Archive for the ‘Treasures’ Category

Third EID MAR aureus emerges at auction

Thursday, October 8th, 2020

A previously unpublished gold aureus of the most coveted coin in the world, the EID MAR struck by Brutus in 42 B.C. to commemorate the assassination of Julius Caesar, is coming up for auction. With only two other authenticated examples, this is an incredibly rare coin, a once in many generations opportunity for whoever can afford the astronomical cost that will assuredly blow far past its presale estimate of £500,000 ($644,150). It’s also in incredible condition. Behold!

Previously unpublished EID MAR aureus coming up for auction. Photo courtesy Roman Numismatics.

Almost all of the surviving EID MARs, about 85 or so at most recent count, are silver denarii, a day’s wage for a Roman foot soldier. They are believed to have been struck for distribution to soldiers and officers of Brutus and Cassius’ armies in Greece before their final defeat by Mark Antony’s forces at the Battles of Philippi in October of 42 B.C. The gold coins were not paychecks; they can only have been sparingly handed out to the highest echelon of Brutus’ supporters. To the winner goes the spoils, as they say, and the EID MAR coins were spoils par excellence. Antony had them rounded up and melted down, which is why there are so few in circulation today.

The obverse features a profile portrait of Marcus Junius Brutus identified by the legend BRVT IMP (Brutus Imperator). The inscription on left of the portrait, L PLAET CEST, refers to the moneyer of Brutus’ mobile mint, Lucius Plaetorius Cestianus, who had the coins struck.

It was shamelessly hypocritical of Brutus to put his face on a coin to celebrate his murder of someone accused of wanting absolute rule when one of the charges against Caesar was that he had broken an ancient taboo and allowed his face to be put on coins. It was very much against custom in Republican Rome for living people to be portrayed on coins. There were a couple of coins with his likeness struck in tribute to him in the eastern provinces, which caused much grumbling a few years before the assassination. That grumbling turned to a mighty roar after Caesar was declared dictator for life in January of 44 B.C. Several coins were issued by his moneyers celebrating CAESAR DICT PERPETVO, some with his portrait wearing the laurel wreath alone and others veiled and wreathed, combining his religious role as Pontifex Maximus with his military role as triumphing general.

The reverse of Brutus’ coin bears the symbols celebrating the assassination of Caesar. In the middle is a pileus, the distinctive “liberty cap” given to freedmen on their emancipation day. The conspirators adopted this unmistakable symbol of freedom to mark their act as a tyrannicide, not a murder, but a defense of Republican freedom from a would-be king, just as Marcus Junius Brutus’ ancestor, Lucius Junius Brutus, had righteously killed Tarquin the Proud, the last Etruscan king of Rome, and founded the Roman Republic. According to Appian’s Civil Wars, the conspirators made this explicit in the immediate wake of the assassination:

The murderers wished to make a speech in the Senate, but as nobody remained there they wrapped their togas around their left arms to serve as shields, and, with swords still reeking with blood, ran, crying out that they had slain a king and tyrant. One of them bore a cap on the end of a spear as a symbol of freedom, and exhorted the people to restore the government of their fathers and recall the memory of the elder Brutus and of those who took the oath together against ancient kings.

The pileus on the reverse of the coin is flanked by two daggers. The two daggers are different — one is longer than the other and they have different pommel designs — are a reference to the two main leaders of the conspiracy, Brutus and Cassius who had fled Rome after the assassination and taken control of the eastern provinces from the Adriatic to Asia. They used the copious wealth of the east to keep 20 legions fed and paid, at least once with an assassination commemorative coin. If there was any doubt at all about the meaning of the daggers and freedman cap (there wasn’t), that was obliterated by the inscription EID MAR, an abbreviation of Eidibus Martiis, ie, the Ides of March, ie March 15th, 44 B.C., the date of the assassination of Gaius Julius Caesar.

The EID MAR coin boasting of Caesar’s assassination was instantly famous. The two daggers and pileus appeared again on the reverse of a denarius minted in 67 or 68 A.D. The person who ordered it is unknown — a profile of the goddess Libertas was on the obverse — but is believed to be Galba who was actively plotting to snatch the imperial crown in 67 A.D. and did so after Nero’s suicide in 68 A.D. The inscription reads “LIBERTAS PR” on the obverse and “RESTITVTA” on the reverse, meaning “libertas populi romani restituta,” or “the freedom of the Roman people is restored.” Galba would have used his name on the obverse after he took the throne, so it’s likely this was struck as a propaganda piece to justify Nero’s violent demise before he assumed power.

Brutus’ coin also got a mention in Cassius Dio’s Roman History, written 250 years after they were struck.

Brutus stamped upon the coins which were being minted his own likeness and a cap and two daggers, indicating by this and by the inscription that he and Cassius had liberated the fatherland.

The EID MAR denarius consistently ranks at the top of numismatic wish lists. It is a unique combination of historical significance and rarity and good examples have set record prices for silver coinage at auction. The aureus is a whole other level of desirability, and has been since at least the 18th century when King George III got tricked into buying a contemporary fake. That fake is now at the British Museum, as is a fake denarius.

Also at the British Museum on long-term loan from private collector Michael Winckless is an EID MAR aureus that was pierced at the top around the time of its striking. Only important people got the commemorative assassination aurei, so that means a supporter very high up in the ranks, perhaps even one of the assassins himself, wore the coin as a medallion. (Its authenticity has been questioned in the past, but that was based on an assessment not of the coin itself, but of a plaster cast of it. It is accepted as authentic in the modern scholarship.)

The only other known authentic example is in the extensive numismatic collection of the Deutsche Bundesbank. It is on display at the bank’s Money Museum in Frankfurt. It is a much cleaner, properly centralized strike than the pierced aureus at the British Museum or the Bundesbank’s, and is far less worn. The aureus going up for auction on October 29th is even finer still. It is in near mint condition, with only a few of the dots surrounding the portrait on the obverse side worn down. It has been privately owned for centuries with documented provenance going back to the Swiss Baron Dominique de Chambrier in the 1700s. The auction includes many other coins from the decline of the Republic. Mark Antony, Lepidus and Octavian are all present and accounted for, as is Julius Caesar in the dictator for life coins and some posthumous issues.

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14th c. gold and silver coin hoard found in Bohemia

Wednesday, August 12th, 2020

A hoard of 435 gold and silver coins from the 14th century was discovered by a couple on a walk in the woods near Kladruby Monastery in  western Bohemia, Czech Republic. Well, technically, the hoard was discovered by a wild pig who started the excavation. The couple came across a two gold coins and one silver in the brush next to a large flat stone. When they lifted the stone, they saw there were many more coins underneath it. They reported the find to the Museum of West Bohemia in Plzeň and archaeologists unearthed the whole hoard.

There are 92 gold coins weighing a total of 326 grams and 343 silver coins in the hoard. The silver coins are of the groschen type which were common in Bohemia and central Europe in the 14th century. Most of the ones in the hoard were minted in Bohemia during the reign of Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. They are very worn so must have been in wide circulation. The gold coins, on the other hand, are in excellent condition. They are ducats of Charles I of Hungary, of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, of Albert III, Duke of Austria, and Rupert I, Elector Palatine and gold florins from Louis I of Hungary.

Archaeologists believe the coins were buried in the ground in the late 1370s. While the reason why someone hid the treasure is likely to remain unknown, it was most likely linked to the nearby Monastery in Kladruby.

“The monastery was located on a strategic medieval trade route between Prague and Nürnberg. And since the discovery was made not far from there and close to the royal town of Stříbro, it is very likely that it is somehow connected to it.”

The Kladruby Monastery, a Benedictine abbey established by Vladislaus I, Duke of Bohemia, in 1115, was rich from the beginning, endowed with numerous properties and titles. Its wealth and power increased geometrically, peaking in the 14th century when the monastery’s income and territory were at royal levels. It had its own network of defensive castles on its feudal estates and was often mired in conflict with the nobility of the area.

