A farmer unearthed an ancient bronze Medusa head worth thousands while digging a ditch.
The head of the mythical Greek character, who was said to turn onlookers to stone, was discovered by chance buried in a field.
The landowner, who asked to remain anonymous, wasn’t sure what she had unearthed when she started pulling clumps of earth off the mysterious discovery in Somerset.
But she kept the unusual sculpture in a drawer and has grown quite attached to it in recent years.
Now it is poised to fetch thousands after it was put up for auction.
The retired farmer said: “I dug it up when I was digging a ditch in my field about six years ago. I didn’t know what it was at first but realised it was very old.
“It’s been kept in a drawer ever since. I hope a museum bids for it as I think it deserves to be on public display.
“If it doesn’t sell, I would be happy to have it back as I have always liked it.”
Medusa, also known as Gorgo, was one of three monstrous Gorgons – winged human females with living venomous snakes in place of hair – in Greek mythology.
The ancient myth said those who gazed into her eyes would turn to stone.
The story goes that Medusa was beheaded by the Greek hero Perseus, who then used her head – which retained its ability to turn onlookers to stone – as a weapon before giving it to the goddess Athena to place on her shield.
In classical antiquity, the image of the head of Medusa often appeared on an evil-averting device known as a Gorgoneion.
The relic, which is thought to date back to the Roman period, is set to go under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers’ Fine Art Sale in Etwall, Derbyshire this week with an estimate of £1,500 to £2,000.
Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said: “It’s a wonderful find which demonstrates the forgotten history beneath our feet.
“It sweeps us back through the centuries to ancient Greek mythology. Medusa, also called Gorgo, was one of three Gorgons, described as winged females with living venomous snakes in place of hair. Those who gazed into her eyes were said to turn to stone.
“The story goes that Medusa was beheaded by Greek hero Perseus, who then used her head, which retained its ability to turn onlookers to stone, as a weapon until he gave it to goddess Athena to place on her shield.
“In classical antiquity, images of the head of Medusa appear in an evil-averting device known as the Gorgoneion.
“The snake-haired Medusa, seen in the example set for auction, did not become widespread until the first century BC.
“Roman author Ovid describes Medusa as a beautiful maiden seduced by Poseidon in a temple of Athena. Such a sacrilege attracted the goddess’ wrath, and she punished Medusa by turning her hair to snakes.
“Examples of Medusa heads are occasionally discovered around the world in countries such as Greece, Turkey and, of course, the UK.
“Medusa was popular in Roman antiquity and it is likely the example discovered in Somerset is Roman. Large parts of Britain, including Somerset, were occupied by the Roman Empire from AD 43 to AD 410.”