Archive for the ‘Treasures’ Category

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.

Share

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.

Share

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.

Share

Sapphire ring maybe worn by Caligula for sale

Monday, September 30th, 2019

An ancient Roman sapphire ring once believed to have belonged to the Emperor Caligula is being sold by royal jewelers Wartski, best known as the foremost dealers and experts in the Fabergé Imperial Eggs and jewels after the fall of the Romanovs. It is an engraved sapphire hololith, meaning a ring carved from a single stone, with a gold band mounted on the inside, likely during the Middle Ages. The engraving is a left-facing profile of a beautiful woman believed to represent Caligula’s wife Caesonia.

The ring was in the famed intaglio gemstone collection assembled by George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough, in the second half of the 18th century. Before that, it was part of a smaller but also renown group of engraved gems collected by Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, in the first half of the 17th century. Via marriage and descent, Lord Arundel’s gemstone collection was added to the extremely fine pieces the Duke of Marlborough had bought from dealers and private owners on the continent.

The Marlborough Gems, as the great collection became known, were sold by the 7th Duke, John Winston Spencer-Churchill, at auction in 1875 to raise money for the renovation of Blenheim Palace. Many of them were bought by David Bromilow, Esq, and then sold again by his daughter at an 1899 auction. The collection was thus broken up and dispersed — the Getty dropped major ducats on a dozen or so of them earlier this year — and there are Marlborough gems whose whereabouts are unknown today. This ring was one of them.

Sapphires, hyacinthus to the Romans, is a hard stone to carve and is very rarely seen in intaglios. Third century grammarian Gaius Julius Solinus describes it in his Polyhistor:

Among the things we have spoken of, the hyacinthus, which has a shining sky blue colour, is to be found. It is a valuable stone if discovered without blemish, for it is not a little subject to flaws. It is frequently either tempered with a violet colour, or covered with cloudiness, or softened to a white wateriness. The best type is not blunted by too solid a colour, nor over-clear with an eager transparency, but sweetly draws its bloom from both, dyed with the right proportions of light and purple. This stone perceives the winds and changes with the sky: it is not equally bright when the day is cloudy as when it is clear. In addition, the stone is colder when put into the mouth. It is certainly not suitable for carving, as it defies all grinding. Yet it is not utterly invincible; it can be scratched and inscribed by a diamond.

Nowadays the deeper the blue, the more desirable the sapphire, but Solinus’ description of the most prized sapphires as a delicate balance of transparent, sky blue and light purple matches the color of the ring exactly. His comment also indicates that the extremely fine carving of the female profile on the ring had to have been done with a diamond. That’s how valuable and rare it was: diamonds were the tools used to make it.

The hololith will be on display at Wartski in London from the 1st to the 7th of October, after which it will be available for sale. Wartski doesn’t do pre-sale estimates because they don’t want to scare off potential buyers, but it is in the neighborhood of £500,000 ($615,000).

Share

Hoard of Roman hacksilver found in Shropshire

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

A hoard of Roman-era hacksilver — coins and other silver objects cut to pieces for use in trade — has been unearthed near Wem in Shropshire. It is the sixth hoard of Roman hacksilver ever found in Britain.  The Wem Hoard was discovered by three metal detectorists at a rally last year. The first few coins were found on the surface. Then the metal detector alerted to something deeper under the ground and the finders began to dig. They came up with “handfuls of silver.”

The discovery was reported to the local finds liaison officer of the Portable Antiquities Scheme. A follow-up excavation last week unearthed additional silver pieces. Peter Reavill, finds liaison officer for Shropshire and Herefordshire, testified at this week’s treasure inquest that all the objects were part of the same hoard.

“That hoard is the largest hacksilver Roman hoard we have from the West Midlands. It contains both hacked-up vessels and brooches and buckles, but it also includes a number of Roman coins from the very end of the Roman Empire.

“Analysis which has been done at the British Museum suggests that it goes in the ground in the fifth century – 460 to 500AD.

“We know at that time that the monetary system in Britain has completely collapsed and we are based on a sort of bullion – the weight of the silver in the coins and the objects.

“That’s been hacked up and put into very small pieces so that it can be paid out to people like mercenaries to protect you, but also to traders.

Not surprisingly, the coins are in terrible condition. Most of them are so thoroughly clipped, worn and cut that it’s not possible to determine which type they are, never mind which mint issued them. Of the ones that can be identified, about half of them date to the reign of co-rulers Arcadius and Honorius (395-402 A.D.). Pieces of silver vessels, plates and buckles were also found in the hoard, as was an intact silver brooch which may have been used to pin together a cloth or bag that held the goods before it rotted away.

