Archive for the ‘Treasures’ Category

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Prittlewell burial keeps some secrets, tells others

Thursday, May 9th, 2019

In the fall of 2003, archaeologists surveying the site of future road widening project near Prittlewell, south Essex, spotted a piece of bronze sticking up out of the ground. The ensuing excavation found that the bit of bronze marked the spot of an Anglo-Saxon chamber burial of exceptional wealth and historical significance. While the skeletal remains were gone, devoured by the acidic soil that had made its way into the wooden sides of the tomb, more than 60 objects were found, among them an iron folding stool, several bronze vessels, drinking cups made of wood (some surviving) and gold, blue glass jars, a gold buckle, gold foil crosses, traces of a wood lyre, a sword and shield. The chamber was in such good condition that copper-alloy bowls were found still hanging from hooks in the walls. All of the grave’s many furnishings were in the original position they’d been placed in on the day of the burial.

The richness of the grave goods and the size of the burial chamber (13 feet square and five feet high) strongly suggested the deceased was someone of great importance, likely royalty. The placement of the gold foil crosses pointed to them having been laid on the body, perhaps the eyes, or stitched to a shroud that covered it. Archaeologists hypothesized that the deceased was an Anglo-Saxon king on the cusp of the transition from paganism to Christianity. The crosses were symbols of his new religion, but the plethora of grave goods were a nod to traditional funerary practices which furnished graves with objects of use to the deceased in the afterlife and ones symbolizing his rank.

There was some speculation about which king this might have been, and there weren’t a lot of options so the likeliest candidates were Saebert,  King of Essex (converted to Christianity in 604, died in 616), or Sigeberht II,  King of the East Saxons (converted in 653, died ca. 661).

A meticulous excavation followed by years of analysis by Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) of the archaeological material from the Prittlewell burial has put the kibosh on both those possibilities. Researchers were able to get radiocarbon dates from the sparse organic remains, wood fragments attached to metal decorations on a drinking horn and wooden cup, using accelerator mass spectroscopy which only requires a miniscule sample of material and yields high-precision results. The Prittlewell burial took place 575 and 605 A.D., excluding both of the candidates believed to have been the first East Saxon kings to convert to Christianity.

The radiocarbon date range can be narrowed down a little further from stylistic analysis of the grave goods and coins which point to the burial dating to the last two decades of the 6th century. If true, it could even predate the dawn of Christianity in Essex. St. Augustine of Canterbury arrived to convert the East Saxons in 597. Not that there couldn’t have been less direct avenues to conversion before then. The Britons had been converted to Christianity during Roman rule and while they were completely walled off from the Roman Church by the Anglo-Saxon invasions, they were still there and still Christian. Also, Aethelbert, King of Kent, married a Frankish princess who was not only a Christian but the great-grandaughter of a saint. She brought a bishop with her when they married in 580 A.D. to ensure she could practice her religion and is believed to exerted a great deal of influence on the spread of Christianity in Britain long before the arrival of St. Augustine. Aethelbert’s sister married Saebert’s father.

The person’s identity will remain unknown unless some future technology makes it possible to solve the mystery. All that remains of the body are tiny fragments of tooth enamel. The type of buckles and the weapons in the grave suggest the deceased was male, and judging from the placement of the belt buckle, garter buckles and the crosses over his eyes, he was about 5’8″.

Even more extraordinary finds were made in the soil of the grave which was lifted en bloc so it could be micro-excavated in the lab. A few scraps of wood from a decayed object thought to be a box lid revealed themselves to be the only known surviving example of early Anglo-Saxon painted woodwork. The maple wood is decorated with a yellow border in a ladder pattern and two ovals, one white, one red, filled with a cross-hatch.

There weren’t even scraps of wood left of another one-of-a-kind discovery: an Anglo-Saxon lyre. All that was left of it was a stain in the soil containing tiny bits of wood and two copper discs inlaid with garnets that had riveted the yoke of the lyre to the arm, still in their original positions. The wood of the lyre was maple with a hollow sound box and the tuning pegs were made from ash wood. Raman spectroscopy identified the garnets in the center of the metal fittings as having originated in India or Sri Lanka. There was also a copper vessel from Syria and two gold coins from Merovingian France, so clearly the young man had access to the finest, most expensive imports money could buy.

Artifacts found in the Prittlewell burial will go on display at Southend Central Museum starting Saturday, May 11th. To learn more about the burial and its unique treasures, check out the excellent dedicated website MOLA has created.

