In recent years, metal-detector enthusiasts have uncovered hordes of artifacts and troves of gold while out for an afternoon stroll. Now, one of these lucky discoveries is coming up for auction: a 2,000-year-old Celtic figurine of the Roman god Mercury holding an outsize penis that attaches to the statue with a hinge.
Considered a fertility god by the ancient Celts, Mercury’s “oversized phallus appears to be a unique feature” and may have been “locking mechanism as a buckle to hold a belt and scabbard for a sword,” according to a lot description from Noonans Mayfair Auctioneers, which is selling the object next week with a high estimate of £1,200 ($1,433).
Nigel Mills, a coin consultant at Noonans, told the New York Post that the figure “would have had symbolic powers of good luck and warding off evil spirits.”
The finger-sized statue, just over two inches high and around half an inch wide, was found buried just 10 inches underground by veteran metal detectorist Paul Shepheard and his wife, Joanne, in a field in Haconby, Lincolnshire.
“What I love about metal-detecting is that absolute surprise of what you find, and this certainly came out of the blue!” Shepheard said in a statement. The Post reported that Shepheard hopes to use the proceeds from the sale to go on a nice vacation with his wife and his mom.
Shepheard is one of several amateur treasure hunters who have recently unearthed historically significant objects while metal detecting, like 13-year-old Milly Hardwick, who recently found 65 a 3,000-year-old axe in Cambridgeshire, and Charlie Clarke, who found a 500-year-old heart-shaped pendant decorated with symbols related to Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, a rare find as not many items connected to Catherine of Aragon still exist.