Celtic fertility figurine goes under the hammer

A Celtic bronze fertility figurine discovered in Little Chishill, Cambridgeshire, in 2018 is going under the hammer. Metal detectorist Bob Jemmett found it during a rally in a freshly plowed field and reported it to the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Experts identified it as a Celtic fertility figure from the 1st century A.D.

The cast copper-alloy figure is 38 mm (1.5 inches) high and 12.53mm (.5 inches) and is a stylized depiction of a standing male figure with a prominent phallus, nubs for arms, an elongated torso and short legs. His head is large and skull-like with pits as eyes, a button nose and a wide groove as a mouth with vertical lines for teeth. The shape of the head is mushroomed-shaped with an extended rounded back and jutting chin. On the back is a circular loop that was used to suspend it or mount. The loop is almost worn through on one side, indicating it may have hung from something for a significant length of time, but it is too low on the back to have been a pendant from a necklace.

The only known comparable figurine was found in 2014 in Sussex, but there are marked differences. The Sussex example has no facial features at all, the arms are waist-length and the phallus is small and flaccid. There is no exact parallel known, and neither this figurine nor the Sussex one were excavated in archaeological conditions. Interestingly, it does have several notable features in common with the Cerne Abbas Giant, the hillside chalk figure in Dorset, namely the erect phallus and the shape of the eyes, nose and mouth.

The Little Chishill figurine was immediately popular. The rally organizers used him as a logo in promotional material and that spread the word of the find among metal detectorists far and wide. Jemmett named him Nobby and kept him in his pocket at all times (a choice the Romans would certainly have approved of). He has decided to sell him now spurred by a recent house burglary.

Nobby goes under the hammer at Noonans on June 20th. The pre-sale estimate is £1,000–£1,500 ($1,270-$1,900).

One thought on “Celtic fertility figurine goes under the hammer

  1. My guess is that “Nobby” in fact may have been a fastener for a coat or mantle:

    The circular copper-alloy loop on Nobby himself was connected to one side, and on the other side there must have been a corded loop going through a buttonhole and then around poor Nobby’s neck, i.e. in order to fasten the cloak.

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