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Wild boars unearth medieval coin hoard in Slovakia

Saturday, April 27th, 2019

Wild boar can now join badgers as some of the most effective archaeologists of the animal kingdom. Diligent boars in the Choč mountain near Likavka, Slovakia, unearthed a large hoard of silver coins and two gold coins from the late 15th, early 16th century and then generously left them behind for a nice married couple to find during a hike. The couple had the presence of mind not to touch the coins. They alerted archaeologists and waited for three hours at the find site to ensure somebody less morally upright than they and the boars wouldn’t interfere with the treasure.

Because of the couple’s responsible approach, Slovakian archaeologists had the extremely rare opportunity to excavate a coin hoard in situ. Usually they only see them when people show up to their offices with bags of loot and dump them out on their desks. Over an area of two square meters (about 21 square feet), archaeologists recovered more than 1600 silver Hungarian denarii.

In the shallow hole, there was the broken clay bottom of a jug with coins that were, thanks to corrosion, attached to the remains of the fabric on the inner side of the jug. Nearby, there was a metal pot-lid.

The treasure was covered by a fine layer of soil. We can assume that the person who covered the coins was in hurry. The treasure was located near to an historical trade road.

Researchers suspect that the coins were buried around 1527, a year in which a dynastic conflict over the Hungarian throne broke out between Ferdinand of Habsburg, (brother of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V) and  John Zápolya, Voivode of Transylvania. John was crowned king by one faction of nobles, Ferdinand by another. While John was busy dealing with a peasant uprising, Ferdinand invaded Hungary. In September of 1527, Ferdinand’s forces, mostly German and Austrian mercenaries but with a few thousand allied Hungarian troops, soundly spanked John Zápolya’s Hungarian army. Ferdinand was crowned King of Hungary on November 3rd, 1527, but the upheavals were far from over. Zápolya regrouped and returned in 1528 with a new army. Ferdinand defeated him again, and this time Zápolya turned to the Ottoman Empire to fight his battles for him. By 1529 Suleiman the Magnificent had not only kicked the Germans and Austrians out of Hungary but was laying siege to Vienna.

Whoever buried this hoard had a lot to lose in this war-torn period. A labourer at that time earned between 6 and 10 silver coins per day. They’d never see a single gold coin in their life and certainly wouldn’t be able to get their hands on two of them on top of thousands of silver ones.

The coins are still being counted and cleaned. Once they’ve been thoroughly documented and researched, the hoard will be exhibited in the Liptov museum in Ruzomberok. As for the finders (the human ones), they will reap the rewards of their conscientiousness.  The monetary value of the coins will be determined by experts, and because the finders acted in total accordance with cultural heritages laws by leaving the treasure at the find site and calling archaeologists, they have earned the right to a finder’s fee in the amount of 100% of the market value. I hope they buy the boars some acorns or carrion or something with some of that cash.

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Extremely rare Allectus aureus up for auction

Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

A rare gold coin from the late 3rd century discovered by a very lucky metal detectorist will be going up for auction in London in June with an pre-sale estimate of £70,000-100,000. The 30-year-old finder was exploring a freshly-plowed field near Dover, Kent, when he found the coin. It was small, no bigger than a one-pence coin and weighed 4.31 grams (a teaspoon of butter weighs 5 grams). He thought it was a half sovereign at best, but when he sprayed away some of the soil, he saw the unmistakable shine of gold.

The finder figured it was probably fake, but had it examined by numismatic expert Dr Sam Moorhead at the British Museum. He identified it as an authentic Allectus aureus dating from 293-296 A.D., when the usurper emperor Allectus ruled in Britain. The British Museum has the only other exact match to it, discovered in Silchester, the city where Allectus died in battle against the forces of Emperor Constantius, in the 19th century.

On the obverse is a bust of Allectus facing right, bearing the laurel wreath. He wears a drape of fabric and a cuirass. It is inscribed IMP C ALLECTVS P F AVG (Commander Allectus, Dutiful and Fortunate Emperor). The reverse has an image of Sol wearing the radiate crown, his right arm raised and holding a globe in his left. He is flanked by two captives on their knees. The inscription reads ORIENS AVG (rising of the emperor). The reverse also bears the mintmark ML, the signature of the Londinium mint.

It is the second of its type found in Kent and is in excellent condition. Only a few small scrapes mar the original bright yellow gold surface.

Christopher Webb, Director and Head of the Coin Department at Dix Noonan Webb which will be auctioning the coin on June 12th:

“There are only twenty-four Aurei of Allectus known with nineteen different obverse dies recorded. This coin is a die match to one in the British Museum. Gold was 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.”

Despite its extreme rarity, precious metal content and unquestionable museum quality (what with it being twinsies to the one in the British Museum), because it is only a single coin, it does not qualify as official treasure under the 1996 Treasure Act. The current definition of treasure requires two or more coins. The coroner’s inquest was not triggered and finders keepers is the only rule that applies. This is one of the loopholes of the Act like the one that let the Crosby Garrett Helmet fall into anonymous private hands.

