Archive for May, 2019

Early Neolithic mother & child burial found in Bulgaria

Friday, May 31st, 2019

Archaeologists excavating the prehistoric settlement of Slatina in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia have discovered an extremely rare early Neolithic grave. It is about 7,600 years old and contains the skeleton of an adult woman believed to have been buried with her child. She was placed in fetal position and interred with her baby in her arms next to a house on the periphery of the settlement.

Discovered by construction workers in 1950, Sofia’s Slatina Neolithic Settlement was first excavated in 1958 and was dated to the 3rd millennium B.C. Unfortunately the urban sprawl of Sofia in the 1970s destroyed much of the settlement, reducing a site originally estimated cover 20 acres to a tenth of its size. Later excavations, which have been ongoing since 1985, extended the timeline of habitation significantly. In fact its earliest layers date to around 6000 B.C., the Early Neolithic when the first farmers and livestock breeders settled in Buglaria.

Two phases of Early Neolithic development have been identified from the pottery at the settlement. The first, named the Slatina phase, featured pottery vessels with white decorations. The second, the Kremikovtsi phase, featured pottery with red, brown and burgundy decorations. One home had pottery remains from both phases, used to create six layers of flooring alternating crushed pottery with a thick coating of clay.

Most of the finds have been dwellings and household items. The houses vary in size enormously. One of the larger homes has an area of more than 3200 square feet; another 1600 square feet; one of the smaller ones just over 100. Made of wattle and daub with wooden posts supporting the walls, these are the largest known homes from the Early Neolithic.

The latest excavation has unearthed numerous implements used in daily life — a bone spoon, pottery vessels, a stamp — and in religious rituals — sections of sacrificial altars. Working tools like kilns and millstones have also been found and archaeologists have been able to gather a great deal of information about how the Neolithic settlers of Slatina lived.

There is very little information, on the other hand, about how they died and were buried.

“The upcoming research [of the 7,600-year-old grave] is going to provide information about the physical features of the people who in today’s Bulgaria gave the start of the first European civilization,” the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences says.

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Shipwreck found by accident in Gulf of Mexico

Thursday, May 30th, 2019

The wreck of a wooden ship from the mid-19th century has been discovered in the Gulf of Mexico entirely by accident. The crew of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Okeanos Explorer wasn’t looking for shipwrecks on the May 16th dive. They were testing Deep Discoverer, a new remotely operated vehicle, and it more than lived up to its name when its sonar detected something shaped like a shipwreck. That something was a shipwreck.

Unprepared for an impromptu archaeological survey, researchers called and emailed marine archaeologists to follow Deep Discoverer‘s exploration remotely via live stream video. The dive was extended an additional three hours to give the archaeologists an opportunity to get a more thorough look at the site.

Those who joined the live stream suspect that the wreck is that of a sailing vessel built sometime in the mid-19th century, perhaps a schooner or brig, measuring roughly 37.8 meters (124 feet) long. The vessel is wooden with copper sheathing covering the bottom of its hull. Experts were able to infer the time period of the vessel’s origination based on a number of construction features, including the form of the stem and bow, the body of the hull, and the remains of the windlass. However, this information does not indicate the age of the vessel at the time it was lost, which could have been decades later. Initial observations also noted copper and iron artifacts at the site, but no diagnostic artifacts reflecting the vessel’s rig, trade, nationality, or crew were identified during the dive.

The hull remains are more or less intact up to the water line, with its timber protected by the sheathing. Some of the sheathing has deteriorated and fallen off the hull, leaving only the edges of each copper plate where they were tacked or nailed to the hull. However, all structure above the waterline is missing, and during the initial observations of the dive, there did not appear to be many traces of the standing rigging. Furthermore, a number of timbers appeared charred and some of the fasteners were bent, which may be an indication of burning. While the evidence is still being assessed, it is possible that this sailing vessel caught fire and was nearly completely consumed before sinking. This may explain the lack of artifacts from the rigging, decks, and upper works, as well as the lack of personal possessions.

The surviving section of the rudder has copper numbers “2109” nailed to it as are the remains of the copper sheathing. Where the copper sheathing remains attached to the hull it is still doing the job it was intended to do: keeping marine life from setting up shop on the wood. The barnacles and shipworm that have attached themselves to the rest of the ship avoid the copper areas.

