Roman helmet found in Britain sells for 3.6 million dollars
An ancient Roman helmet found in a British field by a treasure hunter with a metal detector sold Thursday for 2.3 million pounds (2.6 million euros, 3.6 million dollars), auctioneers Christie's said.
The "exceptional" bronze cavalry parade helmet dates from the late first century or early second century, and features a well-preserved face mask, locks of curly hair and a griffin atop the cap.
It sold to an anonymous telephone buyer for more than eight times the estimated price after a bidding war between six prospective owners.
"When the helmet was first brought to Christie's and I saw it first hand, I could scarcely believe my eyes," said Georgiana Aitken, head of antiquities at Christie's in London.
"This is an exceptional object -- an extraordinary and haunting face from the past -- and it has captured the imagination and the enthusiasm of everyone who has come to Christie's to admire it over the past few weeks."
"In all, six bidders fought for the helmet -- three by telephone, two in the room and one via the Internet from California," Aitken said.
The artefact is known as the "Crosby Garrett Helmet" after the village in northwestern England where it was found in May by a man combing a field using a metal detector whose identity was not released.
It was found in 67 fragments but cleaned and restored by Christies.
The Tullie House Museum in nearby Carlisle had launched a fundraising campaign to buy the helmet and stop it going abroad but it was not clear whether it was behind the winning bid.
The helmet is one of only three ever found in Britain in similar condition. One discovered in 1796 is in the British Museum in London and the other, found around 1905, is in the Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Christie's said in a statement that the Crosby Garrett mask "sets itself apart by virtue of its beauty, workmanship and completeness, particularly the face-mask, which was found virtually intact."
It would not have been used for combat but for cavalry sport events involving soldiers from the Roman empire, which invaded Britain in 55 BC under Julius Caesar and left in 410 AD, Christie's said.
In its original state, the mask would have been polished white metal and the hair a golden-bronze colour, while colourful streamers would have been attached to the back, the auctioneers added.
© 2010 AFP