent, comparable, and falsifiable. So scholars have used comparable ways of photographic documentation, and similar patterns of description. What interested me when starting the project (and still does!) is to what extent the quantification of a portrait (as a type of objective description, because not dependent on the eye sight of a single individual) could offer a new, stronger basis for the formal and stylistic analysis of Roman portraiture.
Comparing facial measurement, even if gained by an “objective” machine such as a 3D-scanner, is not easy – for one, there is the question which measurements to compare. And a decision here, as any other type of interpretation, automatically introduces an element of subjectivity into the analysis. This is where my colleagues from Human Computer Interaction and Forensic Anthropology come in: they developed a standardised system of facial landmarks, which are particularly relevant for facial identification and against which any face can be mapped. And that is what we also did with the two Fundilias, based on the data collected from 3D-scanning them.

Once the faces had been landmarked, the co-ordinates of the facial landmarks were imported into a statistical software package (MiniTab 16, © Minitab 2012) and my colleagues started to examine the statistical distance and spatial mean information relative to the three-dimensional coordinates of the anthropometric landmarks.

The outcome of this statistical analysis showed that the density of coordinates differs between the Nottingham and the Copenhagen portrait of Fundilia – or, in simple words: if the portrait heads were to be super-imposed, there would be significant discrepancy. More specifically, the variations suggest that the areas of the eyes of the two statues are highly similar in terms of relevant proportion and the areas of broader facial landmarks such as the ear or jaw have greater differentials. The tighter and more precise areas that are centred in the middle of the face tend to correlate positively whereas the broader areas have a more negative correlation. This result confirms the hypothesis that Roman artists, when copying portraits, concentrated primarily on the central axis of the face along the nose, and were less concerned about the other areas of the face.
We are currently working on the next stage of the project, with further analysis of the mathematical data and visual feature comparisons between the statues – more results to follow soon!

The results of the first stage of the project can be found here.
Katharina Lorenz

Discovering Diana: the nineteenth-century unearthing of the treasures of Nemi

Fortune and glory? The whip-cracking adventurers and maverick explorers of popular fiction undoubtedly owe their origins, at least in part, to the cultural construct of the Victorian English gentleman.

It was a commonly accepted convention, or even rite of passage, for such educated Englishmen to seek out and in some way, through discovery, documentation or even possession, take ownership of some antiquarian concept. It was as if one could achieve a measure of renown by association: that through possession of what was deemed to be cultural, the possessor would in turn become cultured. The accuracy of this notion is clearly debatable, but its manifestation is undeniable: the nineteenth century bore witness to an unprecedented increase of interest, amongst the middle and upper classes, in all things that could be deemed enlightening and intellectual. Classical History, and Archaeology in particular, was no exception and led directly to the rise of the amateur gentleman archaeologist.

John Savile Lumley, subsequently Lord John Savile, was born on 6 January 1818, the second son of the 8th Earl of Scarborough. Details of his early life are scarce but from the age of 24, in a diplomatic career spanning an impressive 47 years, he represented British interests throughout the world, serving in countries including Germany, Russia, USA, Spain, Constantinople and Belgium. His final appointment before retiring was that of British Minister at Rome in August 1883: a position he was to hold for the next four years. It was during this tenure that, indulging a passion for archaeology, Savile began excavations on the northern shore of Lake Nemi, on land belonging to Prince Orsini. In particular, he hoped to discover the location of the lost Temple of Diana, which he referred to in a letter to George Wallis, then curator of Nottingham Castle Museum, as the ‘Arteminium of Strabo’: a reference to the Greek geographer Strabo’s early description of the temple in the first century AD.

Savile began his excavations on 30 March 1885 at Giardino del Lago at the foot of the hill on which the town of Nemi stands, and was not to be disappointed. Within a short time, portions of a surprisingly large wall had been revealed, previously buried beneath thick layers of vegetation. The wall seemed to support the banks above it whilst simultaneously forming the north and east sides of what was revealed to be a vast terrace measuring in excess of 44,000 square metres. Upon beginning to dig, the very first trench that Savile opened contained a multitude of terracotta models and statuettes.