Speaking of which, the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has announced planned revisions to the Treasure Act which would plug some of the holes. It would change the current sliding date standard (object 300 or more years old) to a fixed date of before 1714. Specifically addressing the Crosby Garret scenario, the proposed definition would cover anything that meets the age criterion with a value of over £10,000, regardless of material. Had the helmet been silver or gold, it would have been declared treasure; it was bronze. Any Roman object, even one of base metal and with less than £10,000 market value would also fall under the definition of treasure. The revisions would include single coins dated between 43 A.D. (the dawn of the Roman period), and 1344, the year that Edward III re-introduced gold coins to English currency.

The revised language is open to public consultation until April 30th. You can read the proposed revisions here (pdf), respond online here, or print a form and email/mail it to the Ministry.

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Russian aristocratic silver goes on display

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

The massive collection of more than 2,000 pieces of silver secreted away in the walls of a Saint Petersburg palace and discovered during renovations in 2012 has gone on display for the first time at the Tsarskoye Selo palace museum in Pushkin. The Narshykin family had bought the palace in 1799 and lived there until 1917 when the fled the country and the Bolsheviks on the double. They left behind many valuable objects which were transferred State Hermitage Museum in 1920.

But those were just the pieces that were easy to find. Before they left Russia with their portable wealth, the family carefully wrapped their antique silver and stashed it in a hidey hole between the second and third floors of the palace. It was so effective a hiding place that it wasn’t even found when the palace was extensively renovated in the 1960s. It took a three-year project of re-engineering and restoration that began in 2009 to break through a brick wall and reveal the secret room crammed with cases full of treasure.

Apparently some of the crew tried to take a cut of the loot, hiding it away before the construction company alerted the authorities to the find, but they weren’t up to the job the Narshykin’s had done so thoroughly before them and the police found the pieces when they searched the building.

The Naryshkin family was one of the most important in Tsarist Russia going back hundreds of years. It could trace its roots to the 15th century, but the family leapt to prominence when the beautiful Natalya Naryshkina (1651-1694) wed Tsar Alexis after his first wife died birthing their 13th child. Their son would become Peter the Great and she was rule as regent of Russia during his minority. Peter showered favor on his maternal family and the Naryshkin princes held high office in the government, military and court from then until the brutal end of the Russian monarchy.

In July of 1918, Colonel Kiril Mihailovich Naryshkin, adjutant to White Russian Lieutenant General Sergey Nikolaevich Rozanov, was one of the first people to enter the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg. Rozanov and Naryshkin broke down the defensive palisade encircling the house and went in together. There were survivors left to rescue, only evidence of the slaughter that had taken place six days earlier when the guards, knowing White Russian forces were almost upon them, executed the Tsar, his family and loyal attendants.

While there was some talk at the time the treasure was discovered that Narshykin descendants might make an ownership claim on the silver or of the finders getting 50% of its value, but surprising nobody the collection was declared historically significant and therefore property of the state. Since then it has been studied, inventoried and conserved and is now on public view in the Catherine Palace, the main building of the Tsarskoye Selo palace museum, which is also home to the reconstructed Amber Room.

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Anglo-Saxon pendant declared treasure

Saturday, March 23rd, 2019

An Anglo-Saxon gold pendant discovered in 2017 has been officially declared Treasure by the Norfolk Coroner’s Office according to the provisions of the Treasure Act 1996. It was found in an undisclosed location in South Norfolk near the site where another important piece from around the same period, the Winfarthing Pendant, was unearthed in 2014.

The pendant is in excellent condition. It is a small piece, .67 inches by half an inch, of a type known as a cross-in-ring pendant, a style that dates to the late 6th, mid-7th centuries. The ring part is composed of three concentric rings of gold beaded wire. In the center is a beaded wire cross. The outer rim is worn smooth, either from use or in the original crafting of the piece. A small sheet of gold is looped at the top middle. Traces of now-worn ribbed decoration remain.

Ms Shoemark, from Norfolk County Council’s archaeology department, said: “Like the Winfarthing assemblage, this piece most likely belonged to a high-status lady.

“It dates to an important turning point in Saxon history during the first flowering of Christianity [in England] and is of similar date to the jewellery assemblage from the now famous and nearby Winfarthing burial.

“Male graves of this period appear to be entirely lacking in elaborate jewellery.

“This latest pendant makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of Saxon society, religion and the position of women during a period of immense social and cultural change.”

The pendant will now be assessed by a valuation committee. Once its value has been determined, it will be offered to a local museum and the sum split between the finder and landowner. The Winfarthing Pendant was valued at £145,000, but it is much larger and inlaid with garnets reminiscent of some of the pieces in the Staffordshire Hoard.

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