“A few hundred pounds”. That’s how much a family in England paid for a pair of carved stone statues to decorate a garden patio. After 15 years, it turns out that the garden ornaments are ancient Egyptian relics that date back over 5,000 years. They just sold for $265,000.
The artifacts were acquired from the garden in Sudbury, Suffolk, in eastern England, according to CNN. Auction house Mander Auctioneers said a family that wanted to get rid of items before moving to another home contacted them about the artifacts.
“All the time they sat there and [the sellers] had no idea what they had in their garden,” said Jason Mander of Mander Auctioneers, which sold the artifacts.
The family had first come across the statues at a country house sale in East Anglia. They paid £300 ($400) for the pair, with the belief that they were 18th-century replicas. They then brought the replicas home to their garden, where they have sat on the patio for decades until last month when the family decided to sell them.
“The condition was quite poor with heavy wear and various losses,” Mader said of the statues. “They had been repaired by the current owners, using concrete, to fill the missing part under the head of one of the statues.”
“We didn’t really question them and put them in [at auction] at 300 to 500 ($410 to $680),” Mander, who listed the statues as a “pair of 19th Century carved stone garden models”, told CNN. “And then the auction just went crazy,” he said.
It took fifteen minutes to sell the statues on Saturday, Mander said, adding that there was competition from four telephone bidders and numerous internet buyers. “The bidding quickly went up to £100,000 and then seemed to stall, until the hammer finally fell at £195,000 [$265,000] to an international auction gallery, setting a new house record.”
“Opinion was that they were genuine ancient Egyptian examples, which had somehow passed through recent history as 18th century copies,” auctioneers said in a statement.
This is not the first time that ancient Egyptian artifacts have been found in the United Kingdom. In 1988, hundreds of Egyptian artifacts were found in an English castle. Last year, a lost artifact from the Great Pyramid of Giza was found in a chance discovery at the University of Aberdeen.
In the 18th century, the Grand Tour saw English people travel through Europe, buying items, according to Mander. “And we’ve just presumed they were 18th century Grand Tour items,” Mander told CNN. “As it turns out they’re thousands of years old and genuine. So it’s quite amazing really,” he said.
He added that the final sale was “beyond comprehension” for the family that sold the artifacts.
The statues will for now probably head to a museum where they will be examined more closely to among other things find out their exact age.
“I wonder where they’ve been for the last 5,000 years. It’s quite incredible, really,” said Mander.