Votive offerings, 1885, Copyright Nottingham Castle Museums

Votive offerings, 1885, Copyright Nottingham Castle Museums

Due to the surprisingly large quantity of finds, he surmised that he had located a pit where excess votives would have been regularly removed to and buried to make way for new ones.  The presence of numerous statuettes of Diana and her nymphs amongst the models supported the likelihood that this was indeed the lost temple of Diana.

Plan of site from commemorative catalogue, 1893

Plan of site from commemorative catalogue, 1893

This was not the only significant indication that Savile had found what he sought: the finds from a second trench included inscribed marble fragments, one of which made direct reference to Diana, as well as coins, dice, hairpins and writing equipment.

Inscriptions, 1885, Copyright Nottingham Castle Museums

Inscriptions, 1885, Copyright Nottingham Castle Museums

Furthermore, a rectangular temple basement, unearthed some distance from this trench, contained a number of bronze items including a ladle inscribed with Diana’s name, numerous representations of her nymphs and votaries, and over a thousand coins.

East front of temple basement, 1885, Copyright Nottingham Castle Museums

East front of temple basement, 1885, Copyright Nottingham Castle Museums

As work continued, a series of small chapels or shrines were revealed beneath the north wall, one of which showed evidence of being put to use as a sculptor’s studio. Others were found to contain terracotta fragments, the head of a horse, an impressive sculpture of Tiberius and a remarkably well-preserved statue of a Roman matron entitled ‘Fundilia’. One of the most notable finds, towards the end of excavation, was a circular sacrificial altar with channels to drain away blood, surmised to be the temple’s external altar to Diana. And, if these finds alone were not convincing enough, the structure and physical features of the site’s location matched Strabo’s original description so precisely that it was considered impossible for Savile’s discovery to be anything other than the lost temple.

Due to the nature of his initial agreement with the Italian authorities, Savile was only permitted to keep half of his finds, with the rest remaining the property of the landowner, Prince Orsini. More interested in financial than intellectual gain, Orsini sold much of his share to art collectors in Rome, to the apparent indignation of Savile. Indeed, it seems highly likely that Orsini’s attitude contributed directly to Savile’s decision not to accept a new contract to continue working at the site for another year. Consequently, Orsini insisted that Savile’s excavations be refilled – although not before he had profited from allowing a number of others to take advantage of them. By the time of the first display of Savile’s finds in 1891, it was noted, the grass had regrown over Savile’s excavations and many academics were thankful for the photos of the site that he had taken.

Savile’s treatment of his share of the artefacts was in stark contrast to Orsini’s, and clearly reflected his regard for intellectual rather than commercial gain. The announcement of his decision to donate his share of the finds to the newly established Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery, close to his ancestral home of Rufford Abbey, was enthusiastically reported in the press. The local Nottinghamshire Guardian described his endeavours in detail and referred to his ‘generous gift’ as being ‘universally received with feeling of the greatest satisfaction’. The new collection, comprising 1,586 artefacts and a series of photographs of the dig, was highly regarded and provoked international interest from the beginning: a limited edition, commemorative catalogue of the original exhibition lists, amongst its many subscribers, patrons and institutions from USA, France, Germany and beyond.

Following the donation, Savile himself remained somewhat of a local celebrity: he officially retired in 1888, after being raised as a peer the previous year, and sat as Baron Savile of Rufford in Nottinghamshire, having inherited the lands and mansion of Rufford Abbey following the death of his brother, Augustus.   He died at Rufford Abbey on 28 November 1896 and was buried at Bilsthorpe in Nottinghamshire.

Pete Bounous

University of Birmingham

Further reading:

Nottinghamshire Guardian Friday 17th September 1886 p.7

The Morning Post Monday 30th November 1896 p.5

Nottingham Castle Museum, Illustrated Catalogue of the Classical Antiquities from the Site of the Temple of Diana, Nemi, Italy (Nottingham, 1893)

Levine, P., The Amateur and the Professional: Antiquarians, Historians and Archaeologists in Victorian England 1838-1886 (Cambridge, 2002)

On Nemi’s A-list: the herm of Fundilia Rufa

The undisputable star of Nottingham Castle’s ‘Treasures of Nemi’ exhibition is the herm of Fundilia Rufa. Annie Evans, a research student in the Classics department of the University of Nottingham, liked Fundilia so much that she decided to write her entire PhD thesis on her! Today she answers some of our questions about the mysterious lady of Nemi …

So what is it about Fundilia that makes her so special?