All but one of the coins, 66 of the 67 found, are siliquae, small, thin silver coins produced starting in the 4th century. They were flimsy and cranked out quickly in large numbers, making them prone to cracking and striking errors. They were also easy to clip because of how thin they were. Clipping — trimming the silver off the edges leaving only the imperial portrait on the obverse largely intact — was a common practice in late Roman Britain although siliquae from elsewhere in the empire are rarely clipped. They were clipped face-up to preserve the portrait while the borders, mintmarks, inscriptions and reverse designs were damaged or destroyed. Historians believe clipped siliquae were the first hard currency used by Saxons.

The one coin that is not a siliqua is a denarius from the 1st century A.D. It is heavily worn but unclipped, so it appears to have been pressed into action as bullion after 400 years or so in circulation. It’s extremely rare to find a single denarius in a hoard of siliquae. There is only one other marginally comparable example (the Patching Hoard) but it had a more varied composition overall.

The Wem Hoard siliquae are so end-stage clipped that even the imperial portraits are encroached upon, and the ones that were clipped were just cut up into halves and quarters. The coins illustrate the trend at that time and place for increasingly small pieces of hacksilver functioning as currency. Wem is far enough inland that it probably hadn’t seen new imports of coinage for years before Roman occupation ceased. By the time this hoard was buried, the area had almost entirely transitioned to a bullion economy.

Share

Prehistoric treasures found in Hungarian cave

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

Precious artifacts and bones dating to the Bronze Age have been discovered in the Baradla dripstone cave in northeast Hungary. A team of archaeologists from Eötvös Loránd University has been excavating the cave for four years. Lajos Sándor, a metal detector hobbyist working with the team, was scanning part of the excavation path, an area he’d scanned many times before, when he unexpectedly got a strong signal from behind the rocks. The archaeologists excavated the spot with their special wooden tools and unearthed bronze artifacts, ceramics, human and animal bones from two periods: the Bükk culture from ca. 5000 B.C., and the Bronze Age Kyjatice culture from ca. 1200 B.C.

The Bükk culture artifacts are pottery fragments with ornate geometric decorations. They abstract patterns and yellow, red, white and black paint distinguish them from the kind of ceramics made by more local peoples. The Bükk were great travelers who came to the northeastern hills from the Hungarian Great Plains, bringing their crafts and well-developed agricultural knowledge.

From the latter period is a distinctive grouping is of 59 decorated bronze pieces, most of the disc-shaped, some sparrow-tail shaped. They were found in a hollow near an underground stream covered with a stack of rocks.  The way they were piled suggests they may have been mounted on a garment that was folded up and covered with the rock stack. If it existed, the garment has rotted to nothingness over the millennia; not even small traces of it were found.

The animal bones were found heaped up in piles indicating ritual feasting and/or sacrifices took place in the Baradla cave. The human remains are thought to date to the Neolithic era.

These all point to the Baradla cave having been a sacred place thousands of years ago. [Lead archaeologist Dr. Gábor] Szabó said:

“These days, the cave walls are covered in black soot, but back then they were glowing white, it had to be a beautiful space. Even today, smelling the air of the Baradla cave, you feel that it is a mystical place. It is an astounding interior.”

Szabó thinks that similarly to Stonehenge, the Baradla cave must have been an ancient holy place where communities arrived even from far-away lands to witness the rituals performed there.

“This place could have functioned as a destination for pilgrimages. Sacrifices were made, sacred places were established, there were initiation rituals – the quality ceramics, the piles of animal bones, remains of food materials serve as proof for that.”

The find is all the more remarkable because the cave has been picked over by looters since the 1700s and has been studied and excavated by researchers for 150 years.  Today Hungary’s most famous stalactite cave, thousands of tourists tramp through it every day. The treasure was secured by the cave’s mineral output, covered by 8-12 inches of limestone, and by its conversion into a tourist site as the thick limestone was paved with a layer of concrete. The two combined to keep the treasure out of view of looters for centuries.

Animal and human bones will be subjected to isotope analysis and radiocarbon dating. The cave’s constant temperature of 53.6ºF is cool enough for good preservation of bone, so there’s a chance researchers might be able to extract viable DNA as well. The bronze and pottery artifacts will be taken to the Hungarian National Museum for conservation and eventual display.

This season’s archaeological excavation will continue through August and the team will return for the last dig next year. After that, the cave will be developed into a treatment center for people with respiratory conditions. It’s not clear to me how this asthma cave scheme will be pulled off, as the cool temperatures and 100% humidity make it unlivable for people today just as it was for people 7,000 years ago, but that’s the plan.

Share

Unique Roman gold coin found in Lower Saxony

Sunday, June 23rd, 2019

A Roman gold coin that is unique in the archaeological record has been discovered by a metal detectorist in the Stade district of Lower Saxony, Germany. Matthias Glüsing was scanning a field near Fredenbeck in December of 2017 when he found the coin. The field is known for its prehistoric burial mounds, but it was significantly northeast of the boundaries of the Roman Empire. The coin was a most unexpected find.

