This is the face of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the subject of today's Object of the Week.

TODAY’S object is a fine bronze Roman bust, one of a unique collection of 2,000-year-old artefacts discovered in North Yorkshire.

The bust of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius is part of a collection known as the Ryedale Ritual Bronzes, a group of religious finds discovered last year by metal detectorists James Spark, 40, and Mark Didlick, 44, in a field in Ryedale

The hoard is shortly to be sold, but there will be an opportunity to see them on display – perhaps the one and only chance to see them in the region – before they go under the hammer.

As well as the bust, which would have been mounted as the head of a priest’s sceptre, the hoard contained an equestrian statuette of the God Mars, a horse head knife handle and a large bronze pendulum.

The nationally important collection will go to auction later this month with an estimate of between £70,000 and £90,000.

It will be available for viewing by appointment in York on Tuesday, May 11

Adam Staples, Historica expert at Hansons Auctioneers, said: “The hoard of artefacts was probably buried as a religious offering which marked the closure of a rural shrine or the death of a priest.

“The artefacts would have formed a suite of ritual implements, to be utilised when performing religious ceremonies and for predicting the future.

“The hoard was taken to York Museum and recorded through the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme.”

Marcus Aurelius became Emperor in March of AD 161 and his 19-year reign was one of relative peace and prosperity for Rome.

However, in AD 165 troops returning from Mesopotamia brought with them a virus which swept across the entire Empire – the Antonine Plague.

Now believed to be an outbreak of smallpox, this ancient pandemic devastated the Roman citizens, with an estimated 10 per cent of the population losing their lives.

An accomplished scholar, author and philosopher, Aurelius faced the challenge of the pandemic with his own stoic attitude.

In his book ‘Meditations’ he wrote: ‘How unlucky I am that this should happen to me. But not at all. Perhaps I should say how lucky I am that I am not broken by what has happened.”

Mr Staples added: “He is indeed very lucky not to have been broken by his 1,850 years spent underground.

“The bust has survived extremely well and is in very fine condition with a glossy green patina. This is a very rare opportunity to own a nationally important group of artefacts.”

The Ryedale Ritual Bronzes is the star lot in Hansons’ two-day Historica: Coins and Antiquities auction on May 20-21. For further details, or to arrange a viewing, contact Adam Staples or telephone 01283-733988.