A photo of the Haconby Celtic Figurine discovered by Paul Shepheard (image courtesy Noonans)

After 25 years of metal detecting, 69-year-old Paul Shepheard made the find of a lifetime when he came across a small bronze artifact with an enormous phallus in the village of Haconby in Lincolnshire county, England. Now, the figurine is headed to Noonans Mayfair in London for auction next week.

Shepheard found the figurine 10 inches deep (no pun intended) in the soil of a stubble field during a metal detecting rally last September. He initially mistook the two-inch object as a split pin until closer inspection revealed that it was a figurine of a nude man with a disproportionately large penis on a hinge component for up-and-down movement.

The figurine on its side upon discovery (photo by Paul Shepheard, courtesy Noonans)

According to Noonans’s coins and artifacts consultant Nigel Mills, the figurine is a representation of a fertility god made by the Celts in the first century CE. Mills implied that the figure was modeled after Mercury, the Roman god of commerce and communication, as it appears to be holding the god’s symbolic purse.

That being said, Shepheard initially assumed it was an Ancient Roman artifact, referencing the fact that members of the Roman military would wear phallic pendants as a symbol of virility, masculinity, and good luck. It’s not an absurd assumption considering the prominence of the phallus in utilitarian and decorative Roman artifacts. Mills clarified that ancient Roman sculptures were not known for moving parts, though.

“This male figure with its hinged oversized phallus would have had symbolic powers of good luck and warding off evil spirits and may have served as a locking mechanism as a buckle to hold a belt and scabbard for a sword,” Mills explained in the statement from Noonans.

The artifact, now called the “Haconby Celtic Fertility Figure,” will be offered up in a two-day sale of ancient coins and antiquities from March 8 to March 9 with an estimated value between £800 and £1,200 (~$956–$1,434).

“We hope to use the proceeds from the sale to pay for a holiday for my wife and her mother,” Shepheard said in the statement from Noonans.

Rhea Nayyar (she/her) is a New York-based teaching artist who is passionate about elevating minority perspectives within the academic and editorial spheres of the art world. Rhea received her BFA in Visual...