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Last Updated: Monday, 29 October 2007, 00:26 GMT
Roman tombstone found at Inveresk
The Roman tombstone (Pic: National Museums Scotland)
The tombstone was found near the line of a Roman road
The first Roman tombstone found in Scotland for 170 years has been unearthed at Carberry, near Inveresk.

The red sandstone artefact was for a man called Crescens, a bodyguard for the governor who ran the province of Britain for the Roman Emperor.

The National Museum of Scotland said the stone provided the strongest evidence yet that Inveresk was a pivotal Roman site in northern Britain.

It was found by amateur enthusiast Larney Cavanagh at the edge of a field.

It had been ploughed up and cleared from the field without anyone noticing its inscription.

Dating between 140 and 180 AD, it features the image of a naked barbarian, apparently dead.

Most of the upper part of the stone is lost, but a surviving hoof and foot show that it would have featured a cavalryman attacking the barbarian.

This tombstone is the first Scottish example ever found
Dr Fraser Hunter
National Museums Scotland

The presence of the stone near Inveresk strongly suggests that Crescens died while accompanying the governor on a visit to the fort there.

The tombstone has been described as the most important Roman discovery in Scotland since the Cramond Lioness.

The white sandstone lioness statue was found in the mud of the River Almond 10 years ago.

Dr Fraser Hunter, principal curator of Roman Archaeology at the National Museums Scotland, said: 'It is very rare to find Roman tombstones, and this is the first time we have found evidence of the governor's bodyguard in Scotland.

"This stone is an unexpected window onto our Roman past, and we can tell from it that Crescens was a well-respected and important man.

"The cavalryman riding down a barbarian - who represents our unfortunate Scottish ancestors - is a typical image seen on tombstones all around the frontiers of the Roman Empire, but this is the first Scottish example ever found."

'Very nervous'

Larney Cavanagh said: 'I was stunned when I laid eyes on the stone, and very nervous as I awaited confirmation of my initial suspicions.

"Some finds are difficult to recognise at first as being significant, and I usually turn stones over looking for inscriptions and patterns, but this one was instantly recognisable from the style of the carving."

The tombstone measures over a metre high and nearly a metre wide.

It was found near the line of a Roman road, but is likely to have been moved from its original position as it shows signs of damage and attempts at reuse.

Romans were often buried near roads, so that travellers could see their memorials and remember them.

The stone is currently at the National Museums Collection Centre in Edinburgh for further examination.

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