A large marble slab used by its owner as a step to mount her horse has been revealed to be rare Roman relic worth £15,000.
The weighty artefact was dug up from an old rockery in the garden of a bungalow home in the village of Whiteparish, Wilts, about 20 years ago.
Since then its owner used it as a horse mounting block before she noticed a laurel wreath carved into its surface.
An archaeologist has now identified the slab as dating to the 2nd Century AD and probably originating from Greece or the Middle East.
It is possible the artefact was brought to England in the late 18th or 19th century by a wealthy aristocrat who picked it up on a cultural ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe.
The 25ins high slab is now being sold with auctioneers Woolley & Wallis, of Salisbury, in Wiltshire, who are asking for the public’s help in tracing its origins.
A large marble slab used by its owner as a step to mount her horse has been revealed to be rare Roman relic worth £15,000
One theory is that it originates from a historic manor house, with Cowesfield House, Broxmore House and Paulton’s Park listed as possibilities.
Cowesfield House and Broxmore House were both demolished in 1949 after being requisitioned by the army during World War Two, while the house at Paulton’s Park was destroyed in a fire in 1963.
The slab may have been recovered from the rubble of one of these sites and transported to its present location.
Its owner was doing some work on the garden shortly after moving in when they found the artefact covered in mud, meaning the inscription was not visible.
Over time, the dirt washed off to reveal the wreath and inscription ‘the people (and) the Young Men (honour) Demetrios (son) of Metrodoros (the son) of Leukios’.
The weighty artefact was dug up from an old rockery in the garden (pictured) of a bungalow home in the village of Whiteparish, Wilts, about 20 years ago
Clare Durham, associate director at Woolley & Wallis, said: ‘The slab was found in their rockery not long after they moved in when they were making changes to the garden.
‘It was muddy and they didn’t spot any inscription on it, but it was a useful slab so it was moved to where the owner kept her horse and used as a mounting block for several years.
‘Gradually the dirt washed off it with time and one day she noticed the wreath.
‘She approached a local archaeologist who identified the slab.
‘However, it never occurred to her that it had any value so it was a surprise when she did get it valued to find out what it could be worth.’
The inscription ‘the people (and) the Young Men (honour) Demetrios (son) of Metrodoros (the son) of Leukios’ on the back is pictured
Will Hobbs, antiquities specialist at Woolley & Wallis, added: ‘Artefacts of this type often came into England as the result of Grand Tours in the late 18th and 19th century, when wealthy aristocrats would tour Europe learning about classical art and culture.
‘We assume that is how it entered the UK, but what is a complete mystery is how it ended up in a domestic garden, and that’s where we’d like the public’s help.
‘There are several possibilities of where the stone might have originated.
‘Both Cowesfield House and Broxmore House were very close to Whiteparish and were demolished in 1949 after having been requisitioned by the army during the war.
‘But we also know that the house at what is now Paulton’s Park was destroyed by fire in 1963 and so possibly rubble from there was reused at building sites in the area shortly afterwards.’
The sale takes place on February 16.