Because of the vast sums that flowed into the abbey’s coffers and its military power, the question of who would be appointed abbot was of enormous political import. This came to blows in 1396 when John of Nepomuk, vicar-general of the Archdiocese of Prague, appointed the candidate supported by his boss the archbishop and the Pope instead of the one selected by King Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia. The king had John tortured, thrown off a bridge and drowned. He was immediately revered as a martyr and canonized a saint.

The coins are now being conserved and catalogued. They will go on display at the Museum of West Bohemia in Plzeň at the end of this year or the beginning of 2021.

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Gold pelican’s wing found in shipwreck

Friday, August 7th, 2020

A gold wing from a pelican figurine has been recovered from the Douglass Beach Wreck off Vero Beach, Florida. The little right wing was found resting comfortably in a bed of crushed shell and is in excellent condition, completely with three sections of chain on a ring.

The wing is part of a gold statuette that was discovered in 2010 from the wreck of the Nuestra Señora de las Nieves, one of 12 ships in the Spanish treasure fleet that were lost in a hurricane in 1715. Diver Bonnie Schubert found the gold pelican using an underwater metal detector.

Made of 22 karat gold, the figurine is 5 1/2 inches tall and weighs 177 grams. The head and shoulders of the bird are connected to the tail and legs by hinges. Archaeologists believe it was a reliquary, because there’s a cavity between the top and bottom halves that would have held something like the relics of a saint, or  perhaps incense or a jewel. It would have been hung from its chains in a chapel, not been worn like jewelry. (The chain attached to the wing wasn’t a hanging mount; it connected the two wings of the statuette to the bird.)

At first it was thought to be an eagle, but scholars identified it as a pelican in piety. The pelican in piety was a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice, a popular motif based on the accounts of medieval bestiaries that pelicans draw their own blood to feed or revive their young. Here’s a version of the tale from Guillaume le Clerc’s Bestiaire written ca. 1210:

There is a wonderful thing about the pelican, for never did mother-sheep love her lamb as the pelican loves its young. When the young are born, the parent bird devotes all his care and thought to nourishing them. But the young birds are ungrateful, and when they have grown strong and self-reliant they peck at their fathers face, and he, enraged at their wickedness, kills them all. On the third day the father comes to them, deeply moved with pity and sorrow. With his beak he pierces his own side, until the blood flows forth. With the blood he brings back life into the body of his young.

Pelicans do not do any of this in real life, needless to say. This bestiary, like others of the epoch, wasn’t an attempt at recording natural history like Pliny, say, that missed the scientific mark a little, but rather a compendium of moral and theological lessons conveyed by animal stories, a sort of Christian Aesop.

Bonnie Schubert and her sole crewman, her 87-year-old mother Jo, searched for the missing right wing for two months at the find site and in different locations over the next two years, but were unsuccessful. A decade later, Capt. Henry Jones and crew member Tracy Newman followed in the Schuberts’ footsteps, exploring the waters off Douglass Beach on South Hutchinson Island near where the pelican had been discovered.

“Captain Jones and I were diving when his metal detector got a ‘ping. He brushed away some crushed shell, and the tip of the wing popped up. It was pretty and shiny and gold. He pulled the wing out of the sand, and things seemed kind of surreal. I was thinking, ‘This can’t be real,’ but at the same time I knew exactly what it was.”

Even more surreal, Newman had joked about finding the wing that morning.

“People have been looking for that wing since the bird was found 10 years ago,” Newman said. “We’ve looked for it numerous time. We had a huge map spread out on the floor of the condo trying to figure out where to go that day. I told Henry, ‘Let’s go find the bird wing.’ “

The gold pelican was sold to an anonymous private collector for $150,000 by 1715 Fleet-Queens Jewels LLC which owns the salvage rights to treasure fleet wrecks. The collector is ecstatic about the discovery of the missing wing and hopes to have the opportunity to acquire it. The state of Florida gets a percentage of the salvage and first dibs, so it’s not a foregone conclusion that the wing and pelican will be reunited. If they are, the collector is reluctant to reattach the wing as the parts are so delicate. Displaying them together would be enough for him.

