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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (06/2011) Headlines (04/2011) Headlines (08/2011)   Vol. 45 June 2011 
Treasure In The Headlines
As seen in the June 2011 edition of W&ET Magazine


French investigators have found jewels valued at $25 million hidden in a Paris rain sewer- part of the spectacular 2008 heist from luxury jeweler Harry Winston's Paris boutique.

Nineteen rings and three sets of earrings- one pair valued at $19.5 million- were dug up from a drain at a house in a working class Paris suburb.

The jewels were hidden in a plastic container set in a cement mold inside the sewer, police said.

From the Associated Press, submitted by Karen Zejnullahu, Brockton, MA.


George Washington slept here, and so can you. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has some recommendations for travelers looking for culture, history, and entertainment.

The private, nonprofit group that is dedicated to saving historic places released its 2011 list of destinations, which range from a charming seaport town to a city that was the home of Washington.

"This year's Dozen Distinctive Destinations include some of America's best places to visit," said Stephanie Meeks, president of the trust.

Alexandria, VA, which Washington called home, topped the list, which also included Chapel Hill, NC, described as the "southern part of heaven," and the historic town of Colorado Springs, CO.

Other destinations include:

Muskogee, OK: The town was once the unofficial capital of the Indian Territory and now hosts festivals.

New Bedford, MA: It once was one of the world's largest whaling ports.

St. Paul, MN: The city has an abundance of historic buildings, including the home of author F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Sonoma, CA: It's in the heart of the state's wine country.

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


A 6,000-year-old axe head and a Bronze Age gold ring were among hundreds of rare artifacts unearthed by treasure hunters last year.

They were found by archaeologists or enthusiasts and handed to the Crown Office as part of Scotland's annual Treasure Trove.

The Crown Office reported nearly 330 claimed or unclaimed treasure trove cases in 2009-2010.

Many of them have now been allocated to museums across the country.

One of the most significant finds was a Neolithic polished, greenstone axe head discovered in Perth, which is thought to date back to between 4,000 and 2,200 BC.

Historians say axe heads were often traded or exchanged as gifts.

In later periods they were used as amulets as they were believed to have magical properties.

A sword pommel- a counterweight ball at the top of the weapon's handle- was found in Abington, South Lanarkshire. Made from hollow cast copper alloy, it dates back to the 9th or 10th Century.

A medieval ring was unearthed on the Isle of Mull, where similar jewelry has previously been located, and an engraved pendant from the same era was found in Dunstaffnage, Argyll and Bute.

A Bronze Age penannular gold ring was also found at Burghead, Moray. Although commonly referred to as "ring money," these rings were more likely to have been a form of personal adornment.

A medieval copper alloy seal matrix was unearthed in Coupar Angus, Perth and Kinross, while a Viking lead weight fitted with a reused gilded mount was found in Gallaberry, Dumfried and Galloway.

Another significant find was a Pictish carved stone at Strath of Kildonan in Sutherland.

Although missing the top right hand side, this stone retains the hindquarters of a stag above the Pictish "crescent and v-rod" symbol.

It is only one of two Pictish symbol stones in Sutherland situated inland rather than on the coast.

Under Scottish law, the Crown has the right to all lost and abandoned property which is not otherwise owned.

Finders have no ownership rights and must report any objects to the treasure trove unit.

The Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer (QLTR) is responsible for claiming objects, placing them with museums and paying rewards to finders.

From the BBC News, submitted by Dan Knuth, Thiensville, WI.


A small meteorite that crashed through the roof of a Virginia medical office last year is becoming part of the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

The Smithsonian paid $10,000 for the meteorite to Marc Gallini and Frank Ciampi, the Lorton, VA doctors who found it.

They have in turn given the $10,000 check to the Doctors Without Borders charity.

Museum spokesman Randall Kremer said the meteorite is part of the museum's research collection.

The Smithsonian holds the world's largest collection of natural history specimens and artifacts.

Meteorites are lucrative, and after the tennis-ball-sized rock fell from the sky and landed in an examination room in the office in January 2010, the landlords at the doctors' building made a legal claim to it.

