Marcus Aurelius bust
A bust of Marcus Aurelius discovered in Ryedale.

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The group consists of a bust of emperor Marcus Aurelius, a statuette of the god Mars on horseback, a horse-head knife handle and a pendulum.

The finely modelled bust with hair and beard flamboyantly curled and large lentoid eyes, is crafted in typical native Romano-British style. It would have been mounted as the head of a sceptre as an item of priestly regalia. The deliberate burial of these objects in the late second century AD probably signified the closure of a rural temple.

Unearthed in Ryedale and recorded through the Portable Antiquities Scheme, the bronzes are estimated to bring £70,000- 90,000 at Hansons’ Historica Coins & Antiquities auction in Etwall on May 20. They will be available for viewing by appointment in London, York and Derbyshire.

The government is soon expected to strengthen the Treasure Act to include important finds that – made in base metal – do not fit the prevailing legal definition.

Currently only items that are at least 300 years old and made substantially of gold or silver, or which are found with artefacts of precious metals, can be declared ‘treasure’ – and thus offered to a museum for first refusal. Objects made of copper alloy can be sold freely by the finder at auction.