Annie: Well originally she was going to be my MA dissertation topic, but the more I looked at her and the more I read about her, the more I realised I could get a lot more than that out of her. I also chose her so I could have something local that I could get my hands on. I wouldn’t have to go down to London or rely on books. I wanted something which had a real local significance.

Herm of Fundilia, Copyright Nottingham Castle Museums

Herm of Fundilia, Copyright Nottingham Castle Museums

When was the first time you saw her?

I must have been a second year undergraduate when I first heard about her. I was sent an email by Katharina [Lorenz, of Nottingham University Classics department] about going to see ‘Fundilia’. I thought we were going to see a person! Afterwards everyone was coming back saying “I’ve been to see Fundilia”, and I was like: “Who is this Fundilia?!” Honestly I thought she was a person who worked at the museum … with a really unusual name!

The first time I went to see her was after I’d seen photos of her in books, which really did her no justice. I got in touch with Ann Inscker [curator at Nottingham Castle Museums] to ask if I could have a look at her.

When you first see her she sort of looks like a witch. I think initially I was drawn to her because she’s so … I guess what we would call conventionally ugly. She’s not your typical ‘Latin lovely’: she’s no Livia or Venus. Then the more reading I did and the more I actually looked at her the more I realised how fascinating she was. There’s stuff about her we’ll never understand because she works on so many different levels.

Detail of Herm of Fundilia, Copyright Nottingham Castle Museums.

Detail of Herm of Fundilia, Copyright Nottingham Castle Museums.

Do you think the real Fundilia looked like that in real life?

No. Because we use the word ‘portrait’ I think you initially think, ‘oh it must be a likeness of someone’, but it’s very hard to judge. We should see the portrait as a construction: her forehead is a high status male Claudian forehead. So once you’ve got used to the visual impact of the forehead, you realise it’s about showing her high status. She also has quite severe ‘Venus rings’ incised around her neck, which was a Roman mark of beauty. We have to understand what this means.

Being ‘pretty’ is one thing, portraying beauty is another thing. Someone is portraying her as a very high status person, and they’ve used a male characteristic to do it, yet they’ve incised her throat with ‘Venus rings’ which is a mark of female beauty. It’s very hard for modern viewers to peel all their preconceptions away.

Also we have to realise she looks a bit funny because she was buried underground for so long. She would have been painted, which I think would have helped enormously. Her hair would have been painted; her face would have been painted; the drapery on her clothes would have been painted.

Herm of Fundilia, detail.

Herm of Fundilia, detail.

And her missing feet?!

The feet Ann found are definitely her missing feet. Obviously they’ve become detached, you can see the crack behind the feet when they were removed.

When were they removed?

There was a landslide at Nemi, and that’s why she’s so damaged and all the sculptures in the room with her were underground for such a long time. It’s highly likely Fundilia’s feet came off at this time.

Why doesn’t she have any arms?

She did, but like the feet they’ve fallen off. But why they haven’t found the arms like the feet is a more interesting question. As a herm, the arms would have been separate, you can still see the pins in her shoulders which would have held the arms on. They could have been made of wood, and so have rotted away. They would have been arm stumps which you could have hung garlands from.

Herm of Fundilia, detail. Copyright Nottingham Castle Museums.

Herm of Fundilia, detail. Copyright Nottingham Castle Museums.

What can you tell us about her very unusual hairstyle?

It’s kind of like a deconstructed nodus.

A what?!

Like the topknot which Livia [wife of the first emperor Augustus] had. Fundilia has the bun moved to the top of her head, and changed slightly. It’s a traditional Roman hairstyle from the late Republic, which is much earlier than Fundilia. It’s an interesting question as to why a woman in the Claudian period has this early Roman style, as Roman ladies were normally really up-to-date with the latest hairstyle fashions. The other women from the room where Fundilia was found has pretty contemporary, modern hairstyles.

