Roman bronze helmet sells for $3.6 mn

October 8th, 2010 - 2:03 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 8 (IANS) A Roman bronze helmet found in a field in Britain has been sold for a whopping 2.3 million pounds (about $3.6 million) at auction, a media report said.

The immaculately preserved 2,000-year-old artefact, one of only three ever found in Britain, was discovered in a field by a metal detecting enthusiast, an unemployed graduate in his early 20s, Daily Mail reported Thursday.

It prompted a five-minute frenzy of bidding at Christie’s in London Thursday before it was bought anonymously on the telephone for eight times its pre-sale estimate.

The proceeds from the Crosby Garrett Helmet, named after the hamlet in Cumbria where it was found in May, will now be split between the finder and the landowner, making both millionaires. They have chosen to remain anonymous.

The helmet, complete with an ornate face mask surrounded by a ring of tightly curled hair, was not intended to be worn in combat but for cavalry sports parades which often accompanied religious festivals.

Wearing full armour and colourful streamers, Roman soldiers would take part in organised games to impress visiting officials.

Christie’s described the find, from the late 1st century AD, as “an extraordinary example of Roman metalwork at its zenith”.

Six bidders fought for the helmet pushing the price steeply from its original 200,000-300,000 pounds estimate up to 2,281,250 pounds.

It is the find of a lifetime for the young man, who with the landowners’ permission had searched the same field for seven years with his father as a hobby, but had only ever found a few coins and scrap metal.

Only two other helmets complete with face-masks have been discovered in Britain. They are the Ribchester Helmet, found in 1796 and now in the British Museum, and the Newstead Helmet, found some time around 1905 and now at the Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh.

Only a handful of helmets such quality have been found anywhere across the former Roman empire, and potential buyers from all over the world registered interest.

A campaign has been gathering in Cumbria to pay for the helmet, and the county’s Tullie House museum managed to stay in the bidding up to 1.7 million pounds, a staggering sum for a small outfit - most of it raised through frantic fundraising last month.

Its curator Andrew Mackay said: “This is a real blow. People will be terribly disappointed - we had thousands of pounds coming in every day, and children literally emptying their piggy banks. “We are now very, very anxious to talk to the buyer to see where we go next.”

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