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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (11/2006) Headlines (08/2006) Headlines (12/2006)   Vol. 40 November 2006 
Treasure In The Headlines
As seen in the November 2006 edition of W&ET Magazine


A golden dagger dating to 3000 BC, as well as 500 golden ornaments, have been found in a Thracian tomb in central Bulgaria, an archaeologist said recently.

"It's a really sensational discovery," Bozhidar Dimitrov, head of the Bulgarian national museum, said.

"The dagger, which we believe is made of gold and platinum, most probably belonged to a Tyhracian ruler or to a priest.

"No item of this type was found even in the legendary city of Troy," Mr. Dimitrov added, referring to ruins in Turkey widely regarded as being the site of one of the leading cities of antiquity.

He said the 16cm (6.3 inch) dagger had been dated to 3000 BC, was in perfect condition and is extremely sharp.

The new findings come from a tomb discovered two years ago near the village of Dubovo in central Bulgaria. Last year, archaeologists found more than 15,000 golden bits and pieces there from which the restorers assembled several necklaces.

Little is known about Thracians who lived on the fringes of the Greek and Roman civilisations, often intermingling and clashing with the more advanced cultures.

Some experts say Thracians settled in what is now Bulgaria, Romania, northern Greece and Turkey's European territory from as early as 4000 BC until they were absorbed in around AD 45.

"This significant find confirmed that people in this region were familiar with what was then high-technology in metal processing," Mr. Dimitrov said. The items found may have been used for ritual sacrifices, he added.

Archeologists have discovered a large number of artifacts in Bulgaria's Thracian tombs in recent decades.

These have provided most of what is known of Thracian culture, as they had no written language and left no enduring records.

From The Irish Times, submitted by Cyril J. Schaefer, Sartell, MN.


Mike Ellison's retirement plan: move to Arkansas and spend five days a week digging and shoveling and searching in the dirt.

The Kings Mountain native has spent the past year hunting diamonds the old-fashioned way, with shovels and screens and dirty hands.

In all, he's found about 50 tiny diamonds at the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Ark., the only diamond-producing site in the world that's open to the public.

This week, he finally found what he'd been looking for - a 2.18-carat white diamond, his largest so far.

It's about the size of the nail on your little finger and looks like a melting ice chip, said Tom Stolarz, the park's superintendent. One of the park's diamond appraisers said it appears to be flawless, but its value won't be known until it's cut.

Ellison, who is retired from the Navy, plans to sell his unnamed diamond "for the right price."

Most of the 273 diamonds that have been found on the 37-acre site are about a fifth of a carat, although one man got lucky this year and found a 4-carat diamond on his first try, Stolarz said.

But Ellison "put his time in and has been very diligent and, boom, he comes up with one.

"He finally came up with a doozy."

From The Charlotte Observer, submitted by David M. Wolan, Charlotte, NC.


A prehistoric tree-trunk boat, or dugout, believed to be about 3,000 years old, has been unearthed in north Mayo.

Archaeologists were called in after the discovery was made in the townland of Netley, near Crossmolina, during work on the Ballina regional water scheme. The boat is in exceptionally good condition and the National Museum has expressed an interest in the find, according to archaeologist Joanna Nolan, the site director.

Work on the water pipeline was delayed for the duration of the archaeological dig.

From The Irish Times, submitted by Cyril J. Schaefer, Sartell, MN. (Cyril was on vacation in Ireland recently and brought back a few Headline items for our readers. Thank you, Cyril!)


An ancient village settlement, dating from the Iron Age, has been uncovered in Co Tipperary.

But a top archaeologist argues that it's a storm in an earthenware mug.

The site, located on a farm at Two-Mile-Borris, has been unearthed by a team of archaeologists doing preparatory work for the construction of the Cashel to Cullahill stretch of the new N8 motorway, due to start next year.

The settlement consists of the ruins of a large wooden domed house surrounded by a series of smaller circular huts.

Pierce Duggan, on whose lands the find was made, says the settlement could have been built between 500 and 700 BC. Other discoveries on the site include an ancient irrigation system, cremation graves and open cooking site. It is located on a wetland area very close to the Black River, a tributary of the Suir.

"The pre-Christian settlement was found when the archaeologists went to investigate an old lime kiln that is believed to have been in the area since the Middle Ages," says Mr. Duggan. "What they then discovered around the kiln was this much more significant settlement which could be up to 2,000 years older."

A preliminary dig has taken place and the National Roads Authority (NRA) is assembling a term of about 20 archaeologists to conduct a more extensive dig over the coming weeks.

"This gives us a huge insight into settlement in the area two-and-a-half thousand years ago," said Independent TD Michael Lowry, who visited the site yesterday.

"This is very similar to the settlement found at Lough Gur in Limerick, but maybe not as old."

He added that the ruins should be replicated on the site to give locals and visitors an insight into how people lived in Tipperary in the Iron Age.

However, NRA archaeologist Mairead McLoughlin said the settlement find was nothing to get worked up over.

"Basically the whole thing has been blown out of all proportion," she told the Irish Independent yesterday. "The dig is part of an ongoing investigation on the road. There's lots of archaeological sites all along that route but this one is not significant.

