London, Feb 03 (ANI): A terracotta vase used as a garden ornament turned out to be an ancient Egyptian relic dating back almost 3,000 years.
The owner inherited the 13-inch high stone jar about 20 years ago from an uncle and kept it in her front garden in north Dorset, not realising its importance.
The canopic jar, complete with cover, was originally designed to hold the internal organs of the dead as part of the mummification process.
Experts discovered that the lid of the ornament was modelled on the face of the Egyptian god Imseti, wearing a black striped wig.
The jar was designed to hold the liver and Imseti would have protected the organ for use in the afterlife, according to ancient tradition.
The owner took it to be valued and was surprised to find out the piece, with its distinctive pharaoh headdress, dates to between 1550-1069 BC.
"It came from an uncle who was a bit of a collector and when he died about 20 years ago it came to us," the Telegraph quoted the owner of the ancient jar, who does not want to be named, as saying.
"We didn't know what it was and we have kept it on the patio and in the shed over the years. It was just used as a decorative piece, a lump of stone.
"Then I looked at it and saw it had a face and it looked a bit Egyptian so we took it in to be valued and was told it was from ancient Egypt.
"It was a great surprise that something that had been sitting there for some time unrecognised turned out to be so old," the owner added.
The ancient jar is damaged and so is not expected to sell for more than 1,000 pounds when it goes on sale at the auction house Duke's in Dorchester on February 5.
However, Amy Brenan from Duke's said: "It is very rare to have something such as this brought to us.
"The owner had had it in his garden for about 20 years without realising what it was. It is incredible to think how old it is and what was happening in the world when this was made.
"These jars were made to hold the organs of the dead and this one was for livers and had the head of Ismeti as a lid," Brenan added. (ANI)