A bronze bust of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius is among a unique collection of 2,000-year-old artefacts which are set to be auctioned in May.
The fine bronze bust is part of a collection known as the Ryedale Ritual Bronzes, a group of religious finds discovered by metal detectorists in a Ryedale field in May 2020.
As well as the bust, which would have been mounted as the head of a priest’s sceptre, the hoard contained an equestrian statuette of the god Mars, a horse head knife handle and a large bronze pendulum.
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The ‘nationally important’ collection will go to auction on May 20 with a pre-sale estimate of £70,000 to £90,000.
The announcement of the discovery comes just two weeks after significant Roman ruins were revealed in Eastfield, believed to be a 'world first'.
Adam Staples, Historica expert at Hansons Auctioneers, said: “The hoard of artefacts was probably buried as a religious offering which marked the closure of a rural shrine or the death of a priest. The artefacts would have formed a suite of ritual implements, to be utilised when performing religious ceremonies and for predicting the future.
Upon its discovery, the hoard was taken to York Museum and recorded through the British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme, which records the discovery of archaeological objects found by members of the public.
Auctioneers Hansons have received worldwide interest in the bronzes due to their rarity and remarkable condition.
The auction house will exhibit the incredible collection in York on May 11 - it will only be available to view by appointment which can be made over the phone or email.
Mr Staples said: “He is indeed very lucky not to have been broken by his 1,850 years spent underground. The bust has survived extremely well and is in very fine condition with a glossy green patina. This is a very rare opportunity to own a nationally important group of artefacts.”
Marcus Aurelius became Emperor in March of AD 161 and his 19-year reign was one of relative peace and prosperity for Rome. However, in AD 165 troops returning from Mesopotamia brought with them a virus that swept across the entire Empire – the Antonine Plague.
Now believed to be an outbreak of Smallpox, this ancient pandemic devastated the Roman citizens, with an estimated 10 per cent of the population losing their lives. An accomplished scholar, author and philosopher, Aurelius faced the challenge of the pandemic with his own stoic attitude.
In his book ‘Meditations’ he wrote: ‘How unlucky I am that this should happen to me. But not at all. Perhaps I should say how lucky I am that I am not broken by what has happened’.