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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (05/2004) Headlines (04/2004) Headlines (06/2004)   Vol. 38 May 2004 
Treasure In The Headlines
As seen in the May 2004 edition of W&ET Magazine


The discovery of a handful of ancient iron nails, a belt buckle and some silver coins in northeast England has sent a thrill through the world of Viking scholarship, hinting strongly that a Norse boat burial site may lie beneath the Yorkshire soil.

"We may have the opportunity now to find and date, once and for all, England's first Viking boat burial, which would be one of the most significant Viking finds for the British Isles," archaeologist Simon Holmes said recently, as some of the ninth-century artifacts went on display at the Yorkshire Museum.

The site, in a location being kept secret, was found in December by amateur metal detector enthusiasts, who reported their discoveries to antiquities experts at the museum.

The presence of the nails designed for boat making, buckle, fragments of two swords and the coins raised hope that excavation will uncover remains from the Norse ceremony in which the dead were buried in a boat with their possessions to take with them to the afterlife.

The vessel itself appears to be about 30 yards in length, "a proper Viking longship," judging by the spread of the nails as shown by the metal detectors, Holmes said.

The Yorkshire find apparently dates from the late ninth century, Holmes said, a time when the Vikings were beginning to conquer and settle in England rather than just invading and pillaging.

The prospect of excavations at the site has excited Viking scholars, particularly in Scandinavia, Holmes said.

Such Viking burials have been found in the Orkney and Shetland islands and in Ireland, but not in England.

From the Associated Press, submitted by David M. Wolan, Charlotte, NC.


Archaeologists showed off a hoard of glass and copper jugs, ceremonial crosses and other Saxon artifacts recently, giving the public a first look at a rare find of a royal tomb from the seventh century.

"To find an intact chamber grave and a moment genuinely frozen in time is a once-in-a-lifetime discovery," Ian Blair, the senior archaeologist on the dig, told reporters at the Museum of London.

He said copper-alloy bowls were still hanging from hooks in the walls of the chamber where they had been placed nearly 1,400 years ago.

Nothing remains of the king who was buried in the wood-walled grave found beneath the streets of Prittlewell, in the English Channel port of Southend, 35 miles east of London.

The treasures buried with the "Prince of Prittlewell," as the archaeologists call him, were in remarkably good condition. They included a ceremonial sword and glass jugs.

The grave was discovered intact during an archaeological investigation by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council as part of a road improvement plan. The Southend area was known to be of archaeological interest before the dig.

"We had no idea we would find anything like this. We didn't expect anything so unique," said Lyn Blackmore, a finds specialist for the Museum of London.

It is the most significant Saxon find since the discovery of a tomb at Sutton Hoo in eastern England in 1939. Experts believe the Southend burial was from about the same period as the Sutton Hoo burial and that the two kings may have known each other.

Sections of the burial site have been removed in boxes to be analyzed in a more stable laboratory environment. About 60 artifacts have been uncovered and cataloged so far.

Experts estimate it will take years to analyze their precious finds. Preliminary examination has indicated that many of the artifacts traveled from the eastern Mediterranean, northern Italy and Hungary.

The display at the Museum of London continued through February 17, when it moved to the Southend Central Museum in Southend-on-Sea.

From The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, submitted by Ron Paul Smith, Honolulu, HI, and Bob Bolek, Hometown, IL.


People using metal detectors have found two centuries-old artifacts at different sites in Britain.

A brightly enameled bowl from the second century lists four forts along Hadrian's Wall, a 73-1/2 mile stone and earthen barrier that once marked the northernmost reach of the Roman Empire. The bowl also gives the name of its owner, Aelius Draco, thought to be a retiring veteran of the Roman army stationed on the wall.

The second artifact is a seventh-century Anglo-Saxon gold sword belt fitting found on the Isle of Wight. The original owner's identity is unknown.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme, a British organization that records archaeological finds made by the public, reported the discoveries. The finds are described in the January-February issue of Archaeology magazine.

From The Oregonian, submitted by Jim Cornwell, Hillsboro, OR.


If it hadn't been for a treasure hunter scanning a muddy Detroit River bank with a metal detector, a rare medal believed to date to the War of 1812 may have been lost forever.

