AN ancient Roman artefact has returned home for the first time in more than 200 years.

The Ribchester Helmet was unveiled last night at the Roman museum in the Ribble Valley village, on loan from the British Museum.

The copper alloy cavalry helmet, complete with a visor, has previously been on display in Leeds and London since the British Museum acquired it in 1814 after its discovery in 1796.

Decorated with a scene of a skirmish between infantry and cavalry, the helmet was found as part of the Ribchester Hoard and will be on show until October. A sphinx, which is believed to have been attached to the top of the helmet, had been lost before the discovery.

The helmet was worn by an elite trooper in ‘Hippika Gymnasia’ or cavalry sports events and made in the late first century AD.

A replica has been housed at Ribchester Roman Museum, dedicated to the Romano-British history of Bremetenacum Veteranorum, the old Roman name for the settlement.

Curator Patrick Tostevin said: “I’m elated that the helmet has arrived back in Ribchester after 200 years.

“Without the help of the British Museum and their agreement, this would never have happened. It was wonderful when I contacted Dr Ralph Jackson several years ago that the response was immediately positive.”

Ribble Valley councillor Ian Sayers said: “I think it’s rather splendid that we have been able to get the helmet back from the British Museum on loan. It will be a boost to tourism in Ribchester.”

In addition to the helmet, the Ribchester Hoard included a number of patera (dishes), pieces of a vase and a bust of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and sponsor of arts, trade and defence. The items were buried in a hollow, three metres below the surface, on some wasteland by the side of a road leading to Ribchester church.

The Ribchester Mus-eum applied for a grant from Ribble Valley Borough Council to help cover the cost of housing the artefact.