In Depth

Statue from ancient Rome discovered in margarine tub

Oxfordshire metal detectorist found the treasure on old farm land

An ancient statue of the Roman goddess of wisdom, Minerva, has been found in an old margarine tub in the UK.

Len Jackman, a retired truck driver and amateur metal detectorist, discovered the statue on a local farmer's land in rural Oxfordshire.

The 66-year-old man told CNN that he was invited to detect on the land as the farmer said “he'd had other detectorists before”.

“He then produced this statue out of an old margarine box, saying it was found on his land,” Jackman said.

Jackman guessed the statue was Roman. He took it and other artifacts discovered on the land to the British Museum Resource Center in Standlake, where they were dated and identified.

A spokesman for the British Museum told CNN: “When a potential treasure find is reported to the local Finds Liaison Officer, which they must do by law, it begins a process whereby the objects will be assessed by various experts including our curators here at the British Museum.”

“At the end of the process, there is an inquest where a coroner will declare the find to be legally treasure,” he said.

The Minerva statue is still in the process of being defined as treasure and hasn't been assigned a price tag, but “a number of museums are already interested in acquiring it,” the spokesman said.

Minerva was known as the Goddess of Wisdom in ancient Roman belief, overseeing trade, arts, war strategy, medicine and poetry.

The find was made public as part of the Portable Antiquities Annual report. Arts minister Michael Ellis thanked the public for their contributions as he announced the figures from the report at the British Museum.

A total of 78,000 archaeological items, some classified as treasure, were logged in 2017 alone.

The report found 93% of these were found by metal detectorists. The excitement has driven 1.5% of the UK population to take part in metal detecting, according to the MP.

The minister “called on those involved with unearthing treasures to suggest ways to improve the system by which they are officially recorded”, reports the Daily Mail.

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