Roman marble coffin auction makes $154,000 in UK

A Roman marble coffin has sold for £96,000 ($153,766) at an auction in the UK.

The seven foot coffin, thought to come from the 2nd or 3rd century AD, was spotted by an auction valuer in a Dorset garden, and sold through the same auction house where it last changed hands almost 100 years earlier.

Roman marble coffin
The Romans began burying their dead in the 2nd century AD

The white marble coffin had been brought to the UK by Sir John Robinson, Queen Victoria's surveyor of pictures.

"When I pulled up at the property I spotted what looked like a large garden trough peeping out from under some bushes," said Guy Schwinge, the expert who noticed the artefact on a routine valuation.

"As I drew closer I realised I was looking at a Roman sarcophagus of exceptional quality."

It is thought to have been produced in modern day Italy for an important official in the region.

The piece at the September 28 auction was all the more rare considering the fact that the Romans tended to prefer cremation, although they began to bury their dead in the 2nd century AD.

This has been a strong year for Greek and Roman antiquities at auction. A 4th century BC Greek marble sold for $902,500 at Sotheby's in June, 80.5% up on its estimate, while a rare marble statue of a Roman actor sold 270.6% above its high estimate of $250,000 for $926,500 at Christie's during the same month.

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