14/03/2017 11:24 SAST | Updated 14/03/2017 11:31 SAST

Marble 'Flowerpot' On Blenheim Palace Grounds Turns Out To Be A Very Expensive Roman Artifact

The discovery was made during a routine insurance assessment by an antiques expert.

Blenheim Palace
Teresa Ar�alo de Zavala via Getty Images
Blenheim Palace

This kind of "discovery" is usually a feature of television programmes like The Antiques Roadshow, when it turns out that the taped-up ornament that someone's aunt was using as a storage for her bric-à-brac is actually a rare piece of antiquity. This particular discovery was made at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, when an expert who was brought in to make an assessment for insurance purposes found that a marble "flowerpot" that had been used as such for the last 100 years is actually an extremely rare and valuable Roman-era sarcophagus, or coffin.

The artifact is valued at £300,000 or almost R5 million.

"The palace had specialists remove the front marble section, which is the original part and weighs nearly 900lbs (about 400kg), and carry out an extensive investigation. They identified the basin as a white marble sarcophagus depicting Dionysian revelry dating back to 300AD. Its splendid bas-relief carvings depict a drunken Dionysus, the god of wine, leaning on an equally inebriated woodland god known as 'satyr'. The pair are flanked by party revelers including Hercules and Ariadne as well as two large lion heads," reported The Telegraph.

The sarcophagus is now being restored, and has been appropriately insured to reflect its new status.