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A selection of Anglo-Saxon coins showing the different types found within the Watlington Hoard
©
Trustees of the British Museum

The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, has succeeded in raising the £1.35 million needed to purchase the Watlington Hoard. More than 700 members of the public contributed to the appeal to find the locally discovered treasure a permanent home and save it from entering a private collection. James Mather, a metal detectorist, made the discovery of 200 complete silver coins, seven items of jewellery and 15 silver ingots in a field near Watlington in Oxfordshire in October 2015.

Oxford Thinking reports that financial aid to purchase the find for the Nation was –

…provided by the National Lottery through a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of £1.05 million. The grant will be used towards the acquisition of the hoard, as well as conservation, display, touring and educational programmes. Thanks to a further £150,000 from the Art Fund, and contributions from private individuals and the Friends and Patrons of the Ashmolean, the museum reached its fundraising target within days of the deadline.

Dating from the end of the 870s, the Watlington Hoard contains over 200 Anglo-Saxon coins, including many examples of previously rare coins of Alfred the Great, King of Wessex (871-899) and his less well-known contemporary, King Ceolwulf II of Mercia (874-899). These coins provide new evidence of the relationship between the two kings, and can potentially shed light on how the once-great kingdom of Mercia came to be absorbed into the emerging kingdom of England by Alfred and his successors.

Once formally acquired, the museum will launch an events and education programme for the hoard. This will begin on 11 February when the treasures will be put on display at the Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock.

More here.

 

 
 
One of the Roman coins discovered by metal detectorist Stephen Squire. The coin dates from around 37ce
 
Kerry Ashdown, writing in the Staffordshire Newsletter, reports on the discovery of more than 2,000 Roman artefacts in a field in Barlaston, Staffordshire, England –
 
MORE THAN 2,000 Roman artefacts including coins have been declared treasure after being unearthed in Barlaston. Metal detectorist Stephen Squire made the discovery in a field in his home village. His find included rare coins and the British Museum has expressed interest in acquiring three items. The Potteries Museum in Hanley plans to exhibit other items. Mr Squire, aged 49, told a hearing at North Staffordshire Coroner’s Court: “I was on my own that morning but quickly phoned my wife and son to come down when I found the objects.”
 
Councillor Terry Follows, Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for greener city, development and leisure, said: “This is a significant find because of the number of coins involved. They were found in broken pottery vessels just one metre below ground. It is a real credit to the finder for treating the discovery so responsibly and reporting it correctly.
 
Full story  here.

University of East Anglia student, and metal detectorist, Tom Lucking. Image credit Antony Kelly

Emma Knights, Arts Correspondent for the Eastern Daily Press in Norwich, England, reports on the discovery of Anglo-Saxon artefacts in Norfolk.

A collection of artefacts discovered in an Anglo-Saxon grave in Norfolk has been declared as Treasure, an inquest has heard. University of East Anglia student Tom Lucking and his friend Stuart Isaacs made the discovery between December 21 2014 and January 7 2015. The inquest in Norwich yesterday heard that the historical items were found near Diss and that a report from the British Museum described them as “an assemblage of artefacts most probably deriving from an early Anglo-Saxon female furnished burial.” Among the items are a Merovingian coin pendant, two gold biconical spacer beads, a gold openwork pendant with the form of a Maltese cross, a coin pendant with a gold suspension loop, another pendant with a Maltese cross design, a continental pottery biconical bowl, an iron knife and a collection of copper alloy chatelaine rings.

Tom has been a metal detector enthusiast for more than a decade and is reported as saying that the artefacts should end up at Norwich Castle, being the best place for them because it keeps them in the County for people to see.

Full story and images of two of the artefacts here.

 

 
 
The Egyptian Sekhemka statue (2400 – 2300bce)
Image credit Mike Pitts
 
BBC News reports 15 October that –
 
A statue at the centre of an international heritage row is thought to have been exported to the USA. The Sekhemka figurine was sold by Northampton Borough Council for nearly £16m in 2014.
 
Auctioneers Christies had refused to state where it was going and there were rumours it may have ended up in a private collection in Qatar. However, it has emerged the Department for Culture, Media and Sport granted an export licence to the US in April. It had initially imposed an export ban – due to the statue’s cultural significance and “outstanding aesthetic importance” – but this was lifted after no UK buyer came forward.
 
The sale of the 4,000-year-old statue, believed to be of a high court official, had been opposed by Egypt’s antiquities ministry. Last week BBC News revealed how the council, which made £8m from the sale, had been warned by lawyers not to sell it for “financial motives”. The council said it sold the figurine to help fund a £14m extension to its museum and art gallery.
 
