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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (10/2010) Headlines (08/2010) Headlines (12/2010)   Vol. 44 October 2010 
Treasure In The Headlines
As seen in the October 2010 edition of W&ET Magazine

UK TREASURE HUNTER FINDS 52,500 ROMAN COINS

A treasure hunter has found about 52,500 Roman coins, one of the largest such discoveries ever in Britain, officials said recently.

The hoard, which was valued at 3.3 million pounds ($5 million), includes hundreds of coins bearing the image of Marcus Aurelius Carausius, who seized power in Britain and northern France in the late third century and proclaimed himself emperor.

Dave Crisp, a treasure hunter using a metal detector, located the coins in a field in southwestern England, according to the Somerset County Council and the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

The coins were buried in a large jar about a foot deep and weighed about 350 pounds in all.

Crisp said a "funny signal" from his metal detector prompted him to start digging.

"I put my hand in, pulled out a bit of clay and there was a little radial, a little bronze Roman coin- very, very small, about the size of my fingernail," Crisp said in an interview with the BBC.

He recovered about 20 coins before discovering that they were in a pot, and realized he needed expert help.

"Because Mr. Crisp resisted the temptation to dig up the coins it has allowed archaeologists from Somerset County Council to carefully excavate the pot and its contents, ensuring important evidence about the circumstances of its burial was preserved," said Anna Booth, of Somerset Council.

Somerset Coroner Tony Williams scheduled an inquest to formally determine whether the find is subject to the Treasure Act, a formal step toward determining a price to be paid by any institution which wishes to acquire the hoard.

The hoard is one of the largest ever found in Britain, and will reveal more about the nation's history in the third century, said Roger Bland, of the British Museum. The find includes more than 760 coins from the reign of Carausius, the Roman naval officer who seized power in 286 and ruled until he was assassinated in 293.

"The late third century A.D. was a time when Britain suffered barbarian invasions, economic crises and civil wars," Bland said.

"Roman rule was finally stabilized when the Emperor Diocletian formed a coalition with the Emperor Maximian, which lasted 20 years. This defeated the separatist regime which had been established in Britain by Carausius.

"This find presents us with an opportunity to put Carasius on the map. School children across the country have been studying Roman Britain for decades, but are never taught about Carausius our lost British emperor."

The discovery of the Roman coins follows last year's discovery of a hoard of Anglo-Saxon coins in central England. The so-called Staffordshire Hoard included more than 1,500 objects, mostly made from gold.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme is a department of the British Museum which deals with treasure finds.

From the St. Petersburg Times, submitted by Robert Marx, Bristol, VA, Willard R. Smith III, Naperville, IL, Jerry Hallett, Napa, CA, Dan Knuth, Thiensville, WI, and many other readers.



744 ANTIQUE GOLD COINS FOUND NEAR SATHY JUNGLES

A treasure trove was unearthed in India in a remote hamlet near Sathyamangalam jungles when local tribals stumbled upon a centuries-old earthen pot filled with gold coins.

As many as 744 coins, weighing about 300 grams, were found in the pot, sending the tranquil tribal hamlet of Kottamalam in Erode district into a tizzy. The coins are believed to date back to the Vijayanagar Empire period and may be over 500 years old.

For the family of Maadhi Veerayya, a tribal widow in Kottamalam, it was almost a dream tryst with fortune. Recently, Maadhi and her granddaughters were clearing the thorny bushes near their house at Kottamalam.

Suddenly, her granddaughters Vinitha and Nagamma, noticed broken shards of an earthen pot in the bushes. When they rummaged deeper, they found coins smaller than 25 paise coins. Immediately, they called their grandmother, who dug deeper and found more coins. As they tried to quietly stash away the coins, curious neighbors gathered. And a frantic treasure hunt began. By afternoon, nine tribal families in the village collected over 700 coins and hid in their houses.

However, the village administrative officer got wind of the treasure trove and rushed to the spot. It was not long before the police too landed up, and launched a drive to recover the coins. "We have so far recovered 744 coins," Tahsildar K. Shanmugham told TOI. The police are probing if more coins have been stealthily hidden away.

The coins are made of 18 carat gold and said to have been in circulation during the rule of the Vijayanagar kingdom between 14th and 16th centuries. The coins have an image of a tiger on a fluttering flag on one side and on the flip side, a picture of a mangalasutra.