It is a Multiplum of the Emperor Constans, youngest son of Constantine I, and was minted in 342/343 at Siscia in the Roman province of Pannonia Savia. The mint at Siscia, modern-day Sisak, Croatia, was opened by Gallienus in 262 A.D. and remained in use as imperial mint until the end of Gratian’s rule in 383 A.D. The coins struck there during the 4th century bear the mintmark SIS or SISC.

While their obverse and reverse images and inscriptions were derived from high-value circulation coins, multipla were not meant to spend. They were special issues created to commemorate the ascension of a new emperor, a great victory and jubilee years that would be given to a very select group of the emperor’s most loyal supporters in a special ceremony. Holes found in some of the survivors indicate they were worn as pendants by their honored recipients. Very few were made; even fewer survive. None of this type have been found before.

This one was modeled after a gold solidus Constans struck celebrating his victory over the Franks in 342. At nine grams, the Multiplum is twice the weight of the solidus. Its discovery so far north in such good condition may be an indication that it was gifted to a Saxon war leader who gave crucial aid to the Roman emperor.  If so, it would be the earliest archaeological evidence of a Saxon military elite in what is now Lower Saxony. While there are references to a tribe north of the Elbe that can be interpreted as “Saxones” in Claudius Ptolemy’s 2nd century Geographia, the earliest undisputed account naming the Saxons comes from a speech delivered by future emperor Julian in 356 A.D. He names them as military allies of the Gallic usurper Magnentius who was acclaimed the new emperor by his troops after they killed Constans. The Multiplum predates that speech (and that alliance).

In recent months, the sensational discovery was intensively researched: At the site an excavation was carried out and searched with metal detectors. In addition, the archaeologists have evaluated historical maps and aerial photographs. “So far, there is good evidence to suggest that the gold coin was sacrificed in a special location characterized by a small moorland, a distinctive burial mound group, an ancient path and an impressive hill,” says [Stade district archaeologist Daniel] Nösler.

Lower Saxony requires that any metal detectorists who wish to search for archaeological materials or who search sites where archaeological materials are likely to be found apply for a permit. All would-be metal detectorists must take a free course to qualify for a permit, and they must contact the archaeologist overseeing the area they plan to explore ahead of time. This system ensures metal detector hobbyists have a proper grounding in how to approach archaeological finds and builds collaborative relationships between the amateurs and the professionals. Indeed, the finder participated in the follow-up archaeological excavation, scanning the wider site for potential areas of interest while archaeologists excavated the find site. Also, he is wearing an excellent t-shirt and I want it.

Presenting the coin (from right): Daniel Nösler (district archaeologist), Matthias Glüsing (metal detectorist and finder of the coin), district administrator Michael Roesberg and Hans-Eckard Dannenberg (Stade History Club). Photo by Christian Schmidt courtesy the Landkreis Stade.

The coin has been acquired by the government and will go on display at the Stade Schwedenspeicher Museum. The museum has recently opened a new permanent exhibition on the pre-history of the Elbe-Weser-Triangle, and they are going to have to rewrite some of their information in the light of this discovery.

Share

Unique Roman “licking dog” to be sold

Friday, June 21st, 2019

The glaring loophole in the 1996 Treasure Act strikes again, this time the victim is the unique Roman bronze statue of a dog with his tongue out discovered by metal detectorists in Gloucestershire in August 2017.

The dog is 5 ¼ inches high and 8 ½ inches long and is posed with his head looking upwards, his mouth open and his tongue poking out. Both the front shoulders are engraved with a stylized leaf or feather motif. Fur details are engraved on his jowls, paws, genitals and hind haunches as well. Holes found under his paws and a square hole in its belly indicate he was mounted to a base originally. It dates to the 4th century A.D.

The licking dog is believed to represent healing as the Greek god of medicine, Asclepius, had a canine companion. Dogs were believed to be able to heal injuries with their lick. An Iron Age temple to the local Celtic healing god Nodens, who was also a hunting deity and was associated with dogs in that capacity as well, was discovered at Lydney Park, Gloucestershire, not far from where the hoard was found. Seven votive dogs have been unearthed at Lydney and at some at Llys Awel in Wales as well, but none of them are comparable in size, quality of material, construction and decoration to this one. It is unique in the British archaeological record.

The rest of the hoard consists of a group of fragments, one bearing a partial inscription, furniture fittings, vessel handles, wires, mounts and fragments of what was once a figurine of a man wearing an intricately draped garment. There is one coin in the hoard, a follis of Crispus, the son of Constantine the Great, with globe-on-altar reverse. This type of coin was minted at Trier between 321-324 A.D., which means the earliest date the hoard could have been buried was 321. Archaeologists think the large number of scraps in the hoard indicate it was buried by a metalworker who intended to melt them down and never got the chance.