Although the medal's history is somewhat difficult to trace because of how it was found, experts at Bonhams auctioneers in London believe the silver medallion minted for a Canadian First Nations chief is a rare find.

"They are quite scarce," said Andrew Litherland, an expert on coins and medals at Bonhams. He estimates that only a few hundred may still be in existence- and they rarely come up for sale.

The medal is expected to fetch up to $10,000.

From The Toronto Sun, submitted by Rod King, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.


Ann Voll had long recovered from the disappointment of having lost her 1975 Yorktown High School graduation ring.

More than 25 years had passed since Voll and her husband William spent a beautiful spring afternoon at Downing Park before noticing later that day the gold plated ring with an emerald stone was missing.

William had given her his ring when she went away to college but her mother thought it wasn't right for her to keep it while she was out of town so she returned it to him.

Upon her return home, she gave William her ring as a gesture but then wanted it back. He was wearing the piece of jewelry on his pinky when it apparently slipped off his hand.

They retraced their steps, even thinking it could have come off during a carnival ride. But they soon gave up the futile search.

Eating dinner at her mother's house recently, Voll was in for quite a shock. Downing Park foreman Mike Anderson had left a message saying he found a 1975 Yorktown High School ring with her initials.

On Christmas Eve afternoon, Anderson had been using his metal detector in right centerfield of the park's baseball diamond when his machine alerted him to an object about five inches below the surface.

Now Anderson was able to reunite Voll with her ring in her second-grade classroom at Mohansic Elementary School where she has taught for the past 13 years.

Although it had been in the ground since 1976, it was in remarkable condition.

"It brings you back," said Voll, who has a 23-year-old son and 21-year-old daughter.

"I have a very good memory so looking at it I remember getting it, I remember wearing it, I remember giving it to my husband," she said. "This was like the jewelry you wore. It was a big thing when we were in school."

For Anderson, who has been a metal detector enthusiast for 30 years, it was easily one of his most satisfying finds.

A couple of years ago Anderson became more serious about his hobby, investing in a sophisticated machine and regularly participating in the monthly meetings of the Putnam/Westchester Metal Detectorists and Archaeological Society meetings at Sparkle Lake.

He is also one of the people that has been combing the grounds at French Hill Elementary School, the site of the Rochambeau encampment, looking for Revolutionary War relics.

His activities around town have also turned up everything from rare 19th century coins to the pull-off tabs from the 1960s and 1970s soda cans.

But to find and return such a sentimental piece to its rightful owner was special.

"It came up stone first and I recognized it as a class ring and when I wiped it off it said Yorktown '75," recalled Anderson.

"Then I cleaned the inside. When I saw the initials, I said, "All right, now we can return this" he said.

Once Anderson found the ring the hard work to locate the owner would just begin.

After Christmas, he called the ring manufacturer but a recorded message said the company would not reopen until after the first part of January.

Then he decided to go to Yorktown High School for help, Anderson thought he would simply look through the school's 1975 yearbook.

There was only one problem- he was told many of the books from the 1970s had been stolen and they did not have an edition from that year.

With the help of the records-keeper, Anderson was able to match the initials AVP on the ring with two girls who graduated that year.

One was Anne V. Patrick.

Off he went to the telephone book where he decided to call the only Patrick in Yorktown Heights. It turned out to be Voll's mother Yvonne.

Anderson said one of the strict codes of metal detecting is if an item is discovered that could link it to an owner every effort must be made to do so.

"A lot of the guys when they find stuff with initials on it they always try and return it and do the best they can," he said.

Although many of his colleagues sift through sand at the beach or in the woods to find untraceable valuables, Anderson pursues his hobby for his love of local history.

"I like to do artifacts," said Anderson. "I like to find history of Yorktown. There's so much in the ground. Every target isn't a good target. You could do 40 before you find a penny. It's just so interesting to find a ring that's 29 years old or find a button off a French soldier's uniform."

Grateful that Anderson would expend that much time and effort, she invited him recently to speak to her class about the discovery as well as his hobby.

But the first thing Voll did when she saw the ring was put it on her pinky.

After all, she had paid the approximately $100 for the ring with her own money. Back then, that amounted to roughly 100 hours of babysitting.