"All archaeological sites are significant to us as archaeologists, but his one is not of major archaeological significance at all.

"It's all smoke without fire," she added.

The find is the second ancient discovery to be made in Co Tipperary in just over a fortnight. An ancient and well-preserved book of Psalms, described as being of "staggering importance" by the National Museum, was unearthed on a bog at Faddan More in the north of the county in July, 2006.

From the Irish Independent, submitted by Cyril J. Schaefer, Sartell, MN.


Renovators working at a Beacon Hill townhouse uncovered what archaeologists think are the remnants of a 19th century free black household.

The shoes, doll fragments, hat pins, children's marbles and an empty sarsaparilla bottle, among other items, were found beneath the flooring of what once was thought to be a privy and could provide insight into the lifestyle of free black families in Boston during that time, experts said.

The house was built about 1840 by Robert Roberts, an active black abolitionist who worked as a butler for Gov. Christopher Gore.

"It's a wonderful piece of history," said Mary Beaudry, a Boston University archaeology and anthropology professor, who is helping lead the excavation. "To get a look at a free African-American household- wow!"

Workers doing renovations for property owner Michael Terranova exposed brickwork beneath the floor of an attached shed.

From The Columbus Dispatch, submitted by Mario Scaramellino, Hilliard, OH.


Archaeologists have begun digging up the 200-year-old graves of a slave family in hopes of separating fact from fiction in the legend of "the black Paul Bunyan."

The dig has the blessing of more than a dozen descendants of Venture Smith who believe science can finally lend credence to the tales they have heard all their lives about the fabulous feats of strength that helped the lumberjack slave win his freedom.

Standing 6-foot-1 by his own account and weighing more than 300 pounds according to local lore, Smith is said to have carried a nine-pound ax and split seven cords of wood each day. His biography describes him carrying a barrel of molasses on his shoulders for two miles and hauling hundreds of pounds of salt.

Smith's story became one of the nation's first slave narratives in 1798 and is regarded by scholars as one of the most important such works. But slave biographies- particularly those told to writers, as Smith's story was- were sometimes embellished.

Scientists say a look at Smith's remains could indicate his height and weight, his diet and any injuries he suffered during a life of labor. And DNA taken from him, his wife, his son and his granddaughter could help pinpoint where in Africa he was born and corroborate the account of his early life there.

"It could substantiate that these are not fables, stories," said Frank Warmsley Sr., who at 85 is believed to be Smith's oldest living descendent. "They're truths. He was a great man."

Historians and literary scholars say the dig represents a remarkable opportunity- one that could help yield one of the most complete reconstructions of American slave life.

"Of all the early black writers, his is the only grave that we can identify. He is the only one we could try this on," said Vincent Carretta, an English professor at the University of Maryland who studies slave narratives and was the first to compare Smith to Paul Bunyan. "This is extraordinary. There's nothing to compare it to."

From The Chicago Tribune, submitted by Bob Bolek, Hometown, IL.


ometime around 1610, archaeologists figure a thirsty colonist sat his brass pistol on the side of a well as he pulled up some water and accidentally knocked the weapon in.

It's conjecture, but it's one explanation for a cache of rare finds they fished up recently from the bottom of a 400-year-old well at an overlooked corner of Historic Jamestowne, a national park.

The items included the Scottish pistol, a man's leather shoe and a small lead plaque reading "James Towne" - the equivalent of a colonial luggage tag.

Outside Indian artifacts, the items are among the oldest ever unearthed in America.

"They're the earliest you could find in what is now the United States," explained William Kelso, director of archaeology for the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. The group owns approximately 22 acres of Jamestown Island, including the southwestern corner where researchers made the discovery.

The site is in the heart of what began as a military outpost, an area so old that few thought it could be pinpointed, he said.

"It was thought that that site had washed into the river and couldn't be found," he said. "I had an idea it could."

At its peak, Jamestown would have been home to about 250 settlers and part-time residents- legislators who traveled there for America's earliest governmental sessions, he said. A team of 12 archeologists started digging Monday through what amounted to their trash.

Finds included a halberd, a 17th century ceremonial staff often carried by military sergeants; a hammer; and an intact ceramic bottle called a Bartmann jug or a "bearded man," which was made in Germany and could date back to 1590, Kelso said.

Insects, plant life and even the white oak timber used to line the 15-1/2-foot-deep well will offer further clues of the environment in the colonists' day, Kelso said.

The items were transferred to an onsite lab to be cleaned, examined and eventually displayed at the site's newly opened Archaearium, a museum of history and archaeology at Jamestown.

Kelso said settlers considered wells, commodes and any hole in the ground great spots for trash.

Wells like this one would've been used until the water ran dry - likely due to muddy marsh water seeping in - then converted to colonial era dumps, Kelso said. Things at the top of the well would've been tossed there as junk and aren't usually as valuable, Kelso said. Recently, archaeologists reached the second layer of debris, more valuable items that toppled in while some thirsty settler leaned in for a drink.

So just how did someone's shoes end up at the bottom?

"By accident," he said. "That's how you get such interesting things."

From the Star-News, submitted by Keith Harrell, Faison, NC.

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