Category Archives: ENGLAND

2,000-Year-Old Roman Face Cream With Visible, Ancient Fingermarks

2,000-Year-Old Roman Face Cream With Visible, Ancient Fingermarks

The world’s oldest cosmetic face cream, complete with the finger marks of its last user 2,000 years ago, has been found by archaeologists excavating a Roman temple on the banks of London’s River Thames.

Measuring 6 cm by 5 cm, the tightly sealed, cylindrical tin can was opened yesterday at the Museum of London to reveal a pungent-smelling white cream.

“It seems to be very much like an ointment, and it’s got finger marks in the lid … whoever used it last has applied it to something with their fingers and used the lid as a dish to take the ointment out,” museum curator Liz Barham said as she opened the box.

The superbly made canister, now on display at the museum, was made almost entirely of tin, a precious metal at that time. Perhaps a beauty treatment for a fashionable Roman lady or even a face paint used in temple ritual, the cream is currently undergoing scientific analysis.

“We don’t yet know whether the cream was medicinal, cosmetic or entirely ritualistic.

The jar of Roman cosmetics uncovered beneath London’s streets (Museum of London)

We’re lucky in London to have a marshy site where the contents of this completely sealed box must have been preserved very quickly – the metal is hardly corroded at all,” said Nansi Rosenberg, a senior archaeological consultant on the project.

“This is an extraordinary discovery,” Federico Nappo, an expert on ancient Roman cosmetics of Pompeii. “It is likely that the cream contains animal fats. We know that the Romans used donkey’s milk as a treatment for the skin. However, it should not be very difficult to find out the cream’s composition.”

The pot, which appears to have been deliberately hidden, was found at the bottom of a sealed ditch in Southwark, about two miles south of central London.

Placed at the point where three roads meet near the river crossing – Watling St from Dover, Stane St from Chichester and the bridgehead road over the Thames – the site contains the foundations of two Roman-Celtic temples, a guest house, an outdoor area suitable for mass worship, plinths for statues and a stone pillar.

The complex, which last year revealed a stone tablet with the earliest known inscription bearing the Roman name of London, dates to around the mid-2nd century.

READ ALSO: ‘ASTOUNDING’ ROMAN STATUES UNEARTHED AT NORMAN CHURCH RUINS ON THE ROUTE OF HS2

It is the first religious complex to be found in the capital, with rare evidence of organized religion in London 2,000 years ago.

“The analysis and interpretation of the finds have only just begun, and I’ve no doubt there are further discoveries to be made as we piece together the jigsaw puzzle we’ve excavated,” Rosenberg said. “But it already alters our whole perception – Southwark was a major religious focus of the Roman capital.”

Since excavation work was completed, the site will now become a residential development housing 521 apartments.

UK: Nurse discovers ‘medieval’ gold Bible worth $1.3mn near the property of King Richard III

UK: Nurse discovers ‘medieval’ gold Bible worth $1.3mn near the property of King Richard III

A metal detectorist discovered a little gold bible that had formerly belonged to a mediaeval aristocracy or royal. Buffy Bailey, an NHS nurse from Lancaster, came upon the book while searching for farmland near York with her husband Ian.

The 600-year-old object, which is just 0.5in (1.5cm) long, could be worth more than £100,000, Mrs Bailey said. An expert described it as an “exceptionally unique” artefact that would have originally been owned by someone “incredibly wealthy”.

Mrs Bailey, 48, said she and her husband chose York for detecting because they “knew it had a lot of history”.

UK: Nurse discovers ‘medieval’ gold Bible worth $1.3mn near the property of King Richard III
Buffy Bailey initially thought the find was a charm from a gift shop

With permission from the landowner, Mrs Bailey said she got a signal straight away.

“I dug down five inches and it was just there – I still didn’t believe it was anything special.”

It was only when she cleaned the item she realised she had found something special and not a charm from a gift shop.

“It was so heavy and shiny – just absolutely beautiful,” she said.

The object weighs just 0.2oz (5g) and is either 22 or 24ct gold, and is thought to date back to the 15th Century.

It is engraved with images of St Leonard and St Margaret, patron saints of childbirth, and could have been an object used for protection during pregnancy and childbirth.

The miniature book was found near property once owned by King Richard III

It was found on land near property once owned by Richard III (1483 to 1485) and it is speculated that it could have been owned by a female relative of his or of his wife Anne Neville.