So she’s a woman who liked to look different?

Yes, it would have given her gravitas.

Inscription from statue of Fundilius, Ny Calsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen. Hans Ollerman CC

Inscription from statue of Fundilius, Ny Calsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen. Hans Ollerman CC

What was the motivation behind this sculpture? Did she decide to make it?

It was dedicated by her freedman, her ex-slave called Fundilius. He dedicated a statue of himself [now in Copenhagen] and two, possibly three of Fundilia. They were possibly originally at different locations around the temple complex, maybe one near the theatre.

But to say that he’s a ‘slave’ is a bit simplistic. He calls himself ‘Doctus’, which means ‘learned’, and he calls himself ‘Apollo’s parasite’, meaning an actor. His statue is a lot more expensive than Fundilia’s full-size statue [also in Copenhagen]. It’s a lot fancier.

The herm of Fundilia [in Nottingham], on the other hand, is absolutely amazing and outstanding. There’s no other herm like her from the Roman world.

Statue of Fundilia. Ny Calsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen. Barbara F. McManus CC.

Statue of Fundilia. Ny Calsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen. Barbara F. McManus CC.

So there was a cheap full size statue of Fundilia and a really expensive herm?

Well the herm has amazing features. It actually has uneven breasts, which was a feature of large-scale female sculpture. A herm was more fitting in a sanctuary context, it likely would originally have been near the temple of Diana. It looks like Fundilius came into lots of money, or became more famous or rose in society, and then decided to put up some more statues, and just went to town on his own full-size, and got her a fairly average one! But the herm of Fundilia is of such incredible quality that it would have been very expensive.

Is it unusual to have a female statue in a sacred place? Is she a votive?

Not a votive to a goddess like Diana. It’s more of a dedication to Fundilia herself from her freedman Fundilius. Provenance is, of course, a huge issue. The statues clearly didn’t originally come from the room with the mosaic where they were found in excavations. The full-size statue was probably in or near the theatre at Nemi, and it’s quite nice to think that Fundilius’ statue was also originally there too as it would fit well with him being an actor. I think all the statues were collected from all around the sanctuary at a later point and put into this room so that more statues could be set up in Diana’s sanctuary.

Statue of Fundilius, freedman of Fundilia. Ny Calsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen. Barbara F. McManus  CC.

Statue of Fundilius, freedman of Fundilia. Ny Calsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen. Barbara F. McManus

So Fundilia may not have had any say in the creation of this herm. Does this mean that she was the vehicle for someone else’s ambitions?

She clearly had a status of her own, but Fundilius has used her as his vehicle. He took his name from hers, and used it all over the statues. As a freedman, Fundilius needed a lineage to point to, and that’s what he’s got with Fundilia. She’s a surrogate mother, possibly wife. Fundilia isn’t mentioned as anyone’s wife or mother [the key definers of Roman womanhood], only as a daughter. So she’s nobody’s woman, apart from Fundilius’!

What kind of status would an actor like Fundilius have had in Roman society?

It’s really unusual to have an ex-slave actor with this amount of resources. What’s interesting about him is how he goes to great lengths to portray himself as an orator, and yet has two inscriptions stating that really he’s an actor. So why doesn’t he just portray himself as an actor? In reality actors were a bit dodgy in Roman society, associated with prostitution and the like. He’s obviously showing himself instead as a serious, serious actor.

Nemi is a very interesting case for showing social mobility in Roman society. With the Via Appia door to door between Rome and Nemi everyone had increased mobility. It’s only about 17km. Nemi was where all the Roman aristocrats had their villas, so there were a lot of very ‘proper’ people there. Nemi town boomed with the temple complex – they had their own granaries, minted their own coins, there were money-lenders. The people there were ridiculously rich: there would have been silly money in Nemi. Like some sort of South Riviera of antiquity, where the very very rich would come: royalty, and then slowly the A-list celebrities would catch on, and so on. Fundilius and Fundilia aren’t royalty: they don’t have imperial connection, but they’re A-list celebrities of Nemi.

