AN incredibly rare gold crown, found in a tatty cardboard box, could fetch £100,000 at auction.

The delicate Greek myrtle wreath, which is thought to date to 300BC, was found in a cottage in Somerset under a bed.

The item was discovered when the elderly owner, who wants to remain anonymous, asked valuers from Duke's of Dorchester in Dorset to look at some items he had inherited from his grandfather.

But Guy Schwinge from the auctioneers was astonished when he pulled aside the newspaper inside a tatty box to reveal the precious ancient artefact.

Gold wreaths like this were meant to imitate the wreaths of real leaves that were worn in Ancient Greece in religious ceremonies and given as prizes in athletic and artistic contests.

They usually depicted branches of laurel, myrtle, oak and olive trees, which were symbolic of concepts such as wisdom, triumph, fertility, peace and virtue.

Due to their fragile nature, gold wreaths like this were only worn on very special occasions.

Bits of dirt embedded on the wreath suggest this one was buried at some point.

Most date to the Hellenistic period (323BC to 31BC), which this one is also thought to date from, and show the exceptional skill of goldsmiths at that time.

Some were made during earlier periods but the wreaths became more frequent after Alexander the Great's Eastern conquests, when gold was more available in Greece.

The current owner's grandfather was a great collector who was fascinated by archaeology and the ancient world.

Although his family do not know how he acquired it, it is likely he bought it sometime in the 1940s when he travelled extensively.

He said: "I knew my grandfather travelled extensively in the 1940s and 50s and he spent time in the north west frontier area, where Alexander the Great was, so it's possible he got it while he was there.

"But he never told me anything about this wreath.

"I inherited quite a lot of things from him and I just put this to one side for almost a decade and didn't really think anything of it.

"Recently I decided I needed to sort through things and called in Duke's to have look at some of the items he'd passed on to me.

"The wreath is a beautiful piece but I never expected it to be so valuable.

"It was a mixture of excitement and just disbelief when they told me what it was."

Mr Schwinge from Duke’s said: "When the owner pulled the gold wreath from a tatty cardboard box filled with paper, my heart missed a beat.

"When I went to the cottage the last thing I expected to see was a piece of gold from antiquity.

"It is notoriously difficult to date gold wreaths of this type. Stylistically it belongs to a rarefied group of wreaths dateable to the Hellenistic period and the form may indicate that it was made in Northern Greece.

"It is eight inches across and weighs about 100 grams. It's pure gold and handmade, it would have been hammered out by a goldsmith.

"The wreath is in very nice condition for something that's 2,300 years old.

"It's a very rare antiquity to find, they don't turn up often. I've never seen one in my career before."

The wreath will be sold on June 9.