"We used to spend a lot of time at Downing Park," Voll said. "That's where I asked him for the ring back. It's kind of fitting that it was there."

From The North County News, submitted by John M. Anderson, Yorktown Heights, NY.


Libby Bumgardner points to a message penciled on the smooth, unfinished wooden wall of the two-story house where her grandfather lived.

"Cleaned the spring today" and further down, "Cleaned Nackie's grave today" with the date of July 2, 1919, noted. The cryptic messages are written in the elegant penmanship of the era.

The house on Old Edgemoor Lane in Claxton was built in 1799 and is currently under restoration. Sharply noticeable among the neatly kept yards of the semi-rural neighborhood, the house, which was once a tavern, is the oldest standing building in Anderson County, Tennessee, according to Anderson County Courthouse records.

The man who built the house was David Hall, a sharpshooter who fought under Col. John Sevier in the Revolutionary War's Battle of King's Mountain. Born in Henry County, VA, in 1760, Hall settled in East Tennessee after the war. In 1784 he married Obedience Brazle.

The house he built 15 years later has been home to only three families over its 200 years of existence- the Halls, the Arnolds and the Thomasons. Walter Thomason was Libby Bumgardner's grandfather.

Libby and her husband, Harry, got a chance to buy the old house and adjoining property in 1996 when a relative died. Her husband, she says, wanted to own more land, and she wanted to own a piece of her family history. Because of a family divorce, she did not know her father's side of the family very well.

The penciled message, telling of necessary hot summer chores, was probably not meant to be historically significant. It is, however, this type of information, the recordings of everyday life in scraps and pieces found on the place that helped Libby mark the days and events that occurred in the house and find out about those who live there.

The best discovery and the one that brought the parts together was a wooden box the size of a very large trunk. Libby found it one day when she climbed a rickety stairway to the second floor of the house. The handmade box was a time capsule, Libby says. In it were receipts, letters, bills, IOUs, and brochures, Bible verse cards, and Christmas and Valentine Day cards dating from the 1800s.

A copy of the 1799 petition forming Anderson County from part of Knox County was in the box. David Hall was one of the signers of the petition and a charter member of the founding fathers of Anderson County. A brochure from the Sept. 2, 1890, Anderson County Fair lists the rules and regulations for entry in the fair. There are railroad schedules and old Anderson County schoolbooks.

For Libby, one of the most poignant discoveries was the rolls of undeveloped film, which when developed, turned out to be pictures of her father as a young child. The photos are quite clear, and Eva Nelson, a neighbor who has lived all her life across the road from the place, helped Libby identify the people in the pictures.

Besides family photos, there were "before and after" photos showing the house in various stages of remodeling. One set shows the house before, and then after a kitchen was added to the back corner.

Another shows the house before it was whitewashed, then after- the trunk of the large cedar tree standing near the porch was whitewashed to match in the fashion of the times. Another "before and after" set shows the house with a stone chimney, then after the chimney was removed.

"I take before and after photos," Libby says. "I was told I must have gotten it from my grandfather."

Libby found a packet of letters dating from the mid-1800s, and as she began to sort out who was who in the letters, a custom of the times made it easier to follow the relationships. The letters were always addressed "Dear Sister" or "My Dear Aunt" and signed in the same manner "Your son" or "Your niece" with the writer's full name.

"It was unreal. There were hundreds of letters. There would have been so much history lost if they had been thrown away," Libby said.

Besides the letters there were other routine papers of life that most of us do throw away but that made it possible to fill in the gaps as to what it was like to live in that bygone era. A 1-cent postcard from a local photographer, dated April 12, 1894, says curtly: "Dear Sir, Your picture was not good. You will have to come back again so I can take another one."

A receipt for $1 for a year's subscription to the Knoxville News-Sentinel dated Nov. 1, 1919, was found in the box, as was a health booklet from the 1800s by the Rogers Drug and Chemical Co. calling tobacco a "weed" and outlining the extensive damage it could do to the body's systems.

The box contained IOUs for everyday services- all in elegant penmanship but with the signatures neatly torn off.

"I think when an IOU was paid, the signature on the corner of the note was torn off," Libby said.