"It is said these coins may belong to the pre-Krishnadevaraya period, perhaps during the reign of his immediate predecessor Veeranarasimha Raya," a revenue official said. The coins have been handed over to the Erode district collector, R. Sudalaimuthu. Curators from the government museum in Erode will examine the coins and present a report to the government.

From the India Times, submitted by Daniel Knuth, Thiensville, WI.



200-YEAR-OLD SHIP FOUND BURIED UNDER MANHATTAN

The ship was buried as junk two centuries ago- landfill to expand a bustling little island of commerce called Manhattan. When it re-emerged recently, surrounded by skyscrapers, it was an instant treasure that popped up from the mud near ground zero.

A 32-foot piece of the vessel was found in soil 20 feet under street level, amid noisy bulldozers excavating a parking garage for the future World Trade Center. Near the site of so many grim finds- Sept. 11 victims' remains, twisted steel- this discovery was as unexpected as it was thrilling.

Historians say the ship, believed to date to the 1700s, was defunct by the time it was used around 1810 to extend the shores of lower Manhattan.

"A ship is the summit of what you might find under the World Trade Center- it's exciting!" said Molly McDonald, an archaeologist who first spotted two pieces of hewn, curved timber- part of the frame of the ship- peeking out of the muddy soil at dawn recently.

Two days later, she and three colleagues had dug up the hull from the pit where a section of the new trade center is being built.

A steep, hanging ladder trembled with each step down into chaotic mounds of dirt, dwarfed all around by Manhattan skyscrapers rising into the sun. People sank in the mud as they walked and grasped pieces of the historic wood for support- touching the centuries-old ship that may once have sailed the Caribbean, according to marine historian Norman Brower, who examined it.

"It smells like low tide, this much," said McDonald as she stood on the weathered planks, sniffing the dank odor that hovered over them in the hot summer morning.

The ship harbors many mysteries still to be solved: "Where was it built? How was it used? Why was it sunk?"

McDonald and archaeologist A. Michael Pappalardo made the discovery at about 6:15 a.m., just as they started their shift observing construction in the pit at the southern edge of ground zero. The two work for AKRF, a New York environmental consulting firm hired to document artifacts discovered at the trade center site.

"We noticed two curved timbers that a backhoe had dislocated," McDonald said. Joined by two more archaeologists, they started digging with shovels, "and we quickly found the rib of a vessel and continued to clear it away and expose the hull over the last two days."

Brower, the historian, works in Mystic, Connecticut- renowned for its historic vessels. He told the archaeologists that it was an oceangoing vessel that might have sailed the Caribbean, as evidenced by 18th century marine organisms that had bored tiny tunnels in the timber.

The vessel's age will be estimated after the two pieces that first popped up are tested in a laboratory through dendrochronology- the science of using tree rings to determine dates and chronological order. Also unknown is what kind of wood was used to build the ship.

A 100-pound iron anchor was found a few yards from the hull, possibly from the old vessel.

There were also traces of human life nearby- "pieces of shoes all over," said McDonald, who had no idea how they got there.

The ship likely got there because of the effort to extend lower Manhattan into the Hudson River in the 1700s and 1800s using landfill. Cribbing usually consisted of logs joined together- much like a log cabin- but a derelict ship was occasionally used.

The ship discovered was weighted down and sunk to the bottom of the river, as support for new city piers in a part of Manhattan tied to global commerce and trade.

A similar find emerged a walk away in 1982, when archaeologists found an 18th century cargo ship on Water Street.

The remains of the latest discovery will be removed but the timber is so delicate it's unclear how much of it will remain intact. The surrounding water acted as a preservant for the wood for centuries, McDonald said, but the remains began to deteriorate immediately upon contact with oxygen.

"We're mostly clearing it by hand because it's kind of fragile," McDonald said, meaning shovels are used. Construction equipment could come in handy later in the process.

On site, archaeologists were quickly sketching, measuring and photographing the ship remnants to help them analyze the find later; the two piece of timber that signaled the discovery were taken away immediately. It was not clear from the 32-foot piece how long the whole ship might have been.

Another fascinating detail might emerge as work progresses: coins traditionally placed under a vessel's keel block as a symbol of good fortune and safe travels.

But the team is already feeling pretty lucky. "I kept thinking of how closely it came to being destroyed," Pappalardo said.

Somehow, the workers operating the bulldozers missed the bulk of the ship, catching only the two timbers as they excavated ramps that will connect to an underground parking garage at the rebuilt trade center.

