A new Romano-British goddess called Senua has been identified among a buried hoard of gold and silver.
The Senua figurine found among the Baldock Hoard
The goddess was part of a hoard discovered near Baldock, in Hertfordshire, the British Museum revealed on Monday.
Previously unheard of in the Roman world, she is believed to be a British version of the popular Roman deity Minerva, associated with wisdom, the crafts, healing and springs such as the spa at Bath.
British Museum specialist Ralph Jackson said: "Senua might have been likened to Minerva for any one or more of these perceived powers."
The hoard, found by a treasure hunter with a metal detector and now acquired by the museum, comprises 26 objects including gold jewellery, a silver figure and votive plaques of silver alloy and gold.
The clasp includes a gemstone engraved with a lion
The museum said the treasure was buried in a manner that suggested it was being stored for safekeeping against possible raids.
One of the key pieces was the badly eroded 15 cm tall hollow silver figure identified as Senua dressed in a full-length garment, her left shoulder bare and her left arm supporting a fold of drapery.
Her hair is parted on the crown and formed into a bun on the nape of her neck, but erosion has taken away much of her
arms, her feet and her face.
Although there was nothing on the statuette itself to identify it with Senua, a silver base for a figurine and inscribed with the goddess's name was found nearby and is believed to be the missing stand.
Along with the figure, several of the 19 plaques
were also dedicated to Senua.
The gold plaques date from the late 3rd or 4th Century AD
"Much work remains to be done on the hoard and on the investigation of its context, and it is likely there will be new and significant revelations," Mr Jackson said.
"For now though, this find has furthered our understanding of religious practices at the time and added a new name to the
Roman-British lexicon," he added.
The Baldock hoard, thought to date from the late 3rd or 4th Century AD, will go on display at the museum from the middle of September.
The hoard was discovered in September 2002.