In recent years, metal-detecting 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 attached to the statue by a hinge.
Considered a fertility god by the ancient Celts, Mercury’s “oversized phallus appears to be a unique feature” and may have been a “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-size statue, just over 2 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, among them 13-year-old Milly Hardwick, who recently found a cache of 3,000-year-old axes 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. That last is a rare find—not many items connected to Catherine of Aragon still exist.