The ROV has recorded extensive high-definition video of the wreck. It will be used to create a photomosaic of the site in extremely high resolution that will allow experts around the world to examine the wreck in much greater detail. This is the low-res version, believe it or not:

A low-resolution photomosiac of the wreck site, produced by Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Marine Archaeologist Scott Sorset using the ROV video. Image courtesy of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

And here’s some of the footage of the wreck taken by Deep Discoverer:

Video courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.
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The Birdman of Sibera

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of a man buried with dozens of bird beaks at the Ust-Tartas archaeological site in Novosibirsk, Siberia. Between 30 and 50 beaks were found assembled together at the back of the individual’s skull. Because of this placement and how the beaks appear to be massed together to form a single object, researchers believe it was a garment — a collar, a headdress, a robe, perhaps a form of protective armature (for ritual purposes, not combat).

The beaks were removed en bloc for laboratory excavation at the Novosibirsk Institute of Archeology and Ethnography. They will have to be examined by ornithologists to determine which birds they came from, but their long, thin dimensions suggest they’re heron or crane beaks. So far only one skull as been found connected to its beak. The rest visible on the top layer are beaks alone lined up closely side-by-side. It’s not clear how the beaks were put together. No mounting holes have been found so far that would have made it possible to attach them to each other or to a fabric backing. Fully excavating the block, separating out the individual beaks to count, document and study them will take months of painstaking work.

In another burial found next to the Birdman, archaeologists discovered a two-layered grave. The top layer held the remains of two children around five and 10 years old at the time of death. A wooden overlay covered the bottom layer, separating the children’s grave from the one beneath them. In the bottom were the remains of an adult male buried with numerous artifacts.

The most unusual of the grave goods was a set of two bronze circles and a bronze rectangle. They were placed near his skull with the two circles underneath the rectangle almost like a pair of eyeglasses. The circles are slightly mounded and have small circular apertures at the peak. Fragments of organic material were found inside the hemispheres, indicating they may have been part of a funerary mask or headdress. If that’s the case, the holes in the bronze circles could have been cut to allow vision. Across his waist and on his left arm were five polished crescent-shaped stones thought to have had ritual uses.

“These are unique items, we are very excited indeed to have found them,” said Lidia Kobeleva.

“Both men must have carried special roles in the society. I say so because we have been working on this site for a while and unearthed more than 30 burials. They all had interesting finds, but nothing we found earlier was as impressive as discoveries in these two graves.

We suppose both men were some kind of priests.”

The burials in this area are from the Bronze Age Odinov culture which inhabited the Ishim river basin of Western Siberia around 4,800 years ago.

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Rare pristine Nazi cypher machine sold at auction

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019

An extremely rare German cryptographic machine in excellent condition has sold at auction for €98,000 ($110,000). The Schlüsselgerät (meaning “cipher machine”) 41 was supposed to replace the famous Enigma enciphering machine after it was cracked by Alan Turing and the Bletchley Park codebreakers in 1941, but very few ended up being produced and only a handful of survived in working condition. They’re so rare that even corroded husks are still prized by museums. This one is not only functional, it looks practically new.

The SG-41 was invented by cryptologist Fritz Menzer. Menzer had enlisted in the Reichswehr as a mechanic when he was 18 years old and without any formal training, developed an interest in cryptography into inventing new cracking methods and devices. In 1940, he was appointed Regierungs-Oberinspektor of the OKW/Chi, the cryptology division of the German Army High Command.

The new device had six wheels (Enigma had three, four in later models) that could rotate in both directions and used two reels of paper, one for the original text, the other for coded message, rather than bulbs illuminating letters. The keyboard operation made it much faster to use and the encryption algorithms were more complex and sophisticated. The hand crack on the side inspired the machine’s nickname: Hitlermühle, or Hitler Mill.

Even though it was distinctly superior to the Enigma machines in cryptographic functionality, the SG-41 wasn’t used until 1944. The problem was the hardware. They were supposed to lightweight and durable for use on the front lines, but shortages of aluminum and magnesium forced the use of heavier materials. The end-result was a machine that weighed 25-33 pounds which made them much too heavy for field use.

Three years after their invention, a few SG-41s made it into production. About 500 were made by Wanderer-Werke in Chemnitz, eastern Germany (makers of the iconic Continental typewriters), and dispatched to the Abwehr in late 1944 to replace the limping and inadequate Enigma-G machines still in use. Another thousand (the SG-41Z variant), were sent to the Luftwaffe weather service. The Wehrmacht planned to manufacture 1,000 of them by October 1945 and ramp up production to 10,000 a month by January of 1946. The war ended first.

