Roman Bust Discovered Beneath English Mansion’s Parking Lot

An excavator operator named Greg Crawley made the discovery of a lifetime last April when he unearthed an Ancient Roman bust in the soil beneath a parking lot on the Burghley House property near Stamford, England. After cleaning and restoration, the sculpture of a Roman woman is now on display at the British country mansion, though the reason it was buried on the property remains a mystery.

Crawley initially thought the sculpture was a large stone when he saw it in a pile of overturned earth in the excavator bucket, only to realize it was the head portion of a Roman marble bust.

“It was an amazing feeling to have found something so old and special — definitely my best-ever discovery,” he said in a statement. The marble torso was unearthed two weeks later, separate from the bust.

Burghley House Curator Jon Culverhouse sent the pieces to a conservator at Christie’s London for cleaning and evaluation. The expert dated the sculpture to between the 1st and 2nd centuries and identified an iron dowel that was added later on to connect the head and torso.

However, neither Culverhouse nor the expert could discern how long the sculpture had been underground nor how it ended up there in the first place.

According to Burghley House’s press release about the discovery, the sculpture was likely brought to the mansion by Brownlow Cecil, the ninth Earl of Exeter who had a penchant for collecting, from one of two antiquities-filled tours of Italy in the 1760s. It remains unclear whether the marble bust was buried during a “bungled burglary,” or if it had simply been discarded down the line. The Burghley House was built in the mid-to-late 16th century by Sir William Cecil, the first Baron Burghley and chief advisor to Queen Elizabeth I. The prodigy house is now owned and maintained by a charitable trust established by the Cecil family.

Speculations aside, the sculpture is now on display at the mansion alongside other treasures from the ninth Earl as it reopened for the summer season last weekend.

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