When the discovery was announced in September 2017, the hoard was at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery where experts were studying it. After that, it was slated to go the British Museum for assessment by the Valuation Committee. Since then, I can find no reports of a coroner’s inquest to determine its treasure status, and the record in the Portable Antiquities Scheme database obviously needs updating because the hoard is categorized as “Undergoing further examination at a museum.”

As there is only one coin in the group and everything from furniture fittings to plaque fragments to the dog statue is made of a bronze (so not a precious metal), this unique object of British cultural heritage does not qualify as treasure under the Act. The proposed revision of the act would classify any Roman artifact of any estimated value no matter what its composition as treasure. In fact, the coin alone would qualify the hoard as treasure under the revisions, as single coins between 43 A.D. and 1344 satisfy the criteria.

The entire hoard is going under the hammer at Christie’s Antiquities sale on July 3rd. It is being offered as a single lot with a pre-sale estimate of $37,620-62,700. I can but hope that the price doesn’t skyrocket like it did with the Allectus aureus and that a local museum wins the bidding.

Share

Allectus aureus sells for $700K

Saturday, June 8th, 2019

The gold coin of Allectus found by a metal detectorist in a freshly-plowed field near Dover, Kent, has sold for £552,000 ($703,000), far above its pre-sale estimate of £70,000-100,000. The auction at Dix Noonan Webb (DNW) in London on June 6th saw fierce bidding on the extremely rare coin, minted by the usurper Allectus between 293 and 296 A.D., driving the price way up until it finally went to a private collector bidding over the phone.

As Christopher Webb, Director and Head of DNW’s Coin Department noted: “I am delighted with the phenomenal price achieved in today’s sale. This is the most expensive coin that we have ever sold at Dix Noonan Webb – as well as being one of the world’s most expensive Roman coins, it is the most money ever paid for a coin of Allectus and it is now the most valuable Roman coin minted in Britain to have been sold at auction. It was a unique opportunity to acquire a stunning coin and the only other one known struck from the same pair of dies is in the British Museum.”

He continued: “There are only 24 aurei of Allectus known worldwide. Gold coins were initially produced to pay an accession donation in AD 293 but continued to be issued throughout his reign and were probably demonetized after his death in AD 296, as no coins of Carausius or Allectus are found in later hoards.”

The next time someone finds an ancient Roman aureus, they won’t be allowed to sell it to the highest bidder. Revisions to the Treasure Act of 1996 will plug the loophole that allows single coins, even ones of unquestionable museum quality due to their age, precious metal content, rarity and historical importance, to be kept or sold by finders at their whim so they can disappear into anonymous private collections like this one now has.

Share

Largest 4th c. coin hoard in Britain found in Lincolnshire

Saturday, May 11th, 2019

Metal detector enthusiasts discovered a hoard of Roman copper coins near the village of Rauceby in Lincolnshire in July of 2017. They had searched the area for years with only a few minor finds to show for it. This time when their detectors signaled the presence of metal, when they dug they found a massive quantity of Roman coins.

They alerted the authorities and a full excavation of the site ensued. Lincolnshire County Council archaeologist Adam Daubney and Sam Bromage from the University of Sheffield unearthed the ceramic pot that the coin hoard was buried in and  small separate hoard of 10 coins. All told, more than 3000 copper-alloy  were found. It is the largest coin hoard from the 4th century ever found in Britain.

Dr Daubney commented: “The coins were found in a ceramic pot, which was buried in the centre of a large oval pit – lined with quarried limestone. What we found during the excavation suggests to me that the hoard was not put in the ground in secret, but rather was perhaps a ceremonial or votive offering. The Rauceby hoard is giving us further evidence for so-called ‘ritual’ hoarding in Roman Britain.”

Dr Eleanor Ghey, Curator of Iron Age and Roman Coin Hoards at the British Museum, commented: “At the time of the burial of the hoard around AD 307, the Roman Empire was increasingly decentralised and Britain was once again in the spotlight following the death of the emperor Constantius in York. Roman coins had begun to be minted in London for the first time. As the largest fully recorded find of this date from Britain, it has great importance for the study of this coinage and the archaeology of Lincolnshire.”

The coins were officially declared treasure under the terms of the 1996 Treasure Act by the Lincoln Coroner’s Court on May 9th. The hoard is in the British Museum right now for assessment by the valuation committee. Once fair market value is assessed, local museums will be given first crack at acquiring the hoard by paying the assessed value in compensation to be split 50/50 by the finders and landowner. In this case the value will likely be in the tens of thousands of pounds.

Share

Navigation

Search

Archives

October 2019
S M T W T F S
« Sep    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Other

Add to Technorati Favorites

Syndication