The recently-sold example is one of the Abwehr machines, so one of only 500 ever made. The auctioneers enlisted cypher machine expert Klaus Kopacz to examine their Hitler Mill. They disassembled it, adjusted the wheels, inserted paper reels and tested it. Everything worked. All it needs is some WD-40 and fresh ink as the printouts were barely legible. There are only five small parts missing (a button, a spacer, a spring, a bolt and a metal disc), all easily replaceable.

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Massive panorama restored in public

Monday, May 27th, 2019

Saint Louis Art Museum conservators are restoring Panorama of the Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley in public view for museum visitors. The massive scroll of painted fabric is being unrolled sections at a time in the southwest corner of Sculpture Hall so that conservators can repair it while museum visitors look on and ask questions.

It is 7.5 feet high and 348 feet long, an example of the hugely fashionable trend for massive panoramas that were installed in custom-built rotundas or played in temporary venues. Painted in vivid colors and displayed with spotlights and live music, the panorama would scroll through 25 distinct scenes before a viewing audience. An advertisement for one of these shows in Pennsylvania in 1851 announces in a bewildering proliferation of fonts that erudite lectures on the “ANQUITIES & CUSTOMS OF THE UNHISTORIED INDIAN TRIBES” will accompany the unfurling of the panorama “with all the aboriginal monuments of a large extent of the Country” covering more than 15,000 feet of canvas.  It was so huge and so difficult to roll that the morning show would feature the trip down the Mississippi, and then afternoon would just run it backwards, narrating a trip up the river.

What is truly extraordinary about this piece is how thoroughly it covers archaeological discoveries, depicting the excavation of ancient mounds and dinosaur fossils. It shows the digging being done by black slaves, under the command of two white men, an accurate capture of how these mounds were sectioned in the mid-19th century. Other Native American archaeological sites dot the vast Mississippi Valley landscape.

The reason for this unusually specific viewpoint for a panorama is that the work was commissioned by physician and natural scientist Montroville Wilson Dickeson who, by his own account excavated more than 1,000 mounds from which he recovered more than 40,000 artifacts. His field drawings became the basis of the archaeology scenes in the panorama. Dickeson hired artist John J. Egan to create a compelling backdrop for his lectures whose exhibition would help fund further excavations.

Five panoramas of the Mississippi were made in the 1840s. Their great size and detailed depictions of the “Father of Waters” made them a hit with audiences, perhaps too much of a hit as none of them have survived. Egan’s later work is the only one of the trend to be extant. It too is endangered by its years of hard work. It was painted in distemper on cotton muslin and over time all the dismounting, mounting, scrolling and traveling damaged the textile and the paint.

When the museum acquired it in 1953, it was in bad condition. An ambitious program of restoration began in 2011. The old wooden rollers were replaced by metal drums and a motorized rolling system. Paint loss and damage to the muslin has been repaired on individual panels. Now the end of the long voyage down the Mississippi River is in sight, with only three remaining panels in the process of treatment.

Conservators will complete the extensive, nine-year project by treating and preserving the final three damaged scenes.  During this process, Museum visitors have the unique opportunity to observe and interact with the conservation team while they work. In addition, Museum docents, curators, and conservators will provide additional insights to visitors on scheduled weekdays in Sculpture Hall.

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“Forgotten Winchester” gets permanent display

Sunday, May 26th, 2019

Great Basin National Park has a new permanent exhibition dedicated to the “Forgotten Winchester,” the historic firearm found leaning against a Juniper tree by park archaeologist Eva Jensen in November of 2014. The Winchester Model 1873 Lever Action Rifle, already iconic as “the gun that won the West,” became a viral hit for its weather-beaten appearance and casual pose as if it were just hanging out for a minute waiting for its owner to return.

The park sent it to the Cody Firearms Museum in Cody, Wyoming where experts examined it. They were able to find its serial number in their extensive archive of Winchester records and identified it as having been made in February 1882.

Before beginning the conservation process, the Cody team needed to ascertain that the gun wasn’t loaded. First they employed the wooden dowel test: inserting a wooden dowel to measure the length of the barrel to the breach. The dowel encountered some kind of blockage, so curators took the rifle to the local hospital for an X-ray to find out what was inside.

