A TOP minister has placed a temporary export ban on an unusual animal-shaped mount discovered in North Yorkshire in a last ditch effort to find a British buyer.

The high quality cast copper alloy mount, which has been valued at £52,281.37, is thought to be a remnant of Viking life and perhaps evidence of links between Dublin and York.

It dates from the 8th or 9th century and takes the form of an animal with splayed legs and a projecting head, seen from above.

Culture Minister Barbara Follett decided to impose the export ban after experts advised the mount holds outstanding aesthetic importance and is also vital for the study of insular art and archaeology.

Dr Catherine Johns is a member of the Reviewing committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA) – a body that advises the Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

She said: “The unique form, unusually complex design motifs and unmodified condition mark this mount as the best of its type. It is also of outstanding research significance as there is much to be learned about the function, manufacture and detailed iconography of this class of object.”

An RCEWA spokeswoman told The Press she did not know when or where in North Yorkshire the mount was found.

It is thought it may originally have been intended for a horse’s harness, although it could also have been set into a wooden object such as a shrine.

The mount retains much of its original gilding and the details of its complex and unique design survive perfectly.

There are other similar mounts in the national collections of Britain, Ireland and Scandinavia, but none of comparable quality. It is also the only mount found in England that has a spread-eagle design.

Potential buyers now have until June 13 to make an offer – after which a decision will be made on whether to grant the owner an export licence.

Anyone interested in making an offer should contact the owner’s agent by writing to: The Secretary, The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, Wellcome Wolfson Building, 165 Queen’s Gate, South Kensington, London, SW7 5HD, or phone 020 7273 8270.