Britons Struggle To Keep Curly Haired Roman Helmet

A detailed and well-conserved Roman parade helmet -complete with fine facial features on its face mask, tight curly hair, and a griffin-topped cap - will go up for auction Thursday, five months after it was found in northern England.

The helmet is expected at £200,000 to £300,000 (about $316,000 to $475,000) but could go for much more when it goes on sale at Christie's auction house in London.

The Tullie House Museum in Carlisle, near where the helmet was found in May by a person with a metal detector, has launched a public fundraising plea to try to procure the helmet as the centerpiece for a new Roman gallery.

Christie's called the Crosby Garrett helmet - so named for the village where it was found, about 45 miles south of the Scottish border -- an "astonishing example of Roman metalwork at its zenith" and said it dates to the late 1st to 2nd century A.D.

"The Crosby Garrett helmet sets itself apart by virtue of its gorgeousness, workmanship, and completeness, particularly the face mask, which was found virtually intact," Christie's says. "In addition, the remarkable Phrygian-style peak surmounted by its intricate bronze griffin crest appears unprecedented."

The helmet consists of two sections: the tall pointed helmet and the face mask. The latter has openwork eyes, which would have permitted the wearer to see during the cavalry sports events -- known as hippika gymnasia -- when it would have been used.

The face has incised eyelashes on the upper and lower lids, herringbone eyebrows, and pierced nostrils, all framed by three rows of corkscrew curls. At the peak of the cap is a small griffin, seated with its wings outstretched, illuminating the incised feather detail. Its right paw is raised and rests on the rim of a small amphora. Colorful streamer may have been attached to the helmet when it was worn, Christie's says.

The helmet is one of only three that have been revealed in Britain complete with face masks, Christie's says. The first was found in 1796 and is currently at the British Museum in London, and the other was found around 1905 and is at the Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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