Rag and Bone Man’s Special Find – Steptoe’s Gold!
Some finds I write about are quite unique and lodge themselves in a special part of my memory labelled Don’t Forget! The story of the small metal cup I first published in 2008 is a good example.
For overseas readers (who may not be aware of the significance of my title}, it is enough to know that it refers to the BBC comedy Steptoe and Son, about two men who dealt in selling used items. Here’s my report:
The grandson of a man who acquired a small metal cup is in line for a windfall after discovering it is a pure gold vessel dating back to before Christ. The unique ancient treasure could be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. The 5.5ins cup, believed to be from the Achaemenid Empire, has two female faces looking in opposite directions, their foreheads decorated with a snake motif. Experts were baffled by the piece, but laboratory analysis of the gold put it in the third or fourth century BC. The Achaemenid empire was based around Persia, but at its height stretched from Iran to Libya. It was wiped out by Alexander the Great in 330 BC. From the Telegraph, May 2008
The gold cup was acquired in the late 1930s or early 1940s by William Sparks in Taunton, Somerset. He was a scrap metal dealer and before his death in the late 1940s he gave it to his young grandson John Webber. Believing it to be brass or bronze, Mr Webber put the cup, along with other gifts, in a box and forgot about it until last year when he moved house. The other items include a beautiful gold spoon which might have come from Roman North Africa, and a ‘Hellenistic’ gold mount, with a figure thought to be Ajax. Laboratory tests have confirmed the age of the cup and that it had been painstakingly crafted from just one piece of gold.
Mr Webber, 70, said: “My grandfather was originally a proper rag and bone ban from Romany stock and lived in a caravan. My father died in the war and afterwards my grandfather gave me some things shortly before he died. One of the things was the cup which I remember playing with. Because he mainly dealt in brass and bronze, I thought that was what it was made from. I put it in a box and forgot about it. Then last year I moved house and took it out to have a look and I realised it wasn’t bronze or brass. I sent it to the British Museum and the experts there hadn’t seen anything like it before and recommended I had it tested at a laboratory.” Gleaned from various sources.
Double-headed bowls were common in Roman times and depicted Janus, the god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings, and endings. But in Roman mythology, Janus (John) was usually depicted as a man with a beard, not a beautiful female as in Mr Webber’s bowl that was eventually sold at Duke’s auction house in Dorchester, Dorset on June 5 and realised the sum of …
This blogpost was first published in 2013