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British Museum acquires Bronze Age gold bulla

Friday, March 6th, 2020

The British Museum has acquired the spectacular Bronze Age gold bulla discovered two years ago in Shropshire. The crescent-shaped pendant, intricately incised with geometric patterns, was found to meet the criteria of the 1996 Treasure Act at an inquest held by the Coroner for Shropshire John Ellery on January 31st, 2019. Once declared Treasure, the object was assessed by the Treasure Valuation Committee which determined its fair market value to be £250,000. With the support of the Art Fund and the American Friends of the British Museum, the museum was able to raise the money to buy what is believed to be one of the most significant Bronze Age metalwork artifacts ever found in the British Isles.

One side shows a stylized sun – a rare and hugely significant addition to the art and iconography of Bronze Age Britain. Solar symbolism is a key element of Bronze Age cosmology and mythology across Europe, but before the discovery of this pendant was very rarely seen on objects found in Britain. […]

The pendant is one of a small number of contemporary, precious objects made to celebrate the religious and life-giving power of the sun during the Bronze Age. They have been found across Europe, including the famous Trundholm Sun Chariot from Denmark and the ‘sun discs’ of North-West Europe.

It was discovered by a metal detectorist, but both the finder’s identity and that of the landowner are being kept secret, as is the location of the find site, in order to keep the excessively curious off the scent. Archaeologists from the British Museum in collaboration with Trent & Peak Archaeology and University College Cork have investigated the Shropshire site and discovered that the field was a boggy wetland during the Bronze Age. The bulla was likely intentionally thrown into the bog as a votive deposit.

Is it 3,000 years old and one of only two Bronze Age bullae ever found in England. The other was discovered near Manchester in 1722 during the dredging of the Irwell ship canal and antiquarians thought the striking geometric decoration was of such high quality it could only be Roman. The Manchester bulla was sold privately in 1806 and hasn’t been seen nor heard from since. Six other broadly parallel bullae have been discovered in northern Ireland. They all range in date between 1000 and 750 B.C., the late Bronze Age.

Pendants of this type are called bullae after the Latin for “bubbles” because they are crafted from sheet gold and are hollow inside. The Shropshire bulla has been X-rayed and CT-scanned to determine what’s inside the tube collar along the top of the pendant. It looks like clay or compacted soil, but it’s still unclear whether it was a deliberate fill or the unintended result of centuries spent underground. Metal analysis has shown the sheet to be approximately 80% gold and 20% silver and copper, an alloy consistent with other late Bronze Age metalwork.

The first public showing of the bulla will take place this November at the Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery in Shropshire, near the find site. Additional artifacts recovered during the recent excavation will be displayed alongside the pendant. When it returns to the British Museum, the bulla will go on permanent display near the Mold Gold Cape, an absolute masterpiece of Bronze Age metalwork found in a grave in North Wales in 1833.

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Gold stater tossed in Salvation Army kettle

Saturday, December 7th, 2019

An anonymous donor dropped an ancient gold coin into a Salvation Army bucket in Florida on Friday morning. The gold stater from the 1st century B.C. was wrapped in one-dollar bill and dropped in the ubiquitous red kettle in front of a Publix grocery store in Tampa. A coin dealer estimated its market value at around $2,000.

The obverse of the coin depicts three togate men, a Roman consul flanked by two fasces-bearing lictors. They are walking facing left. The word “ΚΟΣΩΝ” inscribed under them. The reverse has the image of an eagle standing on a scepter clutching a wreath in one claw.

