A centuries-old horn from an extinct beast - unearthed during building work in Derby - has come to light after spending years in a businessman’s office.
The horn comes from an aurochs, the wild ancestor of modern cattle. For thousands of years aurochs were the largest land mammals in Europe. They were immortalised in pre-historic cave paintings but, following the rise of human civilisation, the species died out in Poland in 1627.
The relic, which could be 4,000 to 5,000 years old, was discovered in the early 1990s during excavations to prepare for building work at Derby’s Pride Park. The large business site is now home to numerous firms and Derby County’s football stadium.
Due to its rarity, the aurochs horn,lot 3192, is set to go under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers on July 21 with a guide price of £2,000-£3,000.
Its owner, a 71-year-old retired manager from the concrete industry who lives in Burton, Staffs, but originates from Derby, said: “I was given it as a gift in the early 1990s by a salesman. At the time workmen at Pride Park were finding all sorts of ancient animal relics in the ground including teeth from saber-toothed tigers.
“For years I thought it was a mammoth tusk. It was on my office wall. About 10 years ago I put it on eBay described as a mammoth tusk and had bids of £2,000 in minutes. But a professor from America contacted me and said he thought it was an aurochs horn. I checked and of course it was so I took it off eBay straight away.
“People have offered to buy it off me over the last 30-odd years. When my kids were young, they took it into school to show their teacher and classmates.
“I decided to finally sell because of three things which happened within a couple of days. A friend showed me a newspaper cutting about an aurochs horn found in the Severn estuary;I saw auctioneer Charles Hanson do well on TV’s Antiques Road Trip - and then the horn rolled out of my van and smacked me on the leg. I’ve still got the bruise. I thought it must be divine intervention and decided to take it to Charles to sell.”
Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers which has its headquarters in Etwall, near Derby, said: “I was amazed by this discovery, even more so when I found out it was once buried deep in the ground in my home city.
“The aurochs is an extinct species of large wild cattle that inhabited Asia, Europe, and North Africa. It’s the ancestor of our domestic cattle. It’s strange to think these mighty beasts with fearsome horns were once roaming round long-gone countryside in what is now Derby city centre.
“Aurochs became extinct centuries ago and this horn could be around 4,000 to 5,000 years old. It’s in good condition for its age - a truly remarkable find.”
Aurochs horns are around 70cm (27ins) long. The large early super cow was around 2m (6ft 6in) and a lively beast.In eastern Europe, where it survived until nearly 400 years ago, the aurochs has left traces in fixed expressions. In Poland big, strong people are described as being ‘like an aurochs’. In addition, Vikings are said to have drunk from aurochs horns.
The aurochs horn, lot 3192, is due to be sold on July 21 by Hansons Auctioneers. To find out more, email [email protected]. Our July Antiques and Collectors catalogue is due to go live on our bidding platform - www.hansonslive.co.uk - on July 11.
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Free valuations are available at Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire, DE65 6LS, as follows: