WE may imagine our relatives of 2,000 years ago to be a shaggy-topped bunch, but a digger from Oxford Archaeology says an important find shows they may have been more dapper than we thought.

The 5cm-tall figure of an unknown Celtic deity sports a tidy moustache and haircut, and is believed to represent the height of fashion in the first century AD.

Figurine discovered at a dig at the National Trusts Wimpole Estate

Figurine discovered at a dig at the National Trust's Wimpole Estate

The copper alloy human figurine was initially thought to represent Cernunnos, the Celtic god of fertility. When it was cleaned, the moustache and hairstyle detail was revealed. Its hair appears neatly shaped at the front and long but tidy at the back.

Read more: Joanna Lumley and Stephen Fry to play Oxford Playhouse show

Chris Thatcher, from Oxford East Archaeology, said the figure, which was discovered during digging on the site of a new visitor centre at the National Trust’s Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire, gives us an insight into what the best turned out ancient Britons looked like.

The historian from the Osney Mead-based archaeology group's East of England operation, said: “Finds such as this give a rare and fascinating insight into aesthetics and symbolism in the latest Iron Age.

“The extent to which his hairstyle is typical of contemporary styles will never be known for certain.

“However, we think the combination of him holding a torc – associated with status – and forming the handle of a spatula – either used to mix medicines, or wax for writing tablets – speak of influence and power.

A dig at the National Trusts Wimpole Estate

A dig at the National Trust's Wimpole Estate

“The fact that he was found on a site with so much other evidence for it being a local hub is wonderful and appropriate.”

The figure probably originally served as the handle of a spatula, according to the National Trust.

It may have been lost or deposited at Wimpole by inhabitants of early Roman Britain at the end of the Iron Age.

The Roman settlement that was excavated is believed to have been at the centre of a trading network, with imported pottery as well as around 300 metal objects uncovered during the dig.

These included coins, cosmetic implements, horse harness fittings, Roman military uniform fittings, a spearhead, an axe head, key handles, brooches, as well as scrap lead and a number of iron nails.

Work in 2018 revealed a late Iron Age to early Roman rural settlement, and artefacts discovered there have since been subject to further analysis.

Shannon Hogan, National Trust archaeologist for the East of England, said: “This figure is an exceptional find and thanks to careful conservation and cleaning, we can now see some remarkable detail.

“His hairstyle and moustache are clear, which might be indicative of current trends or perhaps ‘typical’ for depictions of this particular deity.

“The artefact dates to the first century AD, and whilst possibly of Roman manufacture, exhibits very Celtic traits such as his oval eyes.

“The torc it is holding – an open-ended metal neck ring – is still clear and a small recess at the centre is suggestive of a decorative inlay, now lost.

“We have extremely limited knowledge of what ordinary people of England at that time looked like, so this beautifully detailed figure might just be giving us a tantalising glimpse into their appearance, or how they imagined their gods.”

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

For news updates straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on news@nqo.com or 01865 425 445.