It has been compared to the Middleham Jewel, a gold pendant set with a blue sapphire, found at Middleham Castle, about 40 miles (64km) away, also once owned by Richard III and the Neville family.

Julian Evan-Hart, the editor of Treasure Hunting magazine, said the book was an “exceptionally unique” historical artefact.

“The artwork is clearly iconographic and bears a close resemblance to the Middleham Jewel – there is every possibility that it was made by the same artist.”

“Whoever had it commissioned must have been incredibly wealthy,” Mrs Bailey said.

“There’s nothing else like it in the world. It could be worth £100,000 or more.”

The Yorkshire Museum, in York, is assessing the item before an auctioneer sets a valuation. At that point, the museum may decide to buy the item.

The museum paid £2.5m to acquire the Middleham Jewel in 1992.

Norfolk treasure newly declared as England’s biggest Anglo-Saxon coin hoard

Norfolk treasure newly declared as England’s biggest Anglo-Saxon coin hoard

131 gold coins unearthed sporadically over the past 30 years from a single field in west Norfolk have been declared the largest trove of such items from the Anglo-Saxon period discovered in England.

Norfolk treasure newly declared as England’s biggest Anglo-Saxon coin hoard
Some of the gold coins, discovered in west Norfolk and thought buried around 600AD. Most are Frankish tremisses.

The coins, as well as four other gold objects dating around 1,400 years ago, were largely discovered by one metal detectorist who reported each find to local authorities.

According to a report from the Guardian, 10 coins were discovered by a local police officer, who was jailed for 16 months in 2017 for attempting to illegally sell them.

The Norfolk trove is mostly Frankish tremisses, a small gold coin used in Late Antiquity (about 284 C.E.–700 C.E.). Also found were nine solidi (a large coin from the Byzantine empire worth about three tremisses), a small gold bar, and a gold bracteate (a flat medal commonly worn as jewellery).

Gold bracteate, gold bar and two further artefacts thought to be jewellery fragments, discovered in Norfolk, part of a hoard that Norwich Castle Museum hopes to acquire.

The Norfolk coroner is currently examining the gold objects to determine whether they constituted treasure as defined by the 1996 Treasure Act of Great Britain, which would make the coins the property of the crown. (In the U.K., coroners are charged with investigating treasure claims, as well as adjudging causes of death.)

The Treasure Act states that any two or more coins comprised of more than 10% precious metal and that are more than 300 years old are considered treasures. Finders are legally obligated to report suspected treasure to local authorities.

The crown will claim the find if an accredited museum wishes to acquire the objects and can pay a reward equivalent to its market value. Currently, the Norwich Castle Museum hopes to acquire the hoard with the support of the British Museum.

In a statement, Tim Pestell, senior curator of archaeology at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, called the Norfolk hoard an “internationally significant find,” adding that “study of the hoard and its findspot has the potential to unlock our understanding of early trade and exchange systems and the importance of west Norfolk to East Anglia’s ruling kings in the seventh century.”

Until now, the largest coin hoard dating from the Anglo-Saxon period consisted of 101 coins discovered at Crondall, Hampshire, in 1828.

The most famous of such finds were made at Sutton Hoo in 1939 by amateur archaeologist Basil Brown and popularized by the 2021 Netflix drama The Dig. 

Brown and his team discovered beneath a mound an early medieval funerary monument filled with 37 gold coins, three blank coins and two small ingots, among silverware from Byzantium, military equipment, and other treasures.

The entire funeral chamber is housed at the British Museum in London.

Holding cell for gladiators and wild animals uncovered in excavation of Richborough Roman amphitheatre

Holding cell for gladiators and wild animals uncovered in excavation of Richborough Roman amphitheatre

Archaeologists have been aware of the amphitheater since 1849, but the holding cell for gladiators is a new discovery.

Archaeologists say that the amphitheatre in Richborough, Kent, could hold up to 5,000 spectators who cheered on charging gladiators and roaring wild animals in epic fights.

Today, the Roman-era amphitheatre in Richborough, Kent, blends into the landscape. But it was once the site of violent gladiatorial combat, and archaeologists with English Heritage have just come across a holding cell, called a “carcer,” where gladiators waited to fight.

“The discoveries we’ve made during the excavation at Richborough are startling and exciting, and dramatically transform our understanding of the structure of the amphitheatre and the nature of adjacent settlement in the town,” said Paul Pattison, English Heritage senior properties historian.

