This bronze figurine, originally seated on a horse, shows a Moor from the Roman province of Mauretania in North Africa. He has distinctive dreadlocks, a drooping moustache and a full beard. His eyes appear very lifelike because they are inlaid with silver. He wears leather boots and a short cloak over a tunic, and he holds his round shield in front of him. His right hand, now broken, would probably have held a spear.

Moorish cavalrymen rode without bridles and as early as the second century BC they were famous for their nimble horsemanship. They were deployed as specialist units in the Roman army, and a detachment is clearly depicted in one of the sculpted battle scenes on Trajan's Column in Rome (erected about AD 113). There they are shown fighting alongside Roman troops in the Emperor Trajan's Dacian Wars (AD 101-105).

An altar inscription tells us that one of these Moorish cavalry units, the Maurorum Aurelianorum, were operating in Britain from the third to the fourth century AD. They were based at the fort of Vercovicium (nowadays called Burgh-by-Sands) at the western end of Hadrian's Wall, and were probably brought over by the Emperor Septimius Severus.