Roman Lead Pig Mined in Yorkshire to be auctioned at Bonhams

A 154lb lead ingot mined in North Yorkshire by the Romans shortly after they conquered Britain, will be sold at the Bonhams auction of Antiquities and Tribal Art on April 26 in London.

The lead `pig’ or ingot is a massively tangible remnant of the occupation of these islands and its exploitation by the Romans. Dating from AD 81, the trapezoid, flat sloping-sided oblong object, bears a raised inscription along its top surface which reads “Imperatore Caesare Domitiano Augusto Consule Septimum’ referring to the Emperor Domitians seventh consulate. It is also inscribed on one side with the word `Brig’, which identifies it as from the territory of the Brigantes, a British tribe that came under Roman rule.

Romans used lead in a number of ways. They extracted silver from it, made it into water piping and used it as water proofing for roofs. The Romans in Britain ran a well organised mining operation which besides lead, produced gold and silver.

The known recorded history of this particular ingot begins in 1768 when it was the property of Sir Thomas Ingilby Bt of Ripley Castle, North Yorkshire. It is accompanied by a copy of a document saying the `pig’ and a second similar one were accidentally discovered in 1731 in the peat on Hayshaw Moor near Greenho’ Hill (close to Pately Bridge, North Yorks), a place famous in antiquity for its lead mines.

This pig of lead has been recorded in the Ripley Castle Guide Book as having been kept on a radiator shelf. The ingot which weighs 11 stone measures 58.5 x 10.5 x 13.5cm and is estimated to sell for £8,000 to £12,000.