Rebecca Usherwood & Annie Evans are doctoral researchers at the University of Nottingham.

Fog, Drizzle and Woolly Socks: Living at the Edge of the World

Today Britain is a major economic world player with a proud history. It is easy to forget that in the eyes of the ancient Romans she was a marginal place at the edge of the world, among the last parts of the Roman world to be conquered and the first province abandoned as the empire crumbled.

The majority of the objects on display at the Treasures of Nemi exhibition at Nottingham Castle Museum date from period long before Britain was ever on the Romans’ radar. They may have heard of its existence, but, over the channel from the European mainland, it must have seemed a mysterious, exotic and frightening place: a land of dense forest and torrential rain, inhabited by a ferocious race of blue-painted warriors.

Portrait head from Nemi identified as Julius Caesar, Nottingham Castle Museums

Portrait head from Nemi identified as Julius Caesar, Nottingham Castle Museums

The first direct contact between the Romans and Britons came in the summer of 55 BC, when the Roman general Julius Caesar landed on the Kentish shore. He had been campaigning in Gaul (modern France) when he decided to tackle the ultimate challenge of this remote island. But the expedition could easily be regarded as a military failure: no territory was conquered, and no troops left behind to hold it. After a few inconclusive battles with the locals (who had a habit of riding terrifying chariots), and with his supply lines stretched and ships battered by horrific British gales, Caesar admitted defeat, and retreated back to Gaul. A year later he tried again, but again he failed. Nevertheless, the Senate back in Rome proclaimed a 20-day holiday in honour for his ‘success’ at tackling this inhospitable place. Thus began the myth of Britain, the remote island, a place at the edge of the world where Roman leaders could achieve political prestige.

The first Roman emperor, Augustus, is said to have planned his own invasion of Britain, but it remained an unfulfilled dream. Strabo, a Greek geographer who wrote late in Augustus’ reign, described the distant land of Britain. He said it was overgrown with forests and perpetually covered by drizzle and fog so thick that there was only three hours of sunlight a day (an accurate description of British weather?). He claimed that British people stood almost a foot taller than the average Roman, and made bad slaves due to their barbarous natures (though they were allegedly not as bad as the inhabitants of neighbouring Ireland, who had a penchant for cannibalism and incest). Strabo concluded that the rainy island of Britain was not even worthy the cost and effort of invading.

The Emperor Claudius subdues the personification of Britain, from Aprodisias, Turkey. Photo David J. Lull, CC

The Emperor Claudius subdues the personification of Britain, from Aprodisias, Turkey.
Photo David J. Lull, CC

 Eventually the emperor Claudius undertook the conquest of Britain in AD 43, almost a hundred years after Julius Caesar had set foot on its shores. It was a war of prestige rather than necessity: Claudius, an obscure member of the Roman imperial family, needed a glamorous military victory to secure his throne against opposition back home in Rome. Taming the dangerous and foggy island of Britain was the ultimate achievement. Claudius’ victory was advertised as far away as Aphrodisias, in modern Turkey on the opposite side of the Roman world, where a sculptural relief portrayed the emperor subduing a wild and Amazon-like personification of Britain (above).

Victorian sculpture of Boadicea, Embankment, London. CC.

Victorian sculpture of Boadicea, Embankment, London. CC.

In the years following Claudius’ invasion, Roman control was consolidated and distinctive Romano-British culture developed. The tribes of some regions saw the advantages of siding with the Romans; other areas (such as Wales) took decades to subdue. Though Britain was now officially part of the Roman Empire it remained a problematic place. In AD 60-1 the infamous rebellion of Boadicea, the queen of the Iceni tribe, resulted in the razing of the Roman cities of Camuldonum (modern Colchester) and Verulanium (modern St. Albans), and almost London itself, with an estimated 80,000 casualties. Nero, the Roman emperor at the time, even considered abandoning the island altogether.

A woman’s handwriting. Writing tablet from Vindolanda. CC.

A woman’s handwriting. Writing tablet from Vindolanda. CC.