But that claim was later dropped.

From The St. Augustine Record, submitted by Zoueva Grossmann, Palm Coast, FL.


Melissa and Kenny Oliver of Rosston, AR, enjoy the adventure of treasure hunting, so they make regular visits to the Crater of Diamonds State Park to prospect at Arkansas's diamond site.

On a recent Sunday afternoon the couple found a flawless, 2.44 carat white diamond at the park. Due to the gem's silver white color, and because it was discovered during the weekend of a full moon "supermoon" event, the couple named their diamond the Silver Moon.

According to Park Interpreter Margi Jenks, "The Oliver's white diamond is triangular-shape and has a frosted appearance, like an ice cube. It's a very beautiful gem."

She said, "Every one of us including the Oliver's saw the supermoon, so the word 'moon' came to Mrs. Oliver's mind immediately when she first saw the diamond. After that, it was just a matter of finding the perfect name of their silver white diamond which appears to be flawless."

Jenks continued, "The name Supermoon diamond didn't quite fit. Then, I mentioned, 'How about Silver Moon diamond?' and that stuck."

She noted that the Oliver's diamond came from the search area's East Drain where major excavation work was done by heavy equipment in October. A contractor with heavy equipment was hired to move that particular low area about 100 yards west to reveal previously unsearched soil. And, the excavated material was spread over a broad area to provide park visitors with easier access to it, as well." Jenks emphasized, "By that work, we set the stage for more diamond finds in the East Drain area."

The Oliver's discovered their diamond, which they plan to keep, while wet screening material from the East Drain. It was the 93rd diamond found so far this year by visitors at the park.

Crater of Diamonds State Park is located on Ark. 301 at Murfreesboro. It is one of the 52 state parks administered by the State Parks Division of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.

From WorldNow, submitted by Dan Knuth, Thiensville, WI.


Police north of Columbus, Ohio, are trying to figure out how thousands of dollars in cash ended up along a highway.

Police Chief Russ Martin in the city of Delaware says there were so many bills in the median of U.S. 23 that an officer said it looked as though the field was growing money.

From The Arizona Republic, submitted by Vic Mathis, Tempe, AZ.


Richard Dean remembers the first time he heard about the "pirate tunnel" in Boston's North End.

It was the late 1960s and local maritime historian Edward Rowe Snow was telling the story on Larry Glick's radio show on WBZ.

Dean recalls Snow saying, "Anyone who wants a tour, I'll take you down."

But he wound up going on "my own endless journey. I didn't realize that, four and a half years later, I'd have to dig it out myself."

Dean didn't just dig underground. As he followed a paper trail all the way back to the 17th century, he discovered that the tunnel was built more than 70 years earlier than Snow thought.

Along with a friend, Frederic Pegurri, Dean has written a book about his search for the tunnel. They hope to find a publisher for the 160-page manuscript.

The tunnel, which is now below the Coast Guard station on Commercial Street, was built by Capt. Daniel Henchman, a veteran of King Philip's War and a brewer of beer.

The tunnel made it easier to transport the beer from Henchman's cellar to ships tied up nearby.

"You just cart through the tunnel to the waiting ship," Dean explained.

Dean found a reference to the tunnel- "that arch under the highway or street"- in a 1714 deed.

Of course, after that, "we can only speculate what it could be used for," he said.

Some of the people with ties to the property were thought to be smugglers.

John Hancock's stepmother, Lydia, was Henchman's granddaughter.

The manuscript also tells the story of the efforts of Dean, a retired Holbrook High School custodian who didn't finish high school himself, to get permission to excavate the tunnel. Getting the go-ahead entailed working through daunting layers of bureaucracy. He was given just two days for the work, in 1972.

He found the tunnel about 4 or 5 feet under the ground.

"Much of it is still there. A lot of it has been broken through," Dean said.

Pegurri, another retired Holbrook school custodian, has been writing as a hobby for three decades. The pair decided to collaborate, with Pegurri taking Dean's research and making it into a story.

