In 1997, ferryman Robert Graham unearthed a sandstone sculpture from the mud of the River Almond, Cramond, Edinburgh. It turned out to be one of the most important Roman finds in decades.

Cramond lioness fact file

Date

Mid 2nd - early 3rd century AD

Found

In the mud at the mouth of the River Almond, Cramond, Edinburgh in 1997 by the ferryman Robert Graham

Made from

White sandstone

Acquired

Acquired with the aid of the National Art Collections Fund

Museum reference

X.1997.6

On display

Early People, Level -1, National Museum of Scotland

Did you know?

Cramond is the site of a former Roman Fort.

Cramond lioness

This imposing stone monument was discovered mired in mud at the mouth of the River Almond in Cramond, Edinburgh. You can explore the area in the map below.

Who was the monument for?

This monument is probably a memorial for a high ranking Roman officer. The sculpture expresses the widespread symbolism of death and depicts a lioness devouring a naked bearded man. He has his hands tied behind his back, and represents a captive, probably a local Caledonian. The two snakes on the base symbolise survival of the soul.

Death as a social occasion

Cramond lioness

In Roman times, death was not simply a matter of disposing of the body – it was a very important social occasion at which the living affirmed their relationships with the deceased and each other. Funerary rites marked aspects of the dead person's identity. The lioness would mark and protect the dead man’s grave and his memory.

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