The emperor Hadrian visited this remote part of his empire in around 120 AD and ordered the construction of a defensive wall – Hadrian’s Wall – to divide Roman Britain from the untameable regions in modern Scotland. The writing tablets which survive from Vindolanda, one of the Wall’s forts located in modern Northumberland, provide remarkable and vivid evidence for the lives of ordinary people living at the edge of the Roman Empire. One (above) is an invitation written by a woman inviting her friend to a birthday party: a unique example from the Roman world of woman’s own handwriting.  Another was written by a young soldier, hundreds of miles from his family, sending them a letter asking them to send him some woolly socks and warmer underwear to cope with the British drizzle. Much like a modern university student, some things never change.

Rebecca Usherwood, Doctoral Researcher, University of Nottingham.

To learn more about Roman Nottinghamshire:

Blog by Mark Patterson, author of Roman Nottinghamshire (2011)

The University of Nottingham Museum, located at Lakeside Arts Centre, has a variety of archaeological artefacts from the Roman sites of Nottinghamshire, including towns, such as Margidunum and Ad Pontem, cemeteries and villas:



All around me are familiar faces …

This week in her guest-post Dr. Emma-Jayne Graham of the Open University muses on the vividness of the many ancient faces found at Nemi: 

NCM 1890-1355-384

©Nottingham City Museums & Galleries

It is a common situation: you are sure that you recognise someone but can’t quite put a name to the face. Imagine, then, walking into an ancient sanctuary and seeing an array of terracotta heads that you know belong to family, friends and neighbours but can’t quite name.


©Nottingham City Museums & Galleries

Like most votive deposits from Italy, there are a lot of heads and faces in the assemblage from Nemi. We can’t give names to any of them, even though we know that each was dedicated by an individual. Votive heads have received a lot of scholarly attention and for good reason. Of all types they are amongst the easiest to date and their development can be traced through the use of prototypes and moulds. I suspect that heads have also proved so interesting because the diversity of faces reminds us of real people more directly than a terracotta foot ever can.

This is something that I have been thinking about, not just for the light that it sheds on our own, not always objective, responses to the material culture of the past, but because it makes me wonder about the reactions of ancient people. To us, these heads represent the range of personalities and characters found within a past community. We can recognise men and women, adults, children and adolescents based on the fundamental and immediately familiar characteristics of our shared human physiognomy. We might also sometimes recognise clues about wealth or social status.

NCM 1890-1355-388

©Nottingham City Museums & Galleries

All of this and more would have been recognisable to the ancient community. Walking into a sanctuary or cult room and seeing terracotta heads lining the walls, scattered across the floor, or piled in a corner, might have been very much like walking into a room full of familiar people. It is unlikely that many of these votive heads reflect the real features of an individual so it would not necessarily have been possible to point out relatives or friends, but votive offerings were made in the understanding that this was the traditional way of communicating with the gods. It would therefore involve coming face-to-face with the past and present community of people who worshipped the same deities, performed the same rituals, sought healing for the same conditions and had done so in the same place perhaps for centuries. Consequently, almost everything in the sanctuary represented the body and identity of someone who had experienced similar concerns, fears and hopes as you. This makes me wonder about the sense of belonging and community that participating in votive cult might provoke. If the point was to seek protection, healing or good fortune from the divine, then seeing the ‘faces’ of people who had done precisely the same, knowing that you were in good company, must have intensified that feeling of security.  So, a visit to the sanctuary might indeed have entailed familiar faces all around you, including old, worn out faces that were significant precisely because they were going nowhere.

Emma-Jayne Graham, Baron Thyssen Lecturer, The Open University.

See more ancient faces in our photo gallery!

In Preparation

We are delighted to announce today’s blog is hosted by Ann Inscker, curator of The Treasures of Nemi exhibition. Here she reflects on her busy and challenging week preparing the museum space and displays for the exhibition’s launch, which took place last Friday, 19th July 2013.

