In a town known as Wells in the southwestern part of the U.K., in the district of Somerset, a man with a metal detector made an historic—and potentially lucrative—discovery.
Jason Baker, 31, a native of Plymouth, uncovered an Ancient Roman lead "pig" (ingot). For the last time one of these ancient metal ingots was found in Britain, you have to go all the way back to the 18th century.
"Normally I find just a couple of Roman coins and that's normally a good day," Baker said, "so to find something like this has just changed my life."
Not only is the historical rarity of this somewhat strange artifact reason enough for its importance, Mr. Baker could be looking at a life-changing payday for finding the relic, as well. Rough estimates of the lead pig's value at auction range from £60,000 to £250,000, but it could go for as high as £300,000!
Even better, the fact that this ingot is not made of precious metal means that Mr. Baker's payment will not be subject to the Treasure Act that normally governs the distribution of money from such finds. In most cases, the finder and the land owner split the proceeds down the middle, 50-50. Even without the law applying, Baker has indicated that he will gladly follow the convention and give the farmer who owns the land where the lead pig was found half of the money.
The two-foot long lead ingot dates back to 164 C.E.—nearly 2,000 years old—and is inscribed with the name "Marcus Aurelius Armeniacus," who was the emperor at the time. The Roman Empire's influence in the British Isles stretches back from 2,500 years. The ingot weighs in at six stone, the equivalent of 84 lb or 38 kg.
Mining was a primary activity of the Ancient Romans; it was one of the main thrusts of their never-ending quest to conquer more territory and expand their empire as far as possible. Annexing new territory not only meant more taxes or tribute could be collected, but also gave the Romans access to new supplies of critical natural resources and minerals. Furthermore, the use of lead was widespread across the empire. It was used for wine vessels, roofing, myriad building purposes and, infamously, water pipes.
Baker said that a staff member from the Museum of Somerset in Taunton who attended the dig called it "best thing he'd ever seen."
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