ancient: a sword head, like the kind found by Steve Taylor. Inset, another view of the artefact
A Cotswolds history buff has unearthed a piece of weaponry believed to be among the rarest ever discovered in Gloucestershire.
Steve Taylor, from Hatherley, stumbled across the treasure, part of an ancient sword handle, while metal detecting on a farm near Cirencester.
The bronze head, which would have been fitted to the end of a Celtic sword to keep the blade in place, is worth about £5,000.
Steve has given the artefact, which dates from 200-400BC, to Cirencester's Corinium Museum as part of a long-term loan arrang- ement.
Museum bosses have described the find as "extremely important" and have given the exhibit pride of place in the facility's Iron Age section.
Steve, 50, said: "It is a real thrill to find such a rare and valuable artefact which helps us to map the history of the county.I didn't realise its significance immediately but once I took it home and cleaned it up I knew I had something special.
"It is amazing to think it has survived for 2,400 years without being damaged in the ground."
Steve uses a high-tech metal detector to comb the countryside for valuable items.
The landscape gardener has been treasure hunting for 25 years and two years ago found a large haul of Roman coins, also in the Cotswolds.
Dr John Paddock, curator at the Corinium Museum, said: "It is very unusual to find items like this in Britain, Usually they are found on the continent.
"It's a very intricate piece and in quite good condition, although it obviously used to be part of a full anthropomorphic pommel.
"These swords would have been of quite a high status in Celtic society. I would hesitate to say they wouldn't be used at all, but they were certainly not common swords. There are only about 12 of these in the country."
Though the find is valuable – Steve will split the value of the find with the landowner – the amateur detector said any opportunists feeling the economic pinch should think twice about using metal detecting as a regular income stream.
He said: "Finds such as this are very rare. For each one of these there are lots of times you will go out and bring back nothing or the odd coin."