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3,000-YEAR-OLD ASSYRIAN FRIEZE FOUND HANGING IN BRITISH SCHOOL

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An ancient stone frieze from an Assyrian palace that could be worth up to $1.5 million has turned up on the wall of a school confectionery or "tuck" shop in southern England.

The 3,000-year-old slab went undetected for decades as staff at the school, housed in the former home of an antiquities collector, assumed the whitewashed panel was a plaster replica, London auctioneers Christie's said Monday.Generations of pupils at Canford School threw darts at a board hung next to the slab. School legend has it that a slight nick at one side was caused by a stray dart.

"I am told there is some minimal damage but my impression is that most of the schoolboys were accurate in their aim," said Christine Insley Green, head of antiquities at Christie's, which is auctioning the frieze on July 6.

"It's extremely rare. It is the finest such piece ever to be on the market," she said. The stone panel could go for as much as $1.5 million if bidding is intense.

The scene of a deity and a royal arms bearer was excavated by British archaeologist Sir Henry Layard in Mesopotamia in the 19th century and was given to a distant relative Sir John Guest, whose mansion now houses Canford School.

The true provenance of the piece, which measures six feet by four feet, came to light when a visiting American academic said he believed the slab might be an original after all.