Within the fenced-off, 16-acre site in downtown Manhattan, steel for a planned 1,776-foot skyscraper has risen 24 stories. The memorial to victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, a multi-billion-dollar transit hub and a second office tower are under construction. More office towers and a performing arts center are also part of the original plan.

From the Bristol Herald Courier, submitted by Robert Marx, Bristol, VA, Jerry Hallett, Napa, CA, and Bob Bolek, Hometown, IL.



PENDANT WORTH MORE THAN WOMAN PAID FOR IT AT YARD SALE

An Ohio woman who paid $5 at a yard sale for a LeBron James pendant she thought was costume jewelry has found out it's worth nearly $10,000.

Twenty-year-old Vaneisha Robinson said she used to wear the basketball jersey-shaped pendant to high school when she didn't know its value. Then she had it appraised.

The International Gemological Institute says Robinson's find is the real deal. Gemologist Jerry Ehrenwalk said the 14-karat white gold pendant sport more than two carats of diamonds.

The No. 23 jersey reads "King" on the front and "James" on the back.

Robinson is an amateur boxer in James' hometown of Akron, Ohio. She has listed the jewelry on eBay. She said the King's brand will never die even though he's left the Cleveland Cavaliers to play for the Miami Heat.

From the Bristol Herald Courier, submitted by Robert Marx, Bristol, VA.



TRAVELING PREACHER SEARCHES FOR OKLAHOMA'S FABLED CITY OF GOLD

Ertis Johnson believes he has finally found an old Mexican mining town where tales of gold and silver were born on the banks of Turkey Creek in western Oklahoma.

"This is where Cascorillo stood," said Johnson, a traveling preacher. "I used to think it was located on my old farm, but the more I searched, the more I kept coming back to this site. I wasn't really certain until I started adding up all the signs. Finally, it just clicked. The evidence is all right here."

Johnson, 62, first made this claim more than a decade ago. He has since discovered "new evidence" that leaves no doubt in his mind.

Johnson's search began where all searches have begun for Cascorillo: an Aug. 30, 1895, article in the Cloud Chief Herald-Sentinel.

An elderly Mexican man by the name of Pedro Juangonzales gave the newspaper an interview, in which he claimed to have lived at Cascorillo as a youngster during the 1830s. He described how gold was mined from the site and carted to Nacogdoches, Texas, on pack mules.

Washita County surveyor E.A. Williams, himself a prospector, also provided the Herald-Sentinel with a rough plat of the ruins he said he witnessed.

Treasure hunters have been searching for Cascorillo ever since.

Based on the Williams plat and aerial photographs, Johnson thinks he can prove Cascorillo once existed. He bases his conclusion on seven points, the most obvious dealing with the branches of Turkey Creek drawn on the plat. The creek branches of Johnson's site appear to coincide with ones drawn on the plat.

Johnson also thinks he has discovered two ancient wagon crossings on the creek, just like those shown on the plat.

Then there is Johnson's "clincher." The Herald-Sentinel reported old Spanish inscriptions on a large sandstone rock near Turkey Creek that read: "Gold discovered here in 1676." The rock was thought to represent a gravestone, and was later dubbed Monument Camp.

Johnson thinks he found the fabled rock at the tip of Monument Creek, which locals also call Turkey Creek. Although the inscriptions are long gone, Johnson thinks the rock adds legitimacy to the Cascorillo story.

Monument Creek even weaves past Johnson's proposed town site.

Yet, the site has yielded no known artifacts, such as remnants of building foundations, horseshoes, old nails or rubble from a communal garbage pit. In fact, archaeologists who explored the region in 1970 declared that "Cascorillo was a figment of Pedro Juangonzales' imagination."

State archaeologist Robert Brooks said if a Spanish/Mexican community had existed at that location, one should expect to find clear evidence, even 180 years later. He said such a site would likely yield artifacts such as crucifixes, Spanish coins and pottery.

"Those would be clear signs of a Catholic community, which would have been uncommon in southwest Oklahoma," Brooks said.

Still, Johnson remains undeterred.

"I don't know about the stories of gold," Johnson said. "Those might be just stories. But old Williams drew a map of something. He was a surveyor and meticulous about the things he saw. I believe he saw something, and that something is what I have found- Cascorillo."

From the AP, submitted by Jean Kary, Norris, SD.




















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