The marble head of a Roman lady was discovered by a digger during construction works in spring 2023 at Burghley, closely followed two weeks later by a marble bust. The items will be on display at Burghley House, an English 16th-century country house near Stamford.

Experts dated the sculpture to the 1st or 2nd c. AD.

An iron dowel was found in the head. It was used to attach it to a bust or pedestal. This type of adaptation was a common practice by Italian antiquities dealers during the late 18th c.,  in order to make excavated ancient fragments more attractive to potential buyers, mostly aristocrats travelling on the Grand Tour.

It is believed that it was during one these tours to Italy in the 1760s, that the 9th Earl of Exeter purchased the sculpture among other antiquities and brought it back to Burghley.

How the head and bust ended up buried in the park remains a mystery, however. Also unanswered is how long it has remained hidden in the ground before being discovered in late April 2023.

When the Burghley House opens again for the 2024 season, on 16 March, the remarkable find will be on display, together with an explanation about its discovery, and alongside other sculptures that were purchased by the 9th Earl of Exeter.