This carved sandstone head was found over 150 years ago on the site of the Roman fort at Birrens in the parish of Middlebie.
Its style combines the naturalism of Roman sculpture with an air of spiritual detachment more Celtic than classical, indicating how the cultures of Roman colonists and native Celts intermingled in frontier areas.
It seems to show a woman, most probably a goddess worshipped by the soldiers who manned this distant outpost. It may represent a Roman deity or possibly a Celtic goddess, either Briget or Rhiannon. Her expression has been described as "serene, absorbed, dignified and serious".
Although this head may have become detached from a bust or statue, the symbol of the severed head is as representative of the Celtic religion as the cross is of Christianity. The Celts, like many primitive peoples, believed that to gain possession of the head of an enemy implied military prowess. At the same time, the human head was believed to protect the fortress or home, ensuring good luck and success.
In the collection of Dumfries Museum & Camera Obscura.