The Independent Coin Graders label says it’s a “Greek Thracian Kings” coin dating to 44-42 B.C. but that’s a disputed identification. The coin was not minted in Greece. This type of stater has only been found in Transylvania, often in large hoards. Koson is believed to be name of the Dacian king who minted the coin, but his name and reign are otherwise unrecorded. Some scholars think he might be the same person as a king Cotiso or Cotison mentioned by historians Appian and Suetonius as having rejected Octavian’s offer of a marriage alliance and sided with Antony in the civil war and by the poet Horace as having been defeated in battle by Octavian.

Those events took place at 35 B.C., however, and the design of the coin suggests a connection to the previous generation of Roman civil warriors. The consul flanked by lictors is very similar to the reverse of a coin minted by Marcus Junius Brutus in his role as moneyer a decade before he assassinated his way into history. It depicts his ancestor, Lucius Junius Brutus, revered for having overthrown the last Tarquin king of Rome and considered the founder of the Roman Republic, as the first ever consul of Rome in 509 B.C. It’s possible Koson modeled his stater after the 54 B.C. Brutus denarius as a tribute because he was a supporter of the latest Brutus to claim the status of liberator and tyrannicide. The 44-42 B.C. date would put it right in the middle of the wars after the assassination of Julius Caesar.

The Dacian kingdom had fallen apart in 44 B.C. and the territory was splintered into numerous conflicting tribal factions. If there was a Thracian king involved, he must have minted these coins specifically to pay Dacian tribesmen, perhaps for raids across the Danube.

The coin has been graded (MS-63), meaning it’s in mint, uncirculated condition with only minor deficiencies in the strike, not due to wear and tear. In this example you can see the obverse image is off-center, enough so that the beaded border is missing from the left side, as is the K in Koson. The Salvation Army is working with a dealer to arrange for the conversion of this coin into spendable cash for its charitable endeavors.

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Rare box-shaped Viking brooch found in Estonia

Wednesday, November 27th, 2019

A rare early Viking brooch has been found in the village of Varja, northeastern Estonia. The box-shaped brooch is one of only two of its kind ever discovered in Estonia, and the other one has not been handed in to heritage authorities yet. The other one is also of later date.

The Varja brooch was made of bronze cast in a single piece. It is in excellent condition, intact with only minor damage to the surface, likely from agricultural activity disturbing it when it was underground, and its steel pin missing.

The decoration is of the Broa or Oseberg style, characterized by sinuous animal figures and “gripping beast” motifs (creatures grasping the borders around them in their paws, usually their own serpentine bodies or another animal). The Boa style dates the brooch to between the late 8th century and the mid-9th.

The brooch was unearthed at the site of an ancient wetland which is believed to have had a single farm during the Viking era.

Kiudsoo explained that the village of Varja is situated in the northeastern part of the ancient parish of Askälä, and that this region on Estonia’s northern coast, between Purtse River and the present-day city of Kohtla-Järve, stands out for its exceptionally rich archaeological find material. The Eastern Route, an important Viking-era trade route, ran along Estonia’s northern coast.

The archaeologist said that he believes that the brooch found at Varja belonged to a woman born on the island of Gotland, who took up residence in the Viru region of Estonia later in her life. Supporting this hypothesis is the fact that similar decorative items were in widespread use in Gotland during the Viking era, but are not common elsewhere. Kiudsoo said that hundreds of box-shaped brooches like the one recently found in Estonia have been found in Gotland.

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Roman silver coin hoard found in Switzerland

Monday, November 25th, 2019

A hoard of 293 silver denarii in excellent condition has been unearthed near Pratteln in northwestern Switzerland. There is no surviving container, but the coins were all found in a small hole together, so they had to have been buried in one event. The coins date from the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D., mostly the latter. The oldest denarius in the hoard was minted under the reign of the Emperor Nero, the youngest in Rome under Commodus in 181/182 A.D. The dates of the most recent coins suggest the hoard was cached at the end of the second century.

