One of the highlights of the latest raft of Islamic auctions in London was an unusual half-moon-shaped 10th/11th century granite temple step from Sri Lanka which had spent years in a Devon garden.
The massive 8ft 9in (2.46m) wide step,
which weighed in at three-quarters of a ton, was of a form found in
the ancient city of Anuradhapura. It was a feature of Sinhalese
architecture with decoration taking the form of a series of
concentric bands decorated with specific common motifs with
symbolic meaning centring on a half lotus.
The stone was carved from the outside
with: tongues of fire; a parade of animals representing the four
corners of the earth; an undulating vine and leaf pattern; a row of
swans and bands of petals. Only six other examples from this period
For many years the stone was located
at Brackenhill, a house in Crowborough, East Sussex, that was the
home of William Murdoch Thyne, a Scottish civil engineer who worked
in Sri Lanka from 1915-37. After his death in 1952, the house and
temple stone passed to the family of the vendor, ending up in the
garden of the Devon bungalow.
The vendor mentioned it to Sam Turk of
Bonhams' Exeter office who, on hearing the background story,
reckoned it was an object of importance.
It ended up being offered at Bonhams
New Bond Street on April 23 with a £20,000-30,000 estimate. Drawing
a strong contest, it was taken to a multi-estimate sum by three
bidders in the room and eight on the phones and was finally knocked
down at £460,000.