October 7, 2010 / 1:41 PM / 8 years ago

Roman Britain helmet fetches 2.3 mln pounds

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A spectacular Roman cavalry helmet that entirely covers the face and would have shone in the sunlight has been sold at Christie’s for 2.3 million pounds ($3.67 million), 10 times its estimate.

Roman cavalry helmet found in a village in Cumbria, northwest England is seen in a handout photo. REUTERS/Christie's/Handout

The almost complete, two-piece copper-alloy helmet that would have been worn for sporting events rather than warfare, dates from the 1st to 2nd century AD.

It was found by an enthusiast with a metal detector in Cumbria, northwest England in May.

Experts say it is one of only three comparable examples to have been found in Britain in the last 250 years and a highly significant discovery. It was bought by an unidentified bidder.

It depicts an idealized youthful male face, with a thick mop of curly hair. The face mask has traces of a white highly polished metal coating that would have shone brightly when it caught the light.

Antiquarians say the mask would have contrasted strikingly with the hair and peculiar Phrygian cap both made of bronze. The cap is adorned with an elaborately carved winged griffin with its right paw raised and resting on an amphora.

The helmet was found by a metal detectorist who wants to remain anonymous, near a Roman road in the village of Crosby Garrett.

Archaeologists speculate it could have been buried as loot, as a votive offering or to accompany a body.

Although no Roman garrisons are documented in the immediate vicinity, the spot lies in an area with a substantial Roman military presence on a key route leading to the northern frontier.

Experts from the Portable Antiquities Scheme, a government-run national programme that records finds made by the public, say the region is dotted with forts and garrisons.

Stanwix, the garrison of the only thousand-strong cavalry unit known from Roman Britain, is 50 km (30 miles) northwest of the village.

Editing by Steve Addison

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