Suffolk Heritage Explorer highlights a Roman copper-alloy tortoise figurine has been recovered by a local metal detector user near Wickham Skeith this summer.

Cast in copper alloy, the object is in the form of a tortoise or turtle. The flat base shows no evidence for fixing, which suggests that it was a free standing figurine.

Tortoises or turtles were most often associated with the god Mercury in the Roman world and Mercury is often found accompanied by turtles/tortoises in iconography. Mercury was the god of commerce, communication and travellers. A possible reason for the association with Mercury was that tortoise shells were used for making lyres, stringed musical instruments used in antiquity, the invention of which is attributed to Mercury in mythology.

A very similar example was recovered from occupation layers dating to circa AD 100-400 from excavations in the Roman town of Colchester. Metal detectorists reporting their objects to the Finds Recording Team has resulted in a growing corpus of Roman turtle/tortoise figurines in recent years. In Suffolk turtle figurines have also been recovered from near Barking and near Little Blakenham.