The total value of the coins at that time would have been significant. Almost 300 silver denarii is the equivalent of half the annual salary of a legionary. It is the second largest assemblage of pure Roman silver ever found in Switzerland, after the treasure of Augusta Raurica (Kaiseraugst) which, while far richer in total weight (58 kilos vs. one kilo) and status pieces (tableware, candelabra, silver bars), its complement of coins was a mere 187. Hoards of thousands of Roman coins have been found, but they are a hundred years younger than the Pratteln coins and the currency was so debased their silver content was practically nil. The denarii of the 1st and 2nd century were 100% silver. The ones of the third century were less than 3% silver.

The hoard of silver denarii was discovered by Archäologie Baselland volunteer Sacha Schneider while on a metal detecting investigation of the slopes of Mount Adlerberg. It was in a wooded area with no conspicuous features that you might expect to mark the spot of buried treasure, but perhaps there was something notable there in the second century A.D. when the hoard was hidden. Archaeologists would never have found it on their own. They’re primarily engaged in salvage excavations in advance of construction or in exploring known sites, so for the past decade they have enlisted volunteers like Schneider to explore the wider landscape and report anything they find. She alerted archaeologists in the Canton capital of Liestal and they excavated the hoard.

Today a suburb of Basel, the whole village of Pratteln is on the Federal Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites and is one of the earliest known areas in the country to have been settled. The oldest artifact ever discovered in Switzerland, a 100,000-year-old hand axe, was found there in 1974. While the village as it is today was built around a monastery and castle in the 11th or 12th century, archaeological remains from the Neolithic, Celtic Iron Age and Roman Empire are evidence of that the area was occupied for millennia.

One of Pratteln’s Roman villas, the rural estate of Kästeli, was one of the largest country homes in the vicinity of Augusta Raurica. The Church of Saint Leodegar at the epicenter of Pratteln’s old town was built in the 13th century over the remains of a Roman villa. That villa would have had a clear view of the Adlerberg slope were the treasure was buried.

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Gold jewelry recovered from Elgin’s shipwreck

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

When Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, tore half the sculpted marbles off the Parthenon starting in 1801, he also helped himself to tons of sculptures from other temples and a vast array of antiquities around Athens.

(He did not have permission of Ottoman authorities for this brutal act of pillage, just for the record. The so-called Ottoman firman he claimed had granted him permission does not exist even though all imperial firmans BY LAW were meticulously archived and can be accessed to this day, and the almost-certainly fictional “translation” that does exist does not authorize the removal of pediments, metopes, friezes, caryatids or anything else attached to the Parthenon, only to inscriptions and loose marbles from the area around it. In fact, a local Ottoman official went to stop him when word got out that Elgin was prizing marbles off the structure. Elgin simply bribed him to let him get away with it, just like looters do today.)

His loot was packed into 17 crates and loaded on to his ship, the Mentor, which set sail from Piraeus on September 15th, 1802. Two days later, the ship began to take on water and headed for the nearby Ionian island of Kythera. While attempting to drop anchor off the coast, the ship collided onto the rocks of Cape Avlemonas and sank.

The 12 people on board were rescued by a passing vessel. The 17 crates of priceless ancient treasures  took a little more effort to rescue. Elgin spent large sums organizing a salvage mission performed by local sponge divers that eventually succeeded in raising the Parthenon marbles. They weren’t able to recover all of Elgin’s loot, however, and Greek archaeologists have returned to the Mentor several times over the years to look for lost artifacts. Maritime archaeologists have found amphorae, stone vessels, Egyptian statuary, coins and a number of British objects including bullets, pistols, watches and a compass.

This year’s excavation of the site focused primarily on cleaning, documenting and conservation of the wreck itself. The team cleaned the surviving section of the ship’s hull and took high-resolution photographs of the entire wreck site that were then stitched together digitally to create a photomosaic that will aid in the long-term preservation of the ship’s remains.

The moveable objects recovered from the wreck include small parts of the ship — wooden pulleys complete with surviving sections of rope — and artifacts it carried like remarkably intact glazed kitchenware and a section of a wooden leg. The two stand-out artifacts are exquisitely crafted jewels: a gold granulation ring and a pair of gold filigree earrings.

