Archive for the ‘Treasures’ Category

Almost-looted medieval treasure goes on display

Wednesday, March 17th, 2021

An exceptional hoard of 10th century jewelry that almost disappeared into the penumbra of online antiquities trafficking has gone on display for the first time at the Archaeological Museum of Córdoba. Its existence was only suspected last year when a local archaeologist saw photographs of some of the pieces for sale on social media and notified the National Police. The treasure was ostensibly discovered on La Amarguilla, a farm in the Andalusian town of Baena, southeast of Córdoba, but the story is self-serving with many glaring omissions.

According to the experts consulted, the treasure was buried inside a bag or a ceramic container in the ground. Indeed, all of the pieces were stained by soil, indicating the treasure had been dug up only recently. The police investigation took place in the Córdoba municipalities of Lucena, Luque and Baena, where the treasure was finally found in an industrial warehouse. The person who had it in their possession took the police to an estate in Baena where they claimed to have found it.

However, the individual’s explanations regarding the original site of the buried treasure reportedly failed to convince archaeologists and consequently, no excavation has been undertaken to determine whether other elements are still to be discovered there.

This is the 16th known jewelry hoard found in Andalusia and it stands out among them for the quality, quantity and rarity of its pieces. The Amarguilla Treasure is comprised of 623 jewels, beads and gems. There are 98 pieces of jewelry made of precious metal — gold, silver or gilt silver — of an unusual variety of designs. There are pendants, bracelets, hairpins, dress ornaments, rings of caliphal type, chains and broken necklaces. A large group of beads and pearls found in the hoard were originally part of the necklaces or bracelets. There are 17 hard stone (mostly quartz and rock crystal) beads, four cylindrical pink coral beads, 36 glass beads of different colors and 476 river seed pearls. No other documented Andalusian jewelry hoard contains any seed pearls.

Among the notable pieces are two intricate gold filigree pendants, one in a circular, one in a bell shape. Circular examples have been found before in hoards. The bell-shaped one is unique on the archaeological record. The greatest standout jewels are a circular pendant with the Star of David inside and two bangles, one silver, one gilt, with animal head terminals. The Star of David pendant is made with a filigree so delicate and precise that required great technical virtuosity from the goldsmith. It is unique; there is no other piece like it extant. The bangles are made of four twisted tubes silver with four threads twisted between them. The terminals are serpent heads constructed with very fine granulation.

The style of the jewels dates them to the 10th century. It was likely buried in the beginning of the 11th century during the upheaval of the civil war that broke out in 1009 and would drag on for two decades and ultimately bring about the demise of the Caliphate of Córdoba. The other Andalusian hoards also include coins that made it possible to pin down the latest possible date they were buried. That this hoard does not strongly suggests they were surreptitiously sold before authorities got wind of the discovery. Coins are more common, making them easy to move because people don’t ask a lot of questions when they emerge on the market. The jewelry is extremely rare and much harder to sell without arousing suspicions, which is exactly how the Amarguilla treasure came to light in the first place.

The Jewels of Amarguilla exhibition is temporary, running through June 6, 2021, but the treasure will go on permanent display at the museum.


Late Roman Republic coin hoard found in Turkey

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021

A hoard of more than 600 silver coins from the Late Roman Republic era has been unearthed in the ancient city of Aizanoi, western Turkey. The coins, Roman 439 denarii and 212 cistophori from Pergamum, were discovered in September 2019 on the banks of a river. They were found packed inside a jug which was then surrounded by three terracotta plates to hide it.

Archaeologists removed the vessel so it could be excavated in laboratory conditions. All of the coins were found to date to the last century of the Roman Republic, the reign of the first emperor, Augustus. Many coins bear the portraits of Julius Caesar, his assassin Brutus, Mark Antony and Augustus. There are also coins minted by Augustus’ right hand man and future son-in-law, Agrippa when he was governor of Gaul (38 B.C.). A collection of portait-heavy coins like this is known as a coin album, like the numismatic version of a photo album. Excavation leader Professor Eliz Özer speculates that the coins might have been stashed by a Roman military officer.

“One or two of these coins found in the collection are of higher value. It has been observed that most of the coins were minted in Southern Italy mints. These are the most special silver coins that have been found in recent times,” Özer said.

Originally settled around 3,000 B.C., Aizanoi was part of the Attalid Kingdom of Pergamum which was bequeathed to the Roman Republic by its last king, Attalus III, in 133 B.C. It reached its apex of prosperity in the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. when the city’s great monumental structures — public baths, a macellum (market) inscribed with the Price Edict of Diocletian, a combined theater and stadium seating 33,500 that is unique in the Roman world — date to this period. Aizanoi’s Temple of Zeus, begun under Domitian in the late 1st century, is the best-preserved temple in Anatolia today.


