‘Complete mystery’ as 1,800-year-old ancient Roman statue dug up in UK parking lot

March 16, 2024

“Definitely my best ever discovery,” said the construction worker who found it.

LONDON — A mysterious 1,800-year-old Roman statue has been discovered by a construction worker while he was digging up a parking lot.

It was during work on an overflow parking area at Burghley House — a historical Tudor-era manor dating back to the 16th century located 90 miles north of London — when the discovery was made by Greg Crawley who was driving a digger and saw a “pale object amongst the lifted earth” that he had been excavating, according to a statement from Burghley House announcing the discovery.

“I had a real shock as the digger bucket rolled over what I thought was a big stone to reveal a face. When I picked it up, I realised it was a head of a statue,” Crawley said. “I couldn’t believe it when they told me it was a Roman marble statue. It was an amazing feeling to have found something so old and special – definitely my best ever discovery.”

This, however, was not the only artifact that was found.

'Complete mystery' as 1,800-year-old ancient Roman statue dug up in UK parking lot

A mysterious 1,800-year-old Roman statue has been discovered by a construction worker while he was digging up a parking lot in the United Kingdom.

Burghley House

Just two weeks later when the original discovery was made in April 2023 as the parking lot was nearing completion, a second discovery was made a short distance away from where the head was found — this time it was the bust of the statue that the head had originally been attached to.

Both items were subsequently taken to Burghley’s curator before being sent to a professional conservator who was able to carefully clean and consolidate the figure before reassembling both pieces as they had been intended. The find was also reported to the British Museum, which maintains a database of such discoveries, according to Burghley House.

'Complete mystery' as 1,800-year-old ancient Roman statue dug up in UK parking lot

A mysterious 1,800-year-old Roman statue has been discovered by a construction worker while he was digging up a parking lot.

Burghley House

“After being cleaned, experts dated the sculpture from the First or Second Century, with an iron dowel added later, allowing it to be attached to a bust or pedestal,” said Burghley House. “This type of adaptation was often carried out by Italian dealers in antiquities during the late 18th Century to make excavated ancient fragments more attractive to aristocrats travelling in Italy on what was known as the Grand Tour.”

Officials believe that it may have come from one of the ninth Earl’s two tours to Italy in the 1760s, when he purchased many antiquities, one of those being this sculpture that he brought back to Burghley.

“But it remains a complete mystery how the head and bust ended up buried in the park, with explanations ranging from a bungled burglary to someone simply discarding the statue and it later being covered by soil,” said Burghley House.

'Complete mystery' as 1,800-year-old ancient Roman statue dug up in UK parking lot

A mysterious 1,800-year-old Roman statue has been discovered by a construction worker while he was digging up a parking lot in the United Kingdom.

Burghley House

It is unclear how long the statue has remained hidden underground and experts say they may never know how it got there or why.

For now, however, the statue has a new home on display within the dramatic Hell Staircase at Burghley House.

“And when the House opens again for the 2024 season, on 16 March, the remarkable find will be on display, together with an explanation about its discovery, and alongside other sculptures that were purchased by the ninth Earl,” said Burghley House.