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Photo of the Roman horse's head pre-restoration.

German Farmer Lands $1 Million Reward for Rare Bronze Horse Head Found on His Property

Nine years ago, archaeologists unearthed a Roman bronze sculpture in farmland in Lahnau, Germany. They knew the discovery was both rare and valuable. The farmer who owns the land received a payment for the bronze horse’s head found at the bottom of his well and everyone seemed content with the situation. But new information emerged – information which has cost the local government almost one million dollars.

The 2,000-year-old Roman horse head was found on the farmer’s property in 2009. Daily Sabah reports the man, who has not been named by the media, was initially awarded €48,000 (about $55,946) for the sculpture fragment.

The hand of a restorer is seen cleaning a horse's head, which is part of a statue that represents Roman Emperor Augustus on a horse, in Wiesbaden, central Germany. (Michael Probst)

The hand of a restorer is seen cleaning a horse's head, which is part of a statue that represents Roman Emperor Augustus on a horse, in Wiesbaden, central Germany. ( Michael Probst )

He seemed content with the payment until he found out, as Artnet News reports, “about the gravity and value of the discovery, which was trumpeted as one of the best preserved Roman bronzes in the world.”

It is an important discovery. Experts believe the gold leave-adorned horse head comes from 9 AD and was once part of a large statue depicting Augustus on horseback.

Born Gaius Octavius Thurinus (23 September 63 BC – 19 August 14 AD) and known as Octavian before taking leadership of Rome, Augustus was the adopted son of famous Roman dictator, Julius Caesar. Following the events of the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, Augustus became the first Roman emperor. Emperor Augustus ruled for 40 years before he died.

A statue of Augustus as a younger Octavian, dated ca. 30 BC. ( Public Domain )

A statue of Augustus as a younger Octavian, dated ca. 30 BC. ( Public Domain )

He is remembered for his victory against his enemies Mark Antony and Cleopatra , but also for his patience and efficiency. His administrative skills helped him create durable peace and prosperity for his empire. Augustus’ rule was autocratic, but he knew how to hide that fact under well-made propaganda. He was politically ruthless, and sometimes even cruel, but his temper apparently cooled as his time as emperor advanced. Augustus also had an interest in philosophy and poetry, leading him to write on both subjects.

 Even today, Augustus is considered one of the most efficient, yet controversial, of all Roman leaders. There are many statues and busts of this Roman emperor.

Statue of the emperor Augustus (29 BC – 14 AD). Bronze. Found in the Aegean sea between the islands of Euboea and Agios Efstratios. The emperor is depicted in mature age, mounting a horse. (CCO)

Statue of the emperor Augustus (29 BC – 14 AD). Bronze. Found in the Aegean sea between the islands of Euboea and Agios Efstratios. The emperor is depicted in mature age, mounting a horse. ( CCO)

The Roman bronze horse head from the German farmer’s property weighs about 55 pounds (24.95 kg) and is almost 20 inches (50.8 cm) long. It was found underwater in a 36-foot (10.97 meter) well. Experts believe the artifact was probably abandoned when the town’s inhabitants had to flee a surprise attack.

Once the farmer became aware of the importance of the Roman bronze sculpture he decided to sue the government for a better payout. The Limburg regional court decided on July 27 that the local government now owes the farmer €773,000 (about $904,000) plus interest. That’s roughly half the estimated value of the Roman bronze horse’s head.

It’s unknown if the local authorities will make an appeal against the court’s decision.

Just a couple of weeks ago, another fascinating Roman discovery was announced in Germany. Construction workers found the walls of a Roman library built about 2,000 years ago in the heart of Cologne. It is believed to be the oldest ruins of a public library in the country.

The walls of the Roman library will be integrated into the Protestant Church community center that will be built on the site, where visitors can see them. ( Hi-flyFoto / Römisch-Germanischen Museums der Stadt Köln )

The walls of the Roman library will be integrated into the Protestant Church community center that will be built on the site, where visitors can see them. ( Hi-flyFoto / Römisch-Germanischen Museums der Stadt Köln )

Top Image: Photo of the Roman horse's head pre-restoration. Source: J. Bahlo, German Archaeological Institute

By Alicia McDermott

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