Rare glimpse at priceless relics

English Heritage is opening the doors of one its main storage centers to the public. It’s a treasure trove of 3000 years of English history, and will only be available for public viewing on two more days.

“We’ve got a few pre-historic finds and then we have items from Roman sites like Beadlam Roman villa, through to fortifications like Helmsley Castle, Pickering Castle, Clifford’s Tower and abbeys and priories such as Rievaulx, Byland and Whitby.” […]

“We’ve got examples of Roman padlocks which are instantly recognisable and the Beadlam collection includes rings, bracelets, coins and even Roman tweezers,” she said.

“The villa was occupied by successive generations during the height of Roman rule and gives an insight into how the wealthy classes lived.”

As well as ancient weapons such as arrow-heads and canon balls, the Helmsley store houses old-fashioned tourism signs that once adorned many Northern castles and abbeys and which escaped the scrap-heap.

The warehouse also contains Europe’s most extensive collection of carved medieval stone from sites like Rievaulx Abbey and Kirkham Priory.

Oh, and entry is free.

Anyone within reasonable distance of Helmsley in North Yorkshire really needs to find their way there on August 23rd and September 20th. Be sure to call ahead and make an appointment (Helmsley Castle visitor center, tel: 01439 770173) or they won’t let you in.

The Brutus Coin

As in minted by Marcus Junius Brutus, assassin of Gaius Julius Caesar, complete with a crystal clear image of his ignominious mug.

The Brutus coin, minted 42 BC

Brutus and his conspiratorial friends assassinated Julius Caesar on March 15th, 44 BC. On March 20th he cleverly observed that everyone hated him for having killed the most popular man ever, and he hightailed it out of town to Greece.

He whiled away a couple of years studying philosophy and raising money for an army which would lose to Antony and Octavian at the Battles of Philippi in 42 BC. How better to raise money than to mint it? Hence the Brutus coin, one day’s wages for a foot soldier, dated 42 BC.

This amazing coin was unearthed under highly shady looting-like circumstances, and sold to a British coin dealer. The Greek government caught the sellers on their way out of the country, confiscated the ill-gotten gains, and then scored the coin back from the British dealer.

I actually feel a little bad for the poor dealer who gets neither a refund nor the coin, but them’s the breaks when you’re dealing with suspicious provenance. Especially nowadays. Countries like Greece and Italy are seriously hounding other countries to turn over stolen artifacts, and they’ve been remarkably successful.