What just happened?

To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

More information about how we have ‘runified’ this site


Collection online

Additional options
Production date to

Or search by



  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Marble head from a statue of a wrestler. It was originally crossed with straps tied under the chin, intended to hold pads to protect the ears. The straps were probably made of metal, representing the leather headgear worn by many athletes in antiquity.

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 2ndC
  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 26.67 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Probably a Roman copy of a Greek original of the 3rd century BC.Cook 2011, nr. 67:
    ‘A small head of an athlete 30 [Scudi]’ (TY 8/4).
    This entry for Townley’s account book for 6 March 1772 marks the earliest record of a purchase direct from Gavin Hamilton. It was transcribed into ST 1 (fo. 23r) as ‘a head of an athlete’ with a note that it was charged in the list of marbles bought from Hamilton, where it appears as ‘head of an athlete less than life’ at £7 (ST 1, fo. 17v). This description and price are also given in TY 10/3 (fo. 31). I have found no other record of this purchase in Townley’s papers, but it seems that the most likely identification of the head is Smith 1748, which has a band or strap passing across the forehead and over the head, and fastened with a knot under the chin. Taking this for phorbeia, Smith identified the head as that of a trumpeter, while acknowledging that the form of the strap was unusual. Smith was surely mistaken here: the head is simply that of an athlete.
    The head is possibly the one sent to Jenkins by Townley mentioned in TY 7/313, and as ‘a head delivered to me’ in an account from Jenkins (TY 8/74/8).
    The head does not appear in any of Townley’s lists or catalogues, nor in the lists compiled by Combe, unless it is the ‘small head’, no. 6 in the supplementary list for the street drawing room (GR 7, TY 18/4). Neither the supplementary list nor the receipt add any detail to confirm this. This head was registered as 1805.7-3.248 but marked ‘not found’ in the 1848 Townley register.

    - Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum (1808) X.41.
    - A Guide to the Graeco-Roman Sculptures in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities (Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum) (2 vols., London 1874 [2nd ed. 1879] and 1876), II, no. 149.


  • Bibliography

    • Sculpture 1748 bibliographic details
  • Conservation

    See treatments 

    Treatment date

    27 June 2008

    Reason for treatment

    Temporary Exhibition

    Treatment proposal

    Light clean. Improve fills to nose and lip. Improve appearance to stained eye


    The object is in sound condition. The joint to the nose and lip have become dirty and are visually disruptive. The surface is covered with a thin layer of dust and general dirt. There is a possible stain to the left half of the proper right eye that is also visually disruptive when viewing the object.

    Treatment details

    The object was swab cleaned with acetone and de-ionized water 1:1. The fine joints to the nose and lip were filled using Flugger. This was then retouched with Rowney's Cryla colours (acrylic)

    to match the surrounding stone. The staining to the proper right eye and to the tip of the nose was touched out in the same manner.

    About these records 

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Greek & Roman Antiquities

  • Registration number



If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: collectiondatabase@britishmuseum.org 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: GAA8724

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 


Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help