It was the find of a lifetime when a Falkirk metal detecting enthusiast discovered a tiny figure that once graced a Roman soldier’s helmet.
The small copper alloy griffin had lain undisturbed beneath a farmer’s field for around 2000 years when Lee Swan, from Reddingmuirhead, made his discovery in 2014.
The griffin is unique in Scotland, but similar to one on a complete Roman helmet in Cumbria – the Crosby Garrett helmet – which sold at auction for £2.13m.
“I thought it was Roman, but I didn’t realise the real significance,” said Lee, who is not allowed the reveal the location of the find.
He submitted it to the government’s treasure trove unit and was “over the moon” when he received its report, describing it as “one of the finest pieces of small scale Roman art from the Scottish frontier”.
“It really is the find of a lifetime,” he said.
Rules regarding treasure are different in Scotland, so it couldn’t be auctioned like the Cumbrian discovery, but Lee was entitled to a reward.
“Within months of buying my detector, it had paid for itself!” he said.
While no-one can be sure it belonged to a Roman helmet, the curve and its resemblance to the Crosby Garrett helmet make it likely.
It has now been for conservation – which revealed tiny fragments of animal hair, believed to be horse hair used on the soldier’s helmet.
It will go on display for the first time in a new exhibition, Roman Frontiers, which opens at Callendar House on May 20. (See page 20 for more.)