Birdwatcher spies Britain’s largest Celtic gold coin hoard

Saturday, January 2nd, 2021

A birdwatcher in eastern England has discovered the largest hoard of Celtic gold coins ever found in Britain. The birder has been observing a glorious instance of aerial combat between a large brown buzzard and two magpies through his binoculars. When they moved out view, he glanced down and saw something in the groove of recently-ploughed soil. He picked up the circular piece, figuring it was an old metal washer, but when he wiped off the mud, he saw the glint of gold. What glittered in this case was in fact gold, a Celtic full stater from the middle of the 1st century.

After he spotted a second one a couple of feet away, the birdwatcher switched to another of his avid hobbies, running home to fetch his metal detector. He scanned the area where he had found the two coins and quickly found another two gold coins. Then he got a particularly a strong signal and began to dig down. Just 18 inches under the surface, he unearthed another circular object. It looked like a copper bracelet, but when he pulled it up a shower of gold fell on him like he was Danae. The circle was actually the rim of Roman vase or jug that had been filled with coins and buried.

Alas, the finder did not stop what he was doing to alert archaeologists. He filled two large shopping bags with what are estimated to be around 1,300 gold coins and walked home with them. He then called in the find to the coroner’s office. The coins are now being assessed before the inquest that will declare them treasure under the terms of the 1996 Treasure Act. As far as monetary value goes, each coin could be worth up to $880 dollars, depending on condition.

This is a new record for a Celtic gold coin hoard. The previous record-holder was a hoard of 850 coins discovered at Wickham Market, Suffolk, in 2008.


Galloway Hoard cross revealed in its original glory

Monday, December 14th, 2020

An Anglo-Saxon silver cross from the Galloway Hoard has been revealed in all its intricate glory after being cleaned and conserved by experts at the National Museums Scotland (NMS). The Greek cross is decorated with black niello enamel and gold leaf typical of Late Anglo-Saxon design. Each arm bears the symbols of the four evangelists (Matthew’s divine man, Mark’s lion, Luke’s cow, John’s eagle) with floral swirls and knotwork surrounding them. It was made in Northumbria in the late 9th century and is extremely rare. Only one other Anglo-Saxon pectoral cross from this period is known, and it is nowhere near as elaborately decorated.

“The cleaning has revealed that the cross, made in the 9th century, [has] a late Anglo-Saxon style of decoration.This looks like the type of thing that would be commissioned at the highest levels of society. First sons were usually kings and lords, second sons would become high-ranking clerics. It’s likely to come from one of these aristocratic families.”

The pectoral cross has survived with its intricate spiral chain, from which it would have been suspended from the neck, displayed across the chest. The chain shows that the cross was worn.

[Dr Martin Goldberg, NMS principal curator of early medieval and Viking collections,] said: “You could almost imagine someone taking it off their neck and wrapping the chain around it to bury it in the ground. It has that kind of personal touch.”

When the hoard was discovered in 2014, the cross was in the top layer. It was caked it dirt, as was the spiral chain wound around the junction of the bars. The thin silver wire of the chain is less than a millimeter in diameter and was coiled around an organic center. The core was preserved and analysis identified it as animal gut. Cleaning the tightly coiled spiral and the enameled grooves of the cross posed a challenge. Conservators used a porcupine quill and scalpel to remove the dirt as carefully as possible without damaging the metal.

Cross before conservation. Photo courtesy National Museums Scotland.

Anglo-Saxon cross during conservation. Photo courtesy National Museums Scotland.

Anglo-Saxon pectoral cross after cleaning and conservation. Photo courtesy National Museums Scotland.

The National Museums Scotland acquired the hoard in 2017 after a successful fund-raising campaign with donations from the public, non-profit heritage organizations and the government of Scotland. Museum conservators have been working ever since then to clean and conserve the objects in the hoard — more than 100 pieces from jewelry to ingots to a Carolingian pot — and preserve its extremely rare organic elements, like the cord in the spiral chain and textiles found inside the pot.

It has been dubbed a Viking treasure — the largest Viking hoard discovered in Scotland since 1891 — but the new exhibition that opens at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh on February 19th is pointedly entitled Galloway Hoard: Viking-age Treasure, emphasis on the age. The important Anglo-Saxon objects like the cross in the hoard underscore that while it was buried in the Viking era, its contents are multicultural.

Goldberg said: “At the start of the 10th century, new kingdoms were emerging in response to Viking invasions. Alfred the Great’s dynasty was laying the foundations of medieval England, and Alba, the kingdom that became medieval Scotland, is first mentioned in historical sources.

