Man finds 2,300 year old Greek crown under his bed

An elderly man from Somerset, England had perhaps just a bit of a surprise when he discovered that the crown shoved under his bed in a dirty cardboard box is actually worth about $150,000 to $300,000 (£100,000 to £200,000).

According to Daily Mail, the wreath is about 2,300 years old and believed to be ancient Greek—dating from roughly to the Hellenistic period, the time following the death of Alexander the Great (300 BCE).

The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, possesses many items from his grandfather, who was a well-seasoned traveler.

“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,” he told Daily Mail.


A family heirloom of great value

He decided to have appraisers from Duke’s of Dorchester—a nearby auction house—look at a few of the items he had inherited. One of the appraisers, Guy Schwinge, was present at the man rifled through a box filled with crumpled newspaper to bring out the delicate crown.

“When the owner pulled the gold wreath from a tatty cardboard box filled with paper, my heart missed a beat,” Schwinge told Daily Mail. “When I went to the cottage the last thing I expected to see was a piece of gold from antiquity.”

Despite its age and unusual method of storage (besides being stored under the bed, bits of dirt in the gold suggest it was once buried), the wreath is apparently in marvelous condition.

“It is eight inches across and weighs about 100 grams [1/4 of a pound],” said Schwinge. 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.”

Of course, being found in a cottage with no provenance to speak of makes it a challenge to know much about the wreath at all—you can’t carbon date gold, and without the context in which it was found (like its location, and what other objects were found near it), some things will be never be certain.

“It is notoriously difficult to date gold wreaths of this type,” said Schwinge. “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.”

Gold wreaths of a similar style were designed to imitate the real thing: Crowns made of real plants—like branches of laurel, myrtle, oak, and olive trees—that were given to victors in athletic and artistic contests worn in ancient Greece for religious ceremonies. However, the golden versions were so delicate, they were only worn rarely, for special occasions.

As to how the owner’s grandfather got ahold of such a rare artifact, no one’s quite sure. The family believes he probably picked it up during his travels.

“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,” said the man. “But he never told me anything about this wreath.”


Image credit: Dukes/BNPS