Richborough is now believed to have been occupied for almost the entire period of Roman rule in Britain

Researchers have known about the amphitheatre since 1849 when Victorian archaeologists discovered it. But the most recent examination of the site revealed a cell within the arena. With walls more than six feet tall, the cell once held “those who entered the arena to meet their fate, whether wild animals, criminals, or gladiators,” according to English Heritage.

Though much is unknown about the amphitheatre, its chalk and turf construction suggests it was built around the 1st century, when Romans first invaded Britain. At its peak, it would have been an impressive sight: Archeologists found surprising traces of “vivid” red and blue paints on its interior walls.

“The evidence of painted decoration we have found on the arena wall, a unique find so far in amphitheatres in Britain, is remarkable, and a wonderful reminder that aspects of Roman culture abroad were also a feature of life in Roman Britain,” explained Tony Wilmott, senior archaeologist at Historic England.

Wilmott noted that the amphitheatre could probably hold about 5,000 spectators, who — just like in Rome — descended to watch bloody gladiator fights. Sometimes, these fights pitted gladiators against each other. Other times, in especially violent battles called venationes, prisoners or gladiators fought against wild animals like lions and bears.

The mere existence of the amphitheater speaks to Richborough’s important place in the Roman Empire. Then called Rutupiae or Portus Ritupis, the settlement likely existed from the 1st to the 4th century, or as long as the Romans occupied Britain. And it was said to be renowned throughout the empire for the quality of its oysters.

“As Richborough is coastal, it would have provided a connection between what was at the time called Britannia and the rest of the Roman Empire,” explained Pattison, noting that Richborough would have been unique and diverse.

“Because of that, all sorts of Romans who came from all corners of the Empire would have passed through and lived in the settlement.”

Alongside the carcer, archeologists found several artifacts that help paint a picture of life in Roman-era Richborough. They found coins, pottery, the bones of butchered animals, and jewelry. Remarkably, archeologists also found the carefully buried skeleton of what appeared to be a pet cat.

Holding cell for gladiators and wild animals uncovered in excavation of Richborough Roman amphitheatre
The skull of what appeared to be a carefully buried pet cat.

Dubbed “Maxipus” by archeologists — after Russell Crowe’s character in The Gladiator — the cat was found buried just outside the amphitheater walls. It may have had nothing to do with the amphitheater itself but “appeared purposefully buried on the edge of a ditch,” according to English Heritage.

In addition, the most recent excavation also uncovered the puzzling remnants of two “badly burnt” and “bright orange” rectangular areas just outside the amphitheater.

“It is not yet known what function these buildings fulfilled,” noted English Heritage, “but it is possible they stood on each side of an entrance leading up to the seating bank of the arena.”

READ ALSO: ANCIENT IMAGES OF GLADIATORS UNEARTHED AT THE CITY OF POMPEII

The fire that destroyed the structures, the organization said, “must have been dramatic.”

Today, Richborough’s amphitheater exists only as a circular field covered in grass. But, as the existence of the holding cell suggests, this part of the world once rang with thousands of screaming spectators, roaring animals, and charging gladiators.

English Heritage is hopeful to share it with the world. Following the end of their excavation, the on-site museum in Richborough will undergo a “major refurbishment and re-presentation.” It will open to the public in summer 2022.

‘Astounding’ Roman statues unearthed at Norman church ruins on the route of HS2

‘Astounding’ Roman statues unearthed at Norman church ruins on route of HS2

‘Astounding’ Roman statues unearthed at Norman church ruins on route of HS2

Archaeologists in central England working on the HS2 project have uncovered a set of incredible rare Roman statues whilst excavating a Norman Church in Stoke Mandeville.

In the final stages of the excavation at the site of the old St Mary’s Norman church in Buckinghamshire, archaeologists were excavating a circular ditch around what was thought to be the foundations of an early medieval tower.

As they dug down, they uncovered three stone busts that are stylistically Roman. Two of the busts comprise of a head and torso which had been split before deposition, and the other just the head. The two complete statues appear to be one female adult and one male adult, with an additional head of a child.

The discovery of these amazing artefacts caused excitement amongst the team working on the site who described it as “uniquely remarkable for us as archaeologists”. The work has been carried out by HS2’s Enabling Works Contractor, Fusion JV, and their archaeological contactor, L-P Archaeology.

