Page last updated at 16:31 GMT, Monday, 2 February 2009

Garden ornament is ancient vase

Egyptian jar
The damaged vase is expected to fetch up to 1,000

A terracotta vase used as a garden ornament in Dorset has turned out to be an ancient Egyptian relic dating back almost 3,000 years.

The owner inherited the 13-inch jar about 20 years ago and has kept it in her garden and home ever since.

She 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 is expected to fetch up to 1,000 when it goes to auction on Thursday.

The owner of the ancient jar, who did not want to be named, said: "I have had it hanging around for about 20 years and thought I had better find out if it is worth anything.

Internal organs

"It was outside in the front garden, then it went indoors in to the house and we had it sitting on the cupboard in the hall. I had cleaned it up by then, given it a wash.

"It was a great surprise, I had no idea it was that sort of age and I just had it hanging around. It is mind boggling."

The canopic jar, complete with cover, was originally designed to hold the internal organs of the dead as part of the mummification process.

The lid was modelled on the face of the Egyptian god Imseti, wearing a black striped wig.

The jar, which has some damage, was designed to hold the liver and Imseti would have protected the organ for use in the afterlife.

It will go on sale at Duke's auction house in Dorchester.

Amy Brenan from the auction house said: "It's amazing how long this has survived considering all the things that happened since the Egyptian period.

"How it's gone from ancient Egypt to sitting in somebody's garden is pretty remarkable."

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