An imperial Roman sarcophagus that was unearthed in a UK garden near Hadrian's Wall has been consigned to a February 14 auction in Dorchester.
The news follows the same auction house's discovery of a similar Roman marble coffin during a routine valuation, which was sold for £96,000 ($153,766) at an October 2012. The current vendor spotted the story and noticed that he had something similar at the end of his Northumberland garden.
Immediately recognising the potential of the item, the auction house's Guy Schwinge visited the owner's home, where it was soon established that they were dealing with a Roman imperial sarcophagus from the 1st or 2nd century AD, likely created during Hadrian's reign.
The sarcophagus is thought to have been moved to Northumberland in 1969, when the house's previous owners moved from a substantial country estate in the Lake District. Further research revealed that it was brought from Rome in 1902 by the Common Shipping family, who were related to the former Lake District residents.
More digging led to the discovery that 1902 was the same year that Henry Walters, president of the Atlantic Coastline Railroad, paid an unprecedented $1m for the contents of the Palazzo Accoranboni in Rome. Although it is impossible to connect the two, it is known that the collection contained seven sarcophagi from the Calpurnii Pisones family.
The tomb itself measures 81.5 by 24 inches and is carved with a central panel of the Three Graces. It was certainly made for a wealthy individual and its simply-hewn back suggests that it came from a private mausoleum. A similar example is housed in the Galleria Lapidaria in the Vatican.
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