A palimpsest fragment from a late Roman period sarcophagus, reputedly re-used in a medieval cathedral – £4800 at Chiswick Auctions.

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In a sale of antiquities and tribal art at west London saleroom Chiswick Auctions (25/12% buyer’s premium) on April 9, two pieces with modern provenances stretching back more than half a century drew the biggest bidding clashes of the day.

A palimpsest fragment from a late Roman period sarcophagus had been acquired by the vendor in the 1970s. Before then, it had been re-used in the medieval period, reputedly as part of Exeter cathedral before being removed during a phase of renovations.

The 12in (30cm) long piece – depicting the lower part of a face, with round cheeks and an open mouth – was knocked down at £4800 against a £400-600 estimate.

Achieving the same sum against a £150-250 estimate were two unusual squat-shaped earthenware vessels from the c.1st millennium BC.

These had been acquired in a job lot at auction over 100 years ago, in 1912, and had passed by descent until consigned to the sale at Chiswick.