Monday 15th July

Work was already in full swing, the galleries were painted, the majority of the objects had been brought up the hill from the Brewhouse Yard site and the plinths, altars and display shelving etc. were all being painted appropriate colours for the rooms into which they would eventually sit. The remarkable team of technicians, who I had not worked with previously, were all diligently going about their work with little fuss, under the supervision of the Design Technician, the Assistant Conservator and the Exhibition Officer, a very impressive site. I was accompanied by my two foreign placement students, Nicole from Australia and Sophie from Canada, on a museum and heritage programme from their respective home countries with Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln. They were my much needed extra pairs of hands, to make up for my current state being heavily pregnant with twins.



A couple of minutes after we arrived, Andrew from the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, arrived with a wonderful watercolour and chalk drawing, “The Lake of Nemi and the town of Genzano’ by John Robert Cozens which was duly hung on the wall while he observed. This, the first object to be installed, is remarkable and although painted in the eighteenth century still reflects some of the mystic charm and serene beauty you might have observed in ancient times and which still lingers when you visit the lake today. Following Andrew’s departure our other loan items, a marble bust of Lord Savile, the excavator of our Nemi collection, arrived from Leeds Museums and a voluptuous painting of Diana, attributed to Antonio Bellucci {1716-22] from Northampton Museums. Sadly for my placement students the bust remained in it’s box awaiting a plinth from the workshop in the bowels of the Castle Museum and the painting was turned face down so that an assessment could be made for the fixings.

Thus we turned our attention to placing masking tape where some of the plinths and objects were to be located around the three galleries and moved a few of the completed items into place, where possible.

Tuesday 16th July

IMG_4722Sophie and Nicole carried on working  on their educational activity sheets for the gallery, while I ploughed on with other work of a classical nature, at my lap top in the gallery, until I was needed to give direction. Ian our labels and vinyl man arrived with the labels and a number of text panels and promises of a return visit on Friday to do the floor and wall vinyl and the technicians, having painted all the plinths several times, began arranging the wall shelving supports for the Etruscan and Roman building material displays.

We helped locate some of the plinths appropriately and watched with trepidation as Fundilia was put back together. A fracture along her left shoulder, established as result of the expanding iron inserts which would have originally held her arms on both sides, had previously expanded, resulting in a breakage once she was lifted in the stores to make her way up to the Castle. Fortunately, all was salvageable and the Assistant Conservator glued the two broken elements back together and left them over night to set. The red paint in the end gallery in which she will sit, provides a heightened sense of drama and sets off the marble sculptures beautifully.

Nemi, Military Uniforms etc. July 2013 002Nemi Exhibition set up 049

Nemi Exhibition set up 063

Wednesday  17th July

Work began on the altar layouts, starting with the Cica. Pre 200 BC layout. This case contains the largest number of objects at around 70 and so was a big challenge, though thoroughly needed to put across the cramped nature of Etruscan altars and to show the rich variety of figurines deposited, one of the unique features of the finds from Nemi. Another of my volunteers, John, joined me in the afternoon to take photographs of the installation.

The bust of Lord Savile by Van der Kerkhove Saibas, kindly loaned by Leeds Museums, was finally lifted on to a newly painted plinth by the team, his head subtly turned to observe visitors making their way in to the second gallery. Savile fittingly sits next to the superb Cozens watercolour. Leeds will be doing an exhibition on Savile in 2014 and are likely to request a number of items from this collection to join the material they hold from the Lanuvium villa of the emperor Antoninus Pius which Savile excavated prior to Nemi.

Nemi, Military Uniforms etc. July 2013 019  Nemi, Military Uniforms etc. July 2013 033


We laid out the banners representing the missing sculptures from the Fundilia Room, in the wall niches at the back of the sanctuary, leaving our sole representative, the Fundilia herm, as the star attraction. The other sculptures are at the Ny Carlesberg in Copenhagen and sadly floor loading and expense, prevented us from requesting the originals. Instead photographs of the portrait busts were printed on fabric, located in their correct positions and expertly hung by Design Technician Russell, using Boaden cable, named after Sir Frank Boaden, founder of Raleigh bicycles here in Nottingham and made from the same material for break cables no less!


