A rare Roman sculpture dating back nearly 2,000 years has been dug up in a Lincoln garden.
City jeweller Liz Rowlett, her boyfriend Surjeet Mann and dad Peter were shocked to find that the long-buried marble bull is a genuine artefact.
Experts called in to verify its age are convinced that the foot-long headless sculpture dates back to the Roman occupation of the city.
Now the family is awaiting further tests – and will allow the treasure to go on show at The Collection in Lincoln until they make a decision on its future.
“Surjeet and my dad were digging out the drains on the extension to the back of our house in Thonock Close when they found the statue,” said Miss Rowlett, who helps run the Lincoln High Street family jewellers’ business and lectures part-time at the University of Lincoln.
“We were just going to put it back in the hardcore, but my dad has a background in antiques and he thought it might be worth something.
“So he contacted The Collection and the rest is history!
“To me it just seemed to be a weird piece of rock, but it’s turned out to be quite a find.”
Archaeologist Antony Lee is the access officer at The Collection who sent the find to Roman expert Professor Martin Henig at Oxford University.
Mr Lee said: “Professor Henig is firmly of the opinion that the bull is Roman in date, and most likely earlier in the period rather than later, probably first or second century.
“He has compared it to examples of bull imagery from Pompeii and on jewellery of the Augustan period.
“Professor Henig believes that it was probably an item of household or garden decoration, perhaps one of a group surrounding a water feature in a large house in or just outside of Roman Lincoln.
“He is very excited indeed about the discovery.”
In the absence of a grand country house in the vicinity, it seems unlikely that it is a Grand Tour piece collected by a rich Lincolnshire landowner and brought back to the city.
The remaining possibilities are that it represents a very important example of sculptural work from Roman Lincoln – or was an item brought in with building materials during the construction of the estate.
Mr Lee said the latter “sadly remains a possibility” but added: “The potential importance of the former being true means that Professor Henig suggests that the statue should be published in a future volume of the Britannia Journal, which is dedicated to the study of Roman Britain.”
Mr Lee is now organising a marble test, which will shed more light on the bull’s origin, age – and on its potential value.