A SECOND Roman sarcophagus found in a garden is to go under the hammer in Dorchester.

Last October a coffin believed to date back to the second century that was being used as a water trough in a Dorset garden sold for £100,000 at Duke’s auctioneers.

The news prompted a pensioner from Northumberland to get in touch with the county town auction house as he had discovered something similar in his garden.

Specialist Guy Schwinge, from Duke’s, flew up to Newcastle and visited the owner’s home. The flower-filled garden trough also transpired to be a Roman sarcophagus and is believed to date back to either the first or second century.

The homeowners inherited the sarcophagus when they bought the house thirty years ago, believing it to be a garden ornament.

Auctioneers discovered it was probably brought to Northumberland by the previous owners in 1969 and it has a copper plaque indicated it was ‘bought from Rome in 1902.

Research suggested it had been acquired by a shipping family related to the previous owners.

Archaeologist and art expert Laurence Keen said: “This sarcophagus was obviously intended for a high status individual. The combination of strigilated panels and figural decoration indicated that it was intended for a wealthy individual.”

Mr Schwinge added: “It is not often this sort of thing turns up and we are delighted that the publicity generated by our initial discovery has brought to light this exceptional example.

“I think buyers will be particularly excited because it is almost identical to another Roman sarcophagus in the Galleria Lapidaria in the Vatican.”

The marble sarcophagus is set to go on sale at Duke’s on February 14 and is expected to sell for £30,000 to £50,000.

For more information contact Duke’s on 01305 265080 or email enquiries@dukes-auctions.com