Thursday 18th July [The Longest Day]

Having set up my Industrial volunteers down at Brewhouse and printed off the educational sheets worked on by placement students Nicole and Sophie, Nicole joined me in coming up to the Castle. Today was going to be very exciting, as the massive oak tree, representing the ‘Golden Bough’ of the Rex Nemorensis, or King of the Woods, was arriving. When we got up the hill the magnificent tree had already arrived and was looking fabulous against the red background walls. In the afternoon, I Christened, or should I say ‘Votived’ the tree, by being the first to follow Ovid’s description of messages in the trees around the sanctuary, by hanging my personal message in the tree. As I am pregnant, it seemed apt to ask for the safe delivery of my twins.


The first job after tree inspection, was to check and locate the reproduction images taken from Savile’s sepia photographs and those taken by myself and my husband, Mark, during our visit to the site in 2010. Unfortunately, a mini panic attack occurred when I realised 10 important images were missing. We rushed to the Exhibitions Team Office where Tris, the Exhibitions Officer, put through an urgent order with no guarantee that the items would turn up until the afternoon. Fingers were crossed and they turned up in the afternoon and were duly laid out in their appropriate locations.

We then commenced numbering the Pre and Post 200 BC altars, laid out and subsequently numbered the four pillar display cases [gaming, bone and glass, bronze and finally coinage] and lastly numbered the two architectural displays. Although this may not sound like a huge amount of work, all the checking against the layout plans and text, meant that neither myself, or poor Nicole, left the Castle until almost 7.30pm. As I had started at 7.30am, this was a long day and it wasn’t over yet. I had 17 applications for my maternity cover to look through once I got home, happy days.

The technicians had again proved themselves, setting up Asclepious, the herm of Lucius Faenius Faustus, possibly the oldest dedication to the lowliest of actors known and the majority of the architectural objects. The latter, being displayed at height, for the first time to my knowledge, and with a white, rather than yellow light, all look remarkable on the wall.

Friday 19th July [opening day and still a lot to do]

Earlier start today, again having set up my Industrial volunteers back at Brewhouse beforehand. I came up to the castle armed with the educational sheets and a number of site images checked against their formal names, giving me the chance to alter the arrangement of some of the site images before they went up. Today the floor and inscription wall vinyl arrives, along with the Byron material from Newstead Abbey [Childe Harrold’s Pilgrimage Forth Canto] and a number of Diana related items from Fine and Decorative Art, including a painting of Diana after Titian. The latter, based on a naked Venus draped across a bed, had recently returned from conservation work to the frame and cleaning. It would appear, the already sexy Diana was even sexier following her cleaning, as her arm had been over-painted to cover some of her modesty at a later date.

The team again worked perfectly and very calmly together, right up to the line, putting up the last of the text panels, the framed works, cabinet lids, labels, arranging the lighting and cleaning through the galleries and removing kit. Ian the vinyl specialist arrived to install the Via Verbia or ‘sacred way’ in the first gallery, the wall inscription of Diana’s attributes and the mosaic floor inscription in the Fundilia Room, all helping to set the scene. The galleries were finally completed at 6pm, just in time for the arrival of the public for the private view.

Having made a swift change, I arrived back at the castle in time to meet Associate Professor of Classics at Nottingham University, Katharina Lorenz, who would be opening the exhibition. I escorted her through the galleries, before taking her to the café to participate in the speeches. The turn out was very good with a number of familiar faces to the archaeological collections in attendance, including Mark Patterson who would be providing one of the lectures to accompany the exhibition and was there in his freelance reporter capacity, to write a critique of the exhibition for the ‘Nottingham Evening Post.’ On Monday Victoria Donnellan will come to do the same for ‘The Museums Journal.’

The exhibition was well received from all who came to speak to me and I was delighted to see the wonderful oak tree already carrying a number of votive messages. With my pregnant legs having swelled somewhat, I went home exhausted but elated that we had met the deadline. Only three more events to get through over the next two weeks, then I can pass the baton on to my maternity cover, whoever they may be.

Ann Inscker, curator at Nottingham City Museums and Galleries and the Treasures of Nemi: Finds from the Sanctuary of Diana exhibition.