In addition to the statues, an incredibly well-preserved hexagonal glass Roman jug was also discovered. Despite being in the ground for what is thought to be over 1,000 years, the glass jug had large pieces still intact. Archaeologists working at the site were able to remove what they believe to be almost all of the fragments.

The team can only find one comparison for this, a completely intact vessel that is currently on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Other finds include large roof tiles, painted wall plaster, and Roman cremation urns.

“For us to end the dig with these utterly astounding finds is beyond exciting,” says Dr Rachel Wood, Lead Archaeologist for Fusion JV. “The statues are exceptionally well preserved, and you really get an impression of the people they depict – literally looking into the faces of the past is a unique experience. Of course, it leads us to wonder what else might be buried beneath England’s medieval village churches. This has truly been a once in a lifetime site and we are all looking forward to hearing what more the specialists can tell us about these incredible statues and the history of the site before the construction of the Norman church.”

As the dig at Stoke Mandeville comes to an end, the team working there have been able to piece together a more detailed analysis of the historic use of the site.

The site appears to be a natural mound, which has then been deliberately covered with soil to create a taller mound. It is possible this may have formed a Bronze Age burial site. It appears this was then replaced by a square building that may have originated in the Roman period.

Archaeologists now believe the square building that pre-dates the Norman church is a Roman mausoleum. Roman materials found in the ditch around are too ornate and not enough in number to suggest the site was a domestic building.

Rare Roman glass jug – Artefacts from St Mary’s Archaeological dig – Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire
Rare Roman glass jug – Artefacts from St Mary’s Archaeological dig – Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire

The Roman building appears to have been finally demolished by the Normans when building St Mary’s church, after possible reuse during the Saxon period.

The walls and demolition rubble of the Roman building are directly beneath the Norman foundations with no soil build-up in between.

Saxon pottery was also found in a cut of the ditch, as well as a Saxon coin. Further analysis of the data is being undertaken and the team hope to confirm this hypothesis.

The disfiguration of the Roman busts, namely the removal of the head of each, is not entirely unusual as it is common for statues such as these to have been vandalised in some way before being torn down.

These are early examples of how statues and historic artefacts have been discarded as society has evolved over time.

READ ALSO: ‘ANGLO-SAXON CHURCH’ IN STOKE MANDEVILLE DISCOVERED BY HS2 ARCHAEOLOGISTS

The artefacts will now be taken to a specialist laboratory where they will be cleaned and examined. Roman statues were typically painted bright colours, so evidence of pigmentation in the creases of the statue will be examined. The final destination for the Roman finds will be determined in due course.

HS2 archaeologists excavating Roman artefacts

“HS2’s unprecedented archaeology programme has given us new insights into Britain’s history, providing evidence of where and how our ancestors lived,” comments Mike Court, Lead Archaeologist at HS2.

“These extraordinary Roman statues are just some of the incredible artefacts uncovered between London and the West Midlands. As HS2 builds for Britain’s future, we are uncovering and learning about the past, leaving a legacy of knowledge and discovery.”

Industrial-Sized Tannery Detected at Medieval Abbey in England

Industrial-Sized Tannery Detected at Medieval Abbey in England

It is Britain’s biggest and most famous monastic ruin and one that conjures up bucolic images of peace, reflection and very little noise apart, perhaps, from the occasional waft of Gregorian chanting.

In reality, archaeologists have revealed, Fountains Abbey near Ripon was as busy, noisy and industrialised as anywhere in 12th- and 13th-century Britain.

The National Trust has announced the discovery of the foundations of a medieval tannery at the abbey, part of a world heritage site. Experts were astonished.

The purpose of a long, bowling alley-type extension close to the River Skell had long puzzled archaeologists.

This really is a wonderful discovery, it is very important,” said Mark Newman, a trust archaeologist.

Fountains are probably the most investigated Cistercian abbey in Britain, “so when you discover a major building on this scale, that was completely unknown … you don’t get many of those in a career.

Industrial-Sized Tannery Detected at Medieval Abbey in England
Radar image highlighting the two substantial buildings found by the bank of the River Skell.

Newman said many assumed there was nothing more to be discovered about Fountains but one puzzle had always been what a long, bowling alley-type extension, close to the River Skell, was used for.

Ground-penetrating radar has made discoveries of previously unknown monastic buildings, including one 16 metres wide and 32 metres long. They have lined pits and tanks around them. These and the close proximity to water have led to the firm conclusion that it is the remains of a tannery, a place for producing materials for clothing, belts, bedding and book bindings.

