A rare and valuable Corinthian marble well-head, used as a flower pot in a college garden for nearly 200 years, is to be sold by Christies auctioneers.
The well-head, or puteal, is to be sold along with a roman altar to pay towards the merger of Bretton Hall College in Wakefield and the University of Leeds.
David Hill, professor of fine art at Bretton Hall, had assumed that the pieces being used as flower pots were copies of classical antiquities. But after he visited Leeds Museum the truth began to dawn.
"My eyes fell on a broken lump of stone from the 2nd century BC, which had exactly the same carved swags and bulls head relief and this started alarm bells ringing in my head," Professor Hill said.
After making some initial inquiries, the British Museum got in touch. Professor Hill said: "They explained that the puteal was an extremely important classical piece dating from between 300BC and 150AD."
The puteal was acquired by Lord Guilford in the 19th century. It was then bought by the Wentworth family, who owned Bretton Hall.