There was no bullet inside the barrel. The blockage didn’t show up on the X-ray, so curators suspect it was compacted organic material. The X-ray did find there was a live cartridge inside the buttstock. The Winchester had a trapdoor and a little storage tunnel in the buttstock that was usually used to keep cleaning supplies. Experts were able to open the trapdoor and remove the cartridge. They found it was a .44-40 Winchester Center Fire round made between from 1887 and 1911 by the Union Metallic Cartridge Company.

The rifle was carefully disassembled so it could be conserved in the same awesomely weathered condition in which it was found. Corrosion was removed from the metal parts and the flaking wood bound with adhesive to keep it from further loss. The rifle was then put on public display briefly at the Cody Museum, at various gun shows and at Great Basin National Park’s Lehman Caves Visitor Center.

The new permanent Forgotten Winchester exhibition puts the rifle in a display case that positions it as it was when it was found with a life-sized image of the tree as the backdrop. The live round found in the buttstock is also on display.

The exhibit also highlights the role the Model 1873 — one of the most popular guns on the Western frontier — played in the history of the West.

“The exhibit is a showcase for visitors to discover the rifle’s mysterious story and become inspired to imagine, investigate and care about a piece of their American history,” said Nichole Andler, the park’s chief of interpretation. […]

“It has been a fun and inspiring project to work on with our park staff and our partners to complete this exhibit and give the Forgotten Winchester a permanent home,” Andler said.

The Juniper tree that was its home for so long alas is no longer with us. Just two years after the rifle was found, a wildfire burned the hillside above Strawberry Creek where the Forgotten Winchester had resided. Its comfy leaning tree was devastated in the conflagration. All that is left of it is a black stick. Had Eva Jensen’s keen powers of observation not spotted the rifle — which had weather to such a consistently grey color that it looked practically indistinguishable from the tree — than it would have burned to nothingness and nobody alive would have known it ever existed.

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Imperial head found in medieval Rome

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

A beautiful larger-than-life white marble head of a statue from the Imperial era has been discovered in a late medieval wall. It was discovered Friday morning by archaeologists from the Capitoline Superintendence for Cultural Heritage excavating the Via Alessandrina, a 16th century road that runs between the Forums of Trajan, Augustus and Nerva. It was the main artery of the Alessandrino neighborhood, the first systematic urban renewal project in the area between the Forum of Nerva and Trajan’s Column. Beginning in 1570 at the behest of Cardinal Michele Bonelli, nephew of Pope Pius V, the site was reclaimed from water, scattered ancient remains and vegetation, raised and leveled for new construction. The road is all that remains of the neighborhood now. It was demolished between 1930 and 1933 to make way for the construction of what would become Via dei Fori Imperiali.

Archaeologists were excavating a wall from the early days of the Alessandrino neighborhood, dozens of feet above the ancient layers of the city, when they found the head of the statue face down in the wall. The head had been recycled by the medieval builders and plugged into the wall like a regular block of stone. The masons didn’t even attempt to make it more block-like, thankfully, and it’s in very good condition, despite its detachment from its body long ago, its stint as another brick in the wall above ground and below. 

The head bears a resemblance to the Ephesus group of Amazons carved in the 5th century B.C. by the greatest artists of the Classical period (Phidias, Polyclitus, Kresilas) and widely copied for the gardens and homes of the Roman elite. (Here’s one example in the Capitoline.) However, archaeologists believe it’s a representation of Dionysos who was often depicted as an androgynous youth. The figure wears a diadem of ivy leaves adorned with an ivy bloom, a characteristic Dionysian attribute, tying back the long, thick, wavy hair. The mouth is parted, the visage benevolent and unlined. The eye sockets are hollow now, but originally would have held eyes of glass or gemstone. That style of eye is typical of the first two centuries of the empire.

The sculpture has been transported to the Imperial Forums Museum where the remaining soil will be removed and the head conserved before being put on public display.

You can see how it was placed in the wall in this cool video of its discovery.

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First Iron Age bark shield found in England

Friday, May 24th, 2019

University of Leicester archaeologists have discovered an Iron Age bark shield, the first of its kind ever found in Europe. It was made sometime between 395 and 255 B.C., the Middle Iron Age.

