A marble flowerpot in the gardens of Blenheim Palace has been discovered to be a 1,700-year-old Roman coffin worth £300,000 in value. For more than a century, the coffin was used for growing tulips in the garden of Sir Winston Churchill--until an antique expert visited the palace and took a closer look of the coffin.
The marble sarcophagus is 6ft 6in long and has carvings that depict Dionysian revelry during 300 AD. According to BBC News, the bas-reliefs are seen showing a drunken Dionysus leaning on a satyr at a party, flanked by the likes of Hercules and Ariadne, and two large lion heads.
The coffin was removed from the garden and was sent to Cliveden Conservation for restoration. Project overseer Nicholas Banfield told reporters, "The piece is actually in remarkable condition considering it has withstood seemingly aggressive environments, particularly that of a fountain receptacle. Following an initial in-situ inspection we were able to unbolt it from the lead cistern to which it was attached and take it back to our workshops for full cleaning, repair, and stabilization."
Various auctioneers stated that the coffin was probably made for a high-status member of the Roman elites. It is also believed to be one of the few remaining items of its kind in the world. Thus, the palace has it under its insurance policy and has the marble structure on display in an underground room of the Blenheim Palace.
The sarcophagus was brought by the 5th Duke of Marlborough, Churchill's great-great-grandfather, during the 19th century to be used as a water feature. The nobleman was famous for his vast collection of antiquities but faced bankruptcy nearly at the end of his time and sold most of his collections to counter debt. The Roman coffin was just one of the few items left in Blenheim Palace.