It is the scale of the tannery and how close it is to the monks that have further surprised archaeologists. “A tannery of this size, spanning such a large area of the site, reveals an operation on an industrial scale,” said Newman.

Illustration of man sorting skins after drying.

A medieval tannery was a horrible place. Animal skins and hides would first have hooves and horns removed before they were washed to remove dung, dirt and blood. Fat, hair and flesh were then removed, usually by being submerged into a lime or urine solution and being scraped with knives.

Newman said the noise, activity and stench of tanneries had led to an assumption it would be sited much further away from monks and their worship. “We see now that the tannery was much closer and a far cry from the idea of a quiet, tranquil abbey community,” he said.

Newman said people would have been astonished at the number of people who lived and worked so industriously at Fountains, with Cistercian monks being “the first ones to apply themselves to these industrial scales of living and managing the landscape”.

He said the findings also showed the importance of lay brothers at the site. Lay brothers were not literate, like the monks, and were often recruited to do more physical jobs. That left monks more time to study, pray and worship.

The lay brothers, considered “separate but equal” to monks, were provided with weatherproof animal skin capes for outdoor work and slept under sheepskins. “Fountains recruited hundreds of lay brothers in its early decades, all of whom needed to be equipped this way,” said Newman. “This tannery provided the means for that.”

He said though he was taken aback by the scale of the operations that had been discovered, it all made sense. The monks at Fountains were, by necessity, “pioneering farmers and land managers on an industrial scale”.

The radar research was carried out with partners including the University of Bradford. Chris Gaffney, a professor of archaeological sciences, said the technology provided “stunning, unexpected and intriguing glimpses” into life at the abbey.

The trust said it was the largest tannery discovered at a monastic site in Britain and was being seen as a kind of “missing link” in the history of the abbey, which operated from the early 12th century to 1539 and the dissolution of the monasteries.

“It is so easy with a place like Fountains to think this is exactly as the monks saw it,” said Newman. “What we are finding is that there is a whole unrecognised history.”

Britain’s Giant Roman Arcade Discovered Under A Block Of Flats in Essex

Britain’s Giant Roman Arcade Discovered Under A Block Of Flats in Essex

Britain’s largest known Roman arcade has been revealed beneath an apartment block in Colchester, Essex. Experts believe the ancient covered walkway included more than 28 archways topped by a grand gateway and was at the heart of the once-bustling Roman town.

Ruins of the grand 393ft long (120 metres) structure have now been used to create a computer model to show what the arcade would have looked like 1,800 years ago.

It is thought to have been on the same scale as the grand arcades of Rome, with some sections measuring at least 26ft (eight metres) tall.

Britain’s Giant Roman Arcade Discovered Under A Block Of Flats in Essex
What is arguably Britain’s greatest Roman arcade has been revealed beneath an apartment block in Colchester, Essex. Part of the foundations is shown above. It is thought to have been on the same scale as the grand arcades of Rome, with some sections measuring at least 26ft (eight metres) tall

While builders stumbled across Roman ruins at the site 62 years ago, Colchester Archaeological Trust has now excavated part of the arcade, beneath the recently-constructed One Castle House apartment block.

The archaeologists said the elaborately arched building would have provided an impressive frontage to the Temple of Claudius, built-in 54 AD.  Today that temple forms the base of the town’s Norman Castle. The Temple of Claudius was the only Roman temple dedicated to an imperial cult in Britain. 

Experts believe the ancient covered walkway is the largest of its kind in the UK and included 28 archways topped by a grand gateway. A rendering of what it may have looked like is shown above. The history-steeped settlement of Colchester dates back almost 2,000 years
Ruins of the grand 393ft-long (120 metres) structure have been used to create a computer model (pictured) to show what the arcade would have looked like 1,800 years ago. The archaeologists said the elaborately arched building would have provided an impressive frontage to the Temple of Claudius, built-in 54 AD

He came to Camulodunum – the Iron Age precursor of Colchester – during the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD. Colchester Archaeological Trust director, Dr Phillip Crummy said: ‘The discovery of this monumental arcade was originally made in 1954 but it was left untouched.

‘It is the biggest Roman structure of its kind to be discovered in the UK.

‘Its closest rival in terms of size stands in northern France, and shares some of the architecture we can see here today.’

A similar arcade is being investigated in the small town of Pont-Sainte-Maxence about 25 miles (40km) north of Paris.

