A COLLECTION of rare bronze objects offering a glimpse into religious life in rural Roman Ryedale 1,800 years ago has been bought by the Yorkshire Museum.

The ‘truly exceptional’ Roman hoard, which includes a bust of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who was played by Richard Harris in the Oscar winning film Gladiator, was found by metal detectorists in a field near Ampleforth in May 2020.

It has been described as being of “national significance”.

York Press: The 2000-year-old bronze bust of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Picture: SWNS

The artefacts, which also include a statuette of Mars, the God of War, a handle shaped as part of a horse that is thought to have come from a knife, and a ‘plumb bob’ used for engineering projects, are said to be among the finest known from Roman Britain. They are thought to have been buried as an offering to the gods as part of a religious ceremony.

The 13cm bust of Marcus Aurelius, which would have topped a sceptre or priestly staff as a focal point for religious ceremonies, offers rare direct evidence of the Imperial Cult – the Empire-wide worship of Roman emperors as divine.

York Press: A knife shaped as part of a horse, part of the Ryedale Bronzes Picture: David Aaron/Yorkshire Museum/PA Wire

Dr Andrew Woods, senior curator of the Yorkshire Museum, said: “The Ryedale Roman Hoard is a find of national significance. Each of the bronze objects exhibit exceptional artistic quality and craftsmanship, making them amongst the finest artefacts known from Roman Britain."

The hoard will become part of the Yorkshire Museum’s collection and will go on display in York next spring.

York Press: Statuette of Mars, the Roman god of war, part of the Ryedale Bronzes Picture: David Aaron/Yorkshire Museum/PA Wire

The museum acquired the collection from previous owner David Aaron as a result of donations from American Richard Beleson and Art Fund cash. Mr Beleson, from San Francisco, has been interested in Roman Britain since his childhood and has visited York twice since 2010. He said: “The minute I saw the bronze bust of Marcus Aurelius, I knew there was only one place it belonged – the Yorkshire Museum.”