Last Updated : 20-04-2014 22:27


 
 

Auctioning moonstone in UK comes under limelight

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The Sri Lankan High Commission in London is preparing a full report to the Sri Lanka’s Archeological Department about a moonstone similar to those found in the ancient city of Anuradhapura that is to be auctioned in London on April 23rd.

Director General of the Archaeological Department Dr. Senarath Dissanayake said that he had already informed the Sri Lankan High Commission in London and also the External Affairs Ministry about the matter and requested to provide a comprehensive report to find out whether the said moonstone actually belongs to Sri Lanka.

The UK Daily Mail reported that the 8ft long ‘carved granite Buddhist temple step’ was found in the garden of a property in Sussex which was once owned by a tea planter who had brought it back from Sri Lanka years ago.

“We have seen media reports about this and after that we decided to find out more about it through our High Commission there, and the moonstone that is to be auctioned seemed to be belonging to the Anuradhapura era,” Dr. Dissanayake said.
He said that the Archeological Department has almost all the records about the artifacts including moonstones since 1890 in the Anuradhapura era.
“However, as mentioned in the media, none of the monotones had been misplaced since that period,” he said.

“First we have to find out this particular moonstones is a dummy or real artifact, then only can we decide what action should be taken,” he said.
“The Sri Lankan High Commission in London is working on it to take every details about the said moonstone.”

The Daily Mail said:

Light fittings, loo seats and a 1,300-year-old BUDDHIST TEMPLE! What homeowners found when they moved into bungalow and now it's for sale

Some home sellers leave behind light fittings and loo seats when they move but one family was lucky enough to find an ancient relic worth £50,000 in their new house.

The 8ft long carved granite Buddhist temple step was found in the garden of a property which was once owned by a tea planter who had brought it back from Sri Lanka years ago.

Weighing nearly a ton, it was thought to have been too heavy and cumbersome for the previous homeowner to move so he left it behind.
Experts believe that the six-inch thick step, which is covered in intricate and beautiful animal carvings, could be up to 1,300 years old.

It is just one of seven temple steps from the ancient Sri Lankan city of Anuradhapura left in existance today.

The step is now owned by an unidentified woman who has kept it outside the front door of her bungalow home near Exeter, Devon, for people to walk on.

However, she is now selling it at auction as she is downsizing and, like the previous owner, is unable to  take it with her.

The popularity of ancient Eastern art has greatly increased in recent years and the step is expected to sell for a £30,000 to £50,000 when it goes on sale at an auction.

Sam Tuke, of auctioneers Bonhams, said that the vendor could remember playing on the step as a child after her parents bought the family home from the tea planter in the 1950s.

She had inherited the bungalow after her father died, and with it the step.

'The woman came in to our office to collect an item and mentioned in passing this large slab of carved granite that she had,' said Mr Tuke.
'She arranged to drop a photograph into me the next day.

'When I saw it I knew it could be of great historical interest and importance.

'The step had come from her mother's house in Sussex that the family had bought from a tea planter in the 1950s.

'I think it is a fair assumption that this person brought it back from Sri Lanka and couldn't be bothered to move it and take it with him when he sold the property.

'It probably wasn't of much value then. At the time British antiques and Chippendale furniture were where the money was.
'The vendor played on it as a child and remembered running her fingers around the animals carved into the stone.

'It has been lying outside the front of her bungalow at the end of a concrete path and she has called it "The Pebble".

'She is now downsizing and can't take the step with her which is why she is selling it.

'It is in amazing condition considering its age.'

The magnificent work of art features a procession of animals including lions, horses, elephants, birds and Brahim cows carved into it.

Alice Bailey, head of Islamic and Indian art at Bonhams, said: 'It is a truly wonderful find and one of great importance.

'Identical temple steps can be seen in situ in early 19th century photographs of the monuments of Sri Lanka and the condition and quality of the carving are superb.

'It is a museum piece.'

The city of Anuradhapura is the greatest monastic city of the ancient world that dates from the middle of the 5th century BC. It is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ms Bailey said that she believed that the step could be up to 1,300 years old.

'It is quite difficult to age,' she said.

'It is from the Anuradhapura period which was from 400BC to 1017AD, although it is more than likely to date from the eighth or ninth century.

'It is a temple step that was used at the bottom of staircases and entrances to temple complexes.

'The carvings are a standard frieze of animals which date from that period.

'They symbolise the four stages life; growth, energy, power and forbearance.

'The step is a bit mossy because it has been outside for quite a long time but we are going to get it cleaned up.'

The step is due to be sold at auction in London on April 23.(Athula Bandara)

 
 

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