The shield was found in 2015 during an archaeological survey at the site of the Everards Meadows development in the Soar Valley south of Leicester. It was buried face down in a deep waterlogged pit, which is why the barks and wood it was made out of survived the centuries. The pit was probably a watering hole for livestock before the shield was deposited; the excavation discovered a trackway, ditches and land boundaries indicating the site was likely used in stock rearing by the small farmsteads in the community.

The shield, which measured 670 x 370mm [26.3 x 14.6 inches] in the ground, is unique, the only bark shield every found in Europe. It was carefully constructed with wooden laths to stiffen the structure, a wooden edging rim, and a beautiful woven boss to protect the handle. The outside of the shield was painted and scored in red chequerboard decoration.

Detailed analysis shows that the bark was from either alder, willow, poplar, hazel or spindle tree with the outer layer of bark forming the inside of the shield. The stiffening laths were made of apple, pear, quince or hawthorn whilst the rim was a half-split hazel rod. Analysis to date suggests that the boss was formed from a willow core stitched together with a flat fibre of grass, rush or bast fibre, and the handle was of willow roundwood, flattened at the end and notched, and fixed to the bark with twisted ties. The outer surface of the shield was scored with lines forming a chequerboard pattern, with parts painted with red hematite-based paint.

The shield was severely damaged before being deposited in the watering hole.  Analysis by Dr Rachel Crellin (School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester) suggests at least one irregular elliptical hole was likely to have been damage caused by the pointed tip of an iron spear, whilst other groups of parallel incisions may show where edged blades have hit and rebounded. Further research is planned to help understand if this occurred in battle or as an act of ritual destruction.

The discovery of this shield rewrites the history of weaponry in Iron Age Britain. Before now, bark shields had only been found in the southern hemisphere and historians believed they were simply not used in the northern hemisphere. The damage to the Enderby Shield indicates that they were indeed made as weapons of war, and experimental recreations have confirmed that evenly though it was only a tenth of an inch thick and incredibly lightweight, the reinforced bark shield was strong enough to withstand projectile impact.

The recreation of willow and alder bark shields also found that they could be manufactured quickly and easily using materials from a local woodland and a few simple tools. The finished shields varied in shape because of the wood elements shrank and curved as they dried. Built as rectangles, once they were dry they had hourglass shape, a design seen in some metal shields from the period.

It’s not clear why the shield was in the bottom of the watering hole – perhaps it was thrown away because it was broken, or perhaps it was deliberately placed there as a ritual act. Radiocarbon dates for the shield and for other material in the watering hole suggest that more than a decade had passed between the shield’s manufacture and its disposal. The damage to the shield may well hold the answer to this question. 

 

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Sword from 17th c. Dutch shipwreck found in stone

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

A treasure hunter has discovered the remnants of a sword from a 335-year-old Dutch shipwreck off the coast of Cornwall. Robert Felce found the remains of the sword encased in thick concretion on the beach at Dollar Cove in Gunwalloe. Gunwalloe got its name from local legends of a Portuguese treasure ship sinking there in 1526 and a ship full of silver dollars sinking there 250 years later, but the rumored abundance of coin has never been found, nor has any other trace of the two fabled vessels.

Felce has found shipwreck artifacts at Dollar Cove before: three 17th century hand grenades. No treasure in the monetary sense of the word, but interesting from an archaeological perspective. Like the grenades, his latest find also looked like a rock from the outside, the result of centuries of built-up sand, stone, shell and assorted marine debris hardening around the object. He found it in a gulley at low tide. It was broken in three pieces and looked very little like anybody’s idea of a sword.

Robert Felce:

“Because the shape of the concretion was rounded it looks like it has rolled into the site and then broken up on the protruding bedrock with the action of the waves. This may have been a relatively short time before being luckily spotted in a sandy gulley.

“As you would expect with such an item, likely to be from the Schiedam shipwreck in 1684, age and the action of the sea has taken its toll. Most of the blade is either corroded or missing.

“However there is enough of the original iron blade to indicate the shape of the blade in cross sectional profile near to the hilt. The width of the blade is approximately five centimetres, or two inches.

“The whole length of the blade could have been perhaps more than 60 centimetres or two feet long and would probably have been kept in good condition by its original owner who could have been either a sailor, a soldier or even a North African pirate.

“Looking at the void in the concretion and remaining ferrous corrosion, it looks indeed like the profile and length of a piece of forged blade, likely a sword or sabre as opposed to a knife, dagger or bayonet-type blade.