Gold granulation ring. Photo by P. Vezyrtzis, courtesy the Greek Ministry of Culture. Gold filigree earrings. Photo by P. Vezyrtzis, courtesy the Greek Ministry of Culture.

Section of wooden leg. Photo by P. Vezyrtzis, courtesy the Greek Ministry of Culture. Wooden pulley with mooring rope remains. Photo by P. Vezyrtzis, courtesy the Greek Ministry of Culture.

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Unique Bronze Age gold ring found in Cumbria

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

A metal detectorist has discovered a unique Bronze Age gold ring in West Cumbria. Billy Vaughan was scanning a field near his home of Whitehaven when he unearthed the ring. A novice metal detector who has only been at it for six months, Vaughan had already scanned this field dozens of times and only found a few silver coins, buttons and small odds-and-ends. This time the alert was strong, so he dug down five inches below the surface where he found the gold.

He had no idea it even was gold. At first he thought the circular piece with a slightly flattened side was a climber’s carabiner or maybe a tractor coupling. When he took a second look, he realized that was no carabiner. He sent a photo of his find to a metal detecting enthusiast friend with more experience and the response from “Spud” was apparently unprintable. Spud encouraged him to take it to a local jeweler who confirmed that it was indeed gold, 22-carat gold, in fact, and a solid 310 grams (11 ounces) of it.

The ring is tubular, intact and bent into a loop so its terminals overlap. It is covered in decorative dimples all over the surface with only a thin section along the inside of the ring left smooth. Vaughan reported his discovery to the local Finds Liason Officer Lydia Prosser.

“I personally haven’t seen anything like this in my years and I have worked across Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria.  At first, there didn’t seem to be any parallel with the unique decorations and it presented a lot of questions.

But experts have started looking into it and Neil Wilkins, who is the Curator of the Bronze Age artefacts at the British Museum, came across a similar arm ring of Irish origin.  So the latest thinking is it was brought over, or traded, in Ireland.  That may place it as late Bronze Age, around 1800BC.”

The only other Bronze Age gold ring discovered in Cumbria listed in the Portable Antiquities Scheme database is a broken pennanular ring with a smooth surface that was made by rolling a sheet of gold into a tube. It is .67 inches long and weighs just 1.8 grams. That’s less than a half a gram more than the weight of the 1/4 teaspoon of salt I put in a two-egg omelette, just to give you an idea. It was dated to the middle Bronze Age, about 1300-1150 B.C.

The only Bronze Age decorated gold object discovered in Cumbria recorded in the PAS database is the terminal of a lunula (a large collar necklace shaped like a crescent moon). It is decorated with engraved concentric rectangles. The outermost rectangle was enhanced with small square dents that were punched in along the incised line giving it a dashed and dotted effect. It dates to around 2200-1700 B.C. and is believed to have been made in Scotland or Northern England in imitation of Irish originals.

The ring will now be studied by a experts who will advise a coroner’s court whether it qualifies as treasure under the Treasure Act (it does twice over as it is more than 300 years old and is more than 10% precious metal content). A valuation committee will determine its market value — the jeweler assessed its value in gold weight alone at £11,000 ($13,500) — and a local museum will be offered the chance to acquire the artifact for the determined amount which will then be awarded 50/50 to the finder and landowner. Whitehaven’s Beacon Museum would love to have it if they can raise the funds.

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Anglo-Saxon name found on Galloway Hoard arm-ring

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

The first round of research into the Galloway Hoard, the richest and most varied Viking hoard ever discovered in Britain or Ireland, has revealed a name and it’s an Anglo-Saxon name, not a Viking one.  Five of the silver armbands in the hoard have runes etched on them. Runic scripts are varied, complex and were used for several different languages so interpreting them can be challenging. Dr. David Parsons of the University of Wales was able to decipher the Old English runes inscribed on one of the silver arm-rings. They read “Ecgbeorht,” an ancient spelling of the name “Egbert.”