Galloway had been part of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria, said Goldberg, and was called the Saxon coast in the Irish chronicles as late as the 10th century. But this area was to become the Lordship of Galloway, named from the Gall-Gaedil, people of Scandinavian descent who spoke Gaelic and dominated the Irish Sea zone during the Viking age.

“The mixed material of the Galloway Hoard exemplifies this dynamic political and cultural environment,” Goldberg added.


Crosby Garret loophole to be closed

Friday, December 4th, 2020

The glaring loophole in the UK’s 1996 Treasure Act that allowed an exceptional Crosby Garrett Roman cavalry helmet to disappear into a private collection will soon be closed. Last year, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced a planned revision to the Treasure Act that would update the definition of “treasure” to preserve priceless archaeological patrimony for the public. The ministry has now announced that after a period of consultation and study, the definition of treasure will be changed to allow the designation of objects of great cultural or historical significance as treasure no matter what their material qualities.

The 1996 Treasure Act defines treasure as coins in a hoard that are 300 years old or older, two or more prehistoric objects made out of base metal, any non-coin object that is at least 300 years old and composed of at least 10% gold or silver, and gold and silver artifacts less than 300 years old with no known owners or heirs of owners. Any object determined to be treasure according to these criteria is assessed for fair market value and offered to a local museum for that sum. The prize is then split between finder and landowner. If it is does not qualify as treasure, it can be sold to whomever. This definition is a holdover from medieval common law standards that claimed treasure trove — gold and silver objects buried with the intent of later retrieval — for the crown. The Act abolished the ancient expectation of retrieval, but the focus on precious metal content and quantity was a direct descendant of this narrow, outdated view of what constitutes historical treasure.

The first year the Treasure Act went into effect, there were 79 treasure cases. Twenty years later in 2017 there were 1,267. There are a lot more metal detector hobbyists today than there were in 1996, and a lot more archaeological treasures have been found, some of which did not meet the criteria for treasure despite their ancient age, rarity, national and international importance. The Crosby Garret helmet and a Roman licking dog statue, both completely unique in the British archaeological record, both dating to the Roman period, both museum quality, failed to meet to the criteria because they were made out of bronze. An Allectus aureus in impeccable condition failed to be declared treasure because it was a single coin instead of one of two or more. They were all sold at auction to the highest bidder.

The revision was open to public consultation from February until the end of April 2019. The ministry received 1,461 responses to the consultation forms, 1,352 submitted online (one of those was me!).  Most of the responses came from individuals, with 190 submitted by organizations or groups. Out of the 190, 51 of them (26.8%) were metal detecting groups, 36 (18.9%) heritage/archaeology groups.  The government’s response to the consultation has now been released.

The changes will bring the treasure process into line with other important legislation to protect cultural heritage and collections, including the listing process for historically significant buildings and the export bar system.

A specialist research project running next year will inform the new definition and there will be opportunities for detectorists, archaeologists, museums, academics and curators to contribute to options in development.

As a result of the public consultation, the government will also introduce new measures to improve the experience of the treasure process which include a new time limit to streamline some stages of the process, limiting the number of times the Treasure Valuation Committee can review a case and developing a mechanism to return unclaimed rewards to museums.

The changes will not go into immediate effect. The redefinition will be researched further, the research published, the changes to the code drafted and the attendant legislation passed through Parliament. Implementation of the new policies will, if all goes well, take place in 2022.


EID MAR aureus assassinates world record

Friday, October 30th, 2020

Surprising absolutely no sentient being whatsoever, the previously unknown EID MAR aureus that went up for auction October 29th stabbed its pre-sale estimate of £500,000 ($644,150) to a bloody death, selling for £3.24 million ($4.2 million), including buyer’s premium. hammer price was £2.7 million ($3.5 million).

It has set a new world record as the most expensive ancient coin ever sold at auction. The previous record-holder was a Greek gold stater of Pantikapaion struck between 350 and 300 B.C. that sold in 2012 for $3.25 million. It is famous for the portrait of a satyr on the obverse whose fine detail and expressiveness rank it as one of the greatest masterpieces of die engraving.

The previous record for a Roman coin sold auction was set in 2008 by a sestertius of Hadrian which sold in Geneva for 2 million Swiss Francs ($2.18 million). You wouldn’t think a brass alloy sestertius of any emperor would even be in the same stratosphere as a gold EID MAR, but this is no run-of-the-mill sestertius. Dubbed the “Medallic” Sestertius, it was struck in Rome in 135 A.D. and was the work of die engraver the Alphaeus Master who crafted an exceptional high-relief portrait of Hadrian for the obverse. The reverse depicts the goddess Pax.

Auctioneers Roma Numismatics Limited have not announced the identity of the buyer of the EID MAR. It sure would be nice if it didn’t disappear into an unpublished private collection again.


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.


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.


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.


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.





April 2021


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