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Rider’s ‘mounting block’ identified as 2,000-year-old Roman marble slab

A lump of stone used by a rider as a mounting block for almost 10 years has been identified as a 2,000-year-old Roman marble slab thought to be worth over £10,000.

Salisbury auction house Woolley and Wallis is trying to trace the origins of the rock, which had been in the garden of a 1960s bungalow on the Hampshire/Wiltshire border.

A spokesman for Woolley and Wallis said the 63cm-tall slab was found in a rockery in the garden, in Whiteparish, about 20 years ago. The owner used it as a mounting block in her yard, but one day noticed a laurel wreath carved into the surface.

An archaeologist identified it as dating from the 2nd century, and it is thought it probably originated in western Turkey, which at the time was part of the Roman Empire.

The Greek lettering on the stone translates as: “The people [and] the young men [honour] Demetrios [son] of Metrodoros [the son] of Leukios”.

Woolley and Wallis antiquities specialist Will Hobbs said this sort of artefact often came to Britain in the late 18th and 19th centuries after “grand tours”; aristocrats’ journeys in Europe to learn about art and culture.

“We assume that is how it entered the UK, but what is a complete mystery is how it ended up in a domestic garden, and that’s where we’d like the public’s help,” he said.

The auctioneers would like to hear, if possible, from anyone who lived in the area in the mid-1960s when the houses were built, or worked on their construction and may remember the origins of any rubble used.

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“There are several possibilities of where the stone might have originated,” Mr Hobbs said.

“Both Cowesfield House and Broxmore House were very close to Whiteparish and were demolished in 1949, having been requisitioned by the army during the Second World War.

“But we also know that the house at what is now Paulton’s Park was destroyed by fire in 1963 and so possibly rubble from there was reused at building sites in the area shortly afterwards.”

The marble slab is being sold in Salisbury at Woolley and Wallis this spring with a pre-sale estimate of £10,000-15,000.

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