“Five of the silver arm-rings have runic inscriptions scratched into them which may have functioned as labels identifying distinct portions of the hoard, perhaps recording the names of the people who owned and buried them. Arm-rings of this sort are most commonly associated with Viking discoveries around the Irish Sea coastlands. Yet these runes are not of the familiar Scandinavian variety common around this date on the nearby Isle of Man, but of a distinctively Anglo-Saxon type. And while several of the texts are abbreviated and uncertain, one is splendidly clear: it reads Ecgbeorht, Egbert, a common and thoroughly Anglo-Saxon man’s name.

There is some reason, therefore, to suspect that the Galloway ‘Viking’ Hoard may have been deposited by a people who, to judge by name and choice of script, may have considered themselves part of the English-speaking world. It is even possible that these were locals: Galloway had been part of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria since the early eighth century, and was referred to as the ‘Saxon coast’ in the Irish chronicles as late as the tenth century.”

The fact that a man’s name was etched into one of the 100 pieces in the hoard does not mean he’s the person who assembled it and/or buried it, notwithstanding the plethora of current headlines hyping Egbert as the hoard’s owner. The three abbreviated Anglo-Saxon runic inscriptions also seem to have been names, and the fourth one which has yet to be deciphered could be one too, so it’s not about the “owner of the Galloway Hoard found,” but rather evidence in favor of Anglo-Saxon speakers having had their hands on at least some elements of this hoard before it was buried in the early 10th century.

Dr Adrian Maldonado, Glenmorangie Research Fellow at National Museums Scotland, said:

“If the hoard belonged to a person or group of Anglo-Saxon speakers, does it mean they were out raiding with other Vikings? Or that these Viking hoards were not always the product of Scandinavian raiders? There are other explanations, but either way this transforms our thinking on the ‘Viking Age’ in Scotland.

“These inscriptions are evidence that identity was complex in the past, just as it can be today. In Early Medieval Scotland, we have inscriptions in five different scripts (Latin, ogham, Pictish symbols, Scandinavian and Anglian runes) making it a diverse and multilingual era. Place-names in British, Gaelic, Norse and Old English were being coined in South West Scotland around the time of the Galloway Hoard.  The sea was more like a motorway, allowing people to communicate across linguistic boundaries, exchanging ideas and objects. This is just a glimpse of how the Galloway Hoard will continue to challenge our thinking as conservation continues.”

The Hoard is not on display as conservators and researchers work on it. Next spring will kick off a new exhibition tour at four museums in Scotland beginning with the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh in May.

Meanwhile, the Galloway Hoard is at the center of a whole different kind of show right now, a courtroom drama, if you will. You might recall that back in 2017 when National Museums Scotland announced that it had raised the $2.5 million for the ex gratia payment to secure the hoard, the award was going to be split down the middle between the finder, metal detectorist Derek McLennan, and the owners of the field where the hoard was found, the Church of Scotland. Well two years have passed, and not only has the Church not received a penny of those millions, McLennan has full on ghosted them. They can’t even reach him on the phone.

It turns out that everywhere else in the UK, the Treasure Act stipulates that awards are to be split between finder and landowner, but in Scotland all payment divisions are solely at the discretion of the finders. The widely accepted practice among metal detectorists is the 50/50 split because it encourages landowners to grant them permission to search their land. No place to look, nothing to find. A partnership relationship benefits everyone.

According to the Church of Scotland, this agreement was formalized between both parties when the National Museums Scotland raised the funds. They would split the proceeds and the Church would use its share “for the good of the local parish.” A year later, the Church reached out to Reverend David Bartholomew, a metal detectorist friend of McLennan’s who had been with him the day of the find, asking him to find out what was up with the moneys because he wasn’t responding to their attempts to contact him. So then Bartholomew tried calling, emailing, writing letters and even showed up at his house, all to no avail.

The Church of Scotland has now filed suit. McLennan has not responded to any requests for comment from the media.

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