Originally a Dutch merchant vessel, the Schiedam became the rope in a maritime tug of war. First it was captured by Barbary pirates off the coast of Gibraltar in August of 1683. Then the Royal Navy captured it from the pirates and repurposed it as a transport vessel for the English colony at Tangiers. It was a bad time to get assigned to British Tangiers. Moroccan forces had been assaulting the city non-stop for three years and the cost of constantly having to send reinforcements and rebuild or strengthen defenses was increasingly prohibitive to the strapped King Charles II.

In 1683, Charles gave up on the colony. He gave secret orders to evacuate the city and destroy it on the way out the gate. Tangier’s civilian population was only 700 people; the garrison had almost 3,000 men. From October 1683 until February 1684, Admiral Lord Dartmouth (assisted by administrator and famed diarist Samuel Pepys) systematically razed the city, its defenses, ports and harbor wall. The last of the English forces evacuated on February 5th, 1684. Moroccan forces took control of the demolished city on February 7th.

The Schiedam, loaded with heavy armaments, civilians and soldiers, was part of the Tangiers evacuation fleet. It was caught in a gale off the coast of Cornwall in April of 1684 and sank. Some of its larger armaments were salvaged at the time.  It was soon forgotten — an armed transport ship doesn’t make for good gossip like a treasure ship does — until shifting sands briefly exposed the wreck on the seabed. The sands quickly covered it back up.

The brief exposure, documented by diver Anthony Randall, was enough to get it designated a protected wreck after the passage of the Protection of Wrecks Act in 1973. As such, it cannot be interfered with. Artifacts do wash up on the beach from time to time, which is where Robert Felce finds them. The sword has been registered, as required by law, with the Receiver of Wrecks (which is as excellent a title as it is a job).

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Stolen Alexander Hamilton letter found 80 years later

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

A letter by Alexander Hamilton to the Marquis de LaFayette that was stolen eight decades ago has been found. It was stolen from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Archives by clerk Harold E. Perry between 1937 and 1945. After he was caught, he claimed to have stolen the documents as a “collector,” but he just so happened to have made quite a career from trafficking in looted history. He also stole original papers of George Washington’s, Benjamin Franklin’s, Paul Revere’s and, fittingly, Benedict Arnold’s. The thefts weren’t found out for years.

The Archive was left with documentary evidence that it had once owned the letter — a notation on a 19th century index list and on a name and subject index — and a photostat copy done in the 1920s. (Actually, they only had a photostat of the 19th century index list, because the traitor had stolen the index too while he was looting the archive.)

Perry was arrested in 1950, but by then he’d sold documents to dealers all over the country. He removed Archive reference numbers to obscure their origins. The Massachusetts Attorney General sent letters to all the major dealers alerting them to thefts and seeking the return of any stolen materials. Some of them were recovered. The Hamilton letter was not.

It was rediscovered when the document was consigned for sale to an auction house in Alexandria, Virginia by a South Carolina family in November 2018. The letter was valued at $25,000-35,000, but it never went under the hammer because a researcher at the auction house discovered the letter was missing from the Massachusetts Archives. They alerted the MA which provided documentation of the theft and then the auction house called the FBI.

The would-be consigners had no idea they had attempted to fence stolen goods. They inherited it from a relative who collected documents. From what they know, he bought it in the 1940s from a rare book dealer in Syracuse, New York, named Elmer Heise.

The FBI in Boston is currently in possession of the letter. US Attorney Andrew Lelling has filed a civil forfeiture complaint, a legally necessary step in the process of returning the letter to the Archives. Once that goes through the court, the Hamilton letter will be back at the Massachusetts Archives.

Dated July 21, 1780, the letter was written at George Washington’s Preakness Valley Headquarters in New Jersey. Its recipient was in Danbury, Connecticut at the time.

My Dear Marquis
We have just received advice from New York through different channels that the enemy are making an embarkation with which they menace the French fleet and army. Fifty transports are said to have gone up the Sound to take in troops and proceed directly to Rhode Island.

The General is absent and may not return before evening. Though this may be only a demonstration yet as it may be serious, I think it best to forward it without waiting the Generals return.

We have different accounts from New York of an action in the West Indies in which the English lost several ships. I am inclined to credit them.

I am My Dear Marquis with the truest affection

Yr. Most Obedt

A Hamilton  Aide De Camp

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