Apparently the family paid all its debts- all the signatures were neatly removed.

There is a receipt dated Nov. 27, 1845, received of J.A. Woolsey for $2 for the return of Ado, a "Boy Runaway" for Granville Arnold.

When the War Between the States broke out, some of the soldiers sought lodging and food from the occupants of the house.

A receipt dated Aug. 25, 1864, with "Confederate States" written across the top, reads, "I certify the above accounts for use of Gene Roberson's Brigade," and is signed "L.M. Falkner, cs, Roberson's Brigade" for "two binds of oats"

Another receipt dated Jan. 23, 1864, reads: "I certify my men had eight meals and lodging from Mr. Granville Arnold... 24 horse feeds and 24 diets," signed "W.L. Brown."

Horse trading was a common activity of the times, and a horse was considered a better buy if it had been kept clear of government work as well as any health problems. A yellowed note assures the buyer, Granville Arnold, that "the bay horse is not or never was a government horse, nor never was branded... That scar on his shoulder was caused by being kicked by another horse," signed by Elisha Beets and witnessed by J.B. Chapman.

At the end of Edgemoor Lane is a small cemetery backed up to the Clinch River and in the shadow of the towering Bull Run Steam Plant. There, beneath stones both marked and unmarked, some of the occupants of the house lie in their final resting place.

"It was called the Norman Cemetery by some," Libby says, "but my grandfather's letters refer to it as 'the Arnold Cemetery, better known as the Hall Graveyard.'"

One rough stone marks the grave of David Hall. Nackie Arnold, Libby's grandfather's relative, also is there. She was one of the original Arnolds who lived in the house. Libby's grandfather took care of her when she was old in exchange for the house and the land. Many other Arnolds also are buried in the cemetery.

Neighborhood rumor says that slaves are also buried in the small cemetery, but nothing marks the sunken spots where they lie. Perhaps Ol' Em, written about in an exchange of letters between two sisters in the 1800s, is buried there.

"You can't find them like Ol' Em. I know; I tried them all," one sister writes to the other. Ol' Em was a house servant of the Arnolds who, because she had nowhere to go, stayed on with the family after the slaves were freed.

Libby says she remembers her grandfather telling how Em fell into a large spring near the property and how he pulled her out- too late. Libby hopes someday to commemorate the slaves buried there with a marker because, she says, "It was like they never lived."

The John Rice Irwin chapter of the Sons of the Revolution has established a restoration fund for the Hall property at the Community Bank in Clinton.

From the Knoxville News-Sentinel, submitted by John H. Wadsworth, Oak Ridge, TN.


Why do some coins, like quarters and dimes, have ridge on the sides?

For the answer to this question let's turn to our friends at the U.S. Mint.

The people at the Mint say the dollar coin, half dollar, quarter and dime were originally made of gold and silver. Some people would file the edges off the coins to get shavings of the precious metals.

Some coins in circulation were reduced to about half their minted weight. Merchants took to weighing every coin they were passed, which slowed down business.

The grooved, or "reeded" edges prevented shaving, and also made counterfeiting more difficult. The penny and nickel never contained precious metals, so reeding wasn't necessary. None of the coins now contain precious metals.

Quarters, dimes and half dollars have a copper core and an outer layer made of copper and a copper-nickel alloy. Nickels are made from that same alloy. The golden dollar has a copper core, and the alloy layers on each side are copper, zinc, manganese and nickel. The penny, once a copper coin, is now composed of copper-plated zinc.

The Mint continues to use reeded edges because it helps the visually impaired identify the coins. For example, ridges make it easy to identify a dime from a penny.

There are 188 ridges on a dime; 119 on a quarter.

Last year the country produced 7,288,855,000 pennies; 1,230,480,000 nickels; 2,567,000,000 dimes; 3,313,704,000 quarters; 5,600,000 half dollars and 7,597,610 golden dollars.

It costs 10.03 cents to make a golden dollar; 9.63 cents to make a half dollar; 4.29 cents to make a quarter; 1.88 cents to make a dime; 3.13 cents to make a nickel; and 0.81 cents to make a penny.

From The News Herald, submitted by Doug Amundson, Cambridge, MN.

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