Cologne - Construction workers in the western German city of Cologne have discovered a priceless Roman-era Venus statue, the director of the city's Roman-Germanic Museum said on Monday.
The 1 600-year-old find, unearthed at a depth of five metres during digging for a canal shaft, was "extremely rare for the entire Roman period in Germany", said Professor Hansgerd Hellenkemper.
The figure, which is missing its head and legs, features a nude torso of carrara marble.
"Because there were neither thermal baths nor temples in this region, we assume that the Venus belonged to a wealthy estate," Hellenkemper said.
He said the statue was likely produced in today's Italy, packed in straw and shipped to Cologne, then part of the Roman empire, during the first century AD.
"The delicate breasts indicate this period. Later they tended to have a more robust form," he said.
Hellenkemper guessed the Venus graced the home of a wealthy landowner until the destruction of Cologne by the Franks in 355 AD.
When the Romans recaptured the city the following year, the statue was probably used in constructing the foundation of a road.
Hellenkemper said there was little chance of finding the missing limbs now.
The Venus is to go on display in Cologne for the first time in centuries on November 6.