He continued: ‘The original arcade and its grand columns are similar to those you see in Bath at the Roman Baths.  

An arcade is a series of arches supported by columns and a solid wall to create a covered walkway providing access to shops. They were used by the Romans for large public spaces such as the Forum in Rome (ruins pictured), as well as for aqueducts
Remains of the ancient building will go on public display this summer under three glass panels, giving visitors a chance to learn more about Britain’s oldest recorded town. They were found under and near this apartment block which is being built

‘It really is an extraordinary find and it shows how much history Colchester has to offer.’

Remains of the ancient building will go on public display this summer under three glass panels, giving visitors a chance to learn more about Britain’s oldest recorded town. Dr Crummy’s team has also produced an exhibition to go on the show, where computer graphics showing what the arcade would have looked like will be projected onto a wall behind the original ruins.

‘We’ve now managed to work out the dimensions of the columns found at One Castle House in Roman feet,’ he said.

‘These calculations have allowed us to design a digital reconstruction, as we have displayed here on a projector.

‘With this discovery, we can now show Colchester what it was really like to live in a Roman arcade – 1,800 years ago.’

Historians are particularly interested in the arcade and Temple of Claudius because they think a large religious procession or pompa – including the chariots and horses – would have travelled from the temple to the town’s Roman circus before the start of chariot races.

The trust said that the temple precinct would have resembled the Forum in Rome and would have been a busy place, with people going to and from the temple.

READ ALSO: BOUDICCA REVOLT: ESSEX DIG REVEALS ‘EVIDENCE OF ROMAN REPRISALS’

It may have also been the site of socialising and shopping at market stalls. ‘They would have entered the precinct through the archways of the arcade,’ the trust said.

The precinct is thought to have been standing at the time of the Norman invasion of England and only demolished when the castle was built. The history-steeped settlement of Colchester dates back almost 2,000 years.

Roman military chiefs established a pivotal fortress on the site shortly after conquering Britain in 43 AD as they set out to extend their power and control throughout East Anglia.  

Colchester Archaeological Trust director, Dr Phillip Crummy said: ‘It is the biggest Roman structure of its kind to be discovered in the UK. Here, Emma Holloway from the trust works at the site

Garden statues turn out to be ancient Egyptian relics, selling for $265,000

Garden statues turn out to be ancient Egyptian relics, selling for $265,000

An auction company said that a pair of carved stone statues used as garden ornaments sold for more than £195,000 ($265,510) when it was discovered that they were ancient Egyptian artefacts going back thousands of years.

The artefacts were acquired from a garden in Sudbury, Suffolk, in eastern England.

Mander Auctioneers, which handled the sale, said they were contacted by a family looking to get rid of items from their old house before moving home.

The statues had been stood in the garden until last month. Credit: Mander Auctions

The “heavily weathered” statues, which had been used to decorate a garden patio until last month, had been bought for “a few hundred pounds” at another auction 15 years ago and were believed to be 18th-century replicas of ancient Egyptian relics, according to the auction house.

One statue even had its head re-attached with cement by a local builder under the instruction of the previous owners, auctioneer James Mander told CNN Tuesday.

“We didn’t really question them and put them in [at auction] at £300 to £500 ($410 to $680),” Mander told CNN. “And then the auction just went crazy,” he said.

The world’s most expensive sculptures to sell at auction, from an ancient lioness to a stainless steel rabbit

Saturday’s bidding began at £200, but within 15 minutes four telephone bidders and numerous internet buyers pushed the final price up to £195,000 plus 24% buyer’s premium, with an international art gallery making the final sale.

“Opinion was that they were genuine ancient Egyptian examples, which had somehow passed through recent history as 18th-century copies,” auctioneers said in a statement.

Auctioneers said the sellers had no idea of the true value of the statues.

Mander said that, in the 18th century, the Grand Tour saw English people travel through Europe, buying items.

“And we’ve just presumed they were 18th century Grand Tour items,” Mander told CNN.

‘Tomb raiders’: The pandemic is making it easier than ever to loot ancient Roman treasures

“As it turns out they’re thousands of years old and genuine. So it’s quite amazing really,” he said, adding that news of the final sale was “beyond comprehension” for the surprised previous owners.

Mander said that work was being done to trace the provenance of the statues, and he can’t place an exact date on the artefacts yet.
“I wonder where they’ve been for the last 5,000 years. It’s quite incredible, really,” he said.