For Pegurri, who mostly writes fiction, it was a chance to work on a nonfiction project.

"This is the only book totally devoted to the tunnel," he said.

Both men hope the project becomes their legacy.

Dean also compiled a listing of the 280 Civil War veterans who are buried or memorialized in Randolph and Holbrook. The list includes George Lovering, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in a Civil War battle.

Dean is now working on a genealogy of Elisha Niles Holbrook, for whom the town is named.

From The Enterprise, submitted by Karen Zejnullahu, Brockton, MA.


A team of divers say they've discovered the remains of the USS Revenge, a ship commanded by U.S. Navy hero Oliver Hazard Perry and wrecked off Rhode Island in 1811.

Perry is known for defeating the British in the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie off the shores of Ohio, Michigan and Ontario in the War of 1812 and for the line "I have met the enemy and they are ours." His battle flag bore the phrase, "Don't give up the ship" and to this day is a symbol of the Navy.

The divers, Charles Buffum, a brewery owner from Stonington, Connecticut, and Craig Harger, a carbon dioxide salesman from Colchester, Connecticut, say the wreck changed the course of history because Perry likely would not have been sent to Lake Erie otherwise. It is the 200th anniversary of the wreck this year.

Buffum said he's been interested in finding the remains of the Revenge ever since his mother several years ago gave him the book "Shipwrecks on the Shores of Westerly." The book includes Perry's account of the wreck, which happened when it hit a reef in a storm in heavy fog off Watch Hill in Westerly as Perry was bringing the ship from Newport to New London, Connecticut.

"I always thought to myself we ought to go out and have a look and just see if there's anything left," Buffum said.

The two, along with a third man, Mike Fournier, set out to find it with the aid of a metal detector. After several dives, they came across a cannon, then another.

"It was just thrilling," Harger said.

They made their first discovery in August 2005, and kept it secret as they continued to explore the area and make additional discoveries. Since then, they have found four more 42-inch-long cannons, an anchor canister shot, and other metal objects that they say they're 99 percent sure were from the Revenge.

Buffum and Harger say the items fit into the time period that the Revenge sank, the anchor appears to be the main one that is known to have been cut loose from the ship, and that no other military ships with cannons have been recorded as sinking in the area.

They have not discovered a ship's bell or anything else that identifies it as the Revenge, and all the wood has disappeared, which is not unusual for a wreck that old, they said.

The Navy has a right to salvage its shipwrecks, and the two say they've contacted the Naval History & Heritage Command, which oversees such operations, in hopes the Navy will salvage the remains. A spokesman for the command did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

If the Navy does not, they said they hope to raise the money for a salvage operation so the artifacts can be displayed at a historical society.

They say they are concerned now that they are going public that other divers might try to remove objects from the site, which is a violation of the law. Many of the objects they found are in only 15 feet of water, although the area is difficult to dive because of currents, they said. As for whether the wreck of the Revenge changed the course of history, David Skaggs, a professor emeritus of history at Bowling Green State University, said Perry might not put it that way. Skaggs has written two books on Perry, "A Signal Victory," about the Lake Erie campaign, which he co-authored, and a biography, "Oliver Hazard Perry: Honor, Courage, and Patriotism in the Early U.S. Navy."

While Harger and Buffum say Perry was effectively demoted by being sent to the Great Lakes rather than getting another high seas command, Skaggs said the Great Lakes commission still gave Perry great prestige. Perry, a Rhode Island native, became known as the "Hero of Lake Erie" after he defeated a British squadron, becoming the first U.S. commander to do so.

"Whether or not there is another officer that could have done as well as Perry did is one of those 'might-have-beens' that historians are not prone to ask," Skaggs said.

Still, Skaggs said he was intrigued by the discovery.

"It is certainly an interesting new find on the eve of the bicentennial of the War of 1812," he said.

From the Daily Herald, submitted by Willard R. Smith, III, Naperville, IL, and Jeff Kehl, Avon, MN.

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