A Roman carving of a penis will on display to visitors for the first time at a Lincoln museum.
The Collection acquired the limestone carving from a Lincolnshire family who had used it as a garden ornament for the past 20 years.
The artefact, discovered in 1995 in the village of Braceby, appears to show a penis looking up at a vagina or evil eye, and was probably inserted into the wall of a building.
During the Roman period, phalluses were seen to be sacred images representing security and good luck, while evil eyes signified a malevolent or sinister curse.
Graphic representations of its mystical power have been found on a Roman mosaic that depicts a phallus ejaculating into a disembodied eye and in terracotta figurines showing two phallus-men sawing an eyeball in half.
Antony Lee, The Collection’s Access Officer, said that such imagery was commonplace in Roman times across Lincolnshire.
He said: “The phallus was a symbol both of protection and of promoting good fortune, and therefore was an entirely appropriate image to wear as jewellery or to carve on a city wall or important building, even to hang around your newborn baby’s neck.
“Although pornographic imagery clearly existed, phallic imagery was not intended for this purpose.
“The carving on the face is in relief, and consists of an erect phallus pointing upwards towards a shape above, clearly the focus of the phallus’ attention, and which might represent either a vagina or an evil eye.
“The evil eye, a symbol of unspecified fear and threat, was one of the things the phallus warded against and often appeared alongside phallic imagery in Roman art.”
Antony added that Lincoln’s Roman city walls had at least one phallic carving to add spiritual protection to the city.
The museum is also home to examples of phallic bone and copper alloy pendants, a greyware ceramic spout and even a carving from Long Bennington of a man riding a winged phallus.