The Heritage Trust strongly opposed the sale and export of the Sekhemka statue (see our various features by typing Sekhemka in the search box above) and is dismayed by the news that it will leave Britain. There is no information yet on whether the statue will fall into private hands or go into a museum. What is certain is that the people of Northampton, and further afield, will no longer be able to see this stunning statue from ancient Egypt in their Museum.
 
BBC News article here.
 
 
A cognocenti contemplating ye beauties of ye antique
Caricature of Sir William Hamilton (Scottish diplomat, volcanologist and collector of antiquities) by James Gillray (1756 – 1815)
©
The Trustees of the British Museum
 
The Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, Wiltshire, England will be hosting a lecture by James Ede, Chairman of Charles Ede Ltd, on Saturday, 5 March 2016 from 2:30pm. The talk, entitled Guardians of the Past or Looters? Connoisseurship, Collecting and the Trade in Antiquities, will fall into two parts. “The first deals with the revival of interest in the ancient world, the history of collecting (some of it scandalous) and the foundation of museums. The second part examines the importance of the trade and the challenges we face in the light of events in the Near East.”
 
Details here.
 

An 1880 photograph showing the Alexandrian Obelisk (later to be known as Cleopatra’s Needle) being made ready for shipment from Egypt to the United States. The Obelisk was formally erected in New York’s Central Park in 1881

Cleopatra’s Needle is the popular name for each of three Ancient Egyptian obelisks re-erected in London, Paris, and New York City during the nineteenth century. The obelisks in London and New York are a pair, and the one in Paris is also part of a pair originally from a different site in Luxor, where its twin remains. Although all three needles are genuine Ancient Egyptian obelisks, their shared nickname is a misnomer, as they have no connection with Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt, and were already over a thousand years old in her lifetime. The London and New York “needles” were originally made during the reign of 18th Dynasty Thutmose III. The Paris “needle” dates to the reign of 19th Dynasty Ramesses II and was the first to be moved and re-erected as well as the first to acquire the nickname, “L’aiguille de Cléopâtre” in French.

The [Central Park] stone had stood in the clear dry Egyptian desert air for nearly 3000 years and had undergone little weathering. In a little more than a century in the climate of New York City, pollution and acid rain have heavily pitted its surfaces. In 2010, Dr. Zahi Hawass, sent an open letter to the president of the Central Park Conservancy and the Mayor of New York City insisting on improved conservation efforts. If they are not able to properly care for the obelisk, he has threatened to “take the necessary steps to bring this precious artefact home and save it from ruin.”

Source the Wikimedia entry on Cleopatra’s Needle.

 

Garston Philips, Collections Ambassador at the Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum, holds the recently acquired Iron Age gold stater donated by an anonymous benefactor
Image credit Jonathan Barry

James Forrest, writing for the Evesham Journal, reports that –

AN anonymous donor has given a “rare and wonderful” ancient coin to Museums Worcestershire. The donation of the 2000-year-old gold coin saw Christmas come early for museum staff, who were left in tears of joy by the “special” gift. The inscribed Iron Age gold stater, which was produced in about AD 20-40 in the last years before the Roman conquest, was discovered by metal detectorists in the Droitwich area.

Angie Bolton, finds liaison officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Worcestershire, which works with people who discover rare objects, said: “This Iron Age coin is so special in many ways. It was found by two metal detectorists who record their finds with us, changing what we know of Iron Age and Roman Worcestershire.”

Deborah Fox, curator of archaeology and natural history at Museums Worcestershire, added: “We’ve been collecting archaeological finds at Museums Worcestershire since the 1830s and in those 180 years we have only acquired two gold Iron Age staters. They are a real rarity so this donation is overwhelming.”

More here.

 

 
Three of the coins were issued by Mark Antony in 31bce and were still in circulation nearly 200 years later
Photo Credit: Wales News
 
Archaeology & Arts reports on a hoard of Roman coins, and two medieval rings, which were declared treasure at Cardiff Coroners’ Court last week –
 
Silver coins dating back nearly 2,000 years to the Roman period and two Medieval rings have been declared treasure about a year after being found in a field by walkers using metal detectors. The coins and rings were declared treasure, among other items including a brooch and a Bronze Age hoard by saw senior coroner for Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan Andrew Barkley at Cardiff Coroners’ Court last week.
 
The Roman silver coins were discovered by Mr. Richard Annear and Mr. John Player while metal detecting in a field at the village of Wick in the Vale of Glamorgan on 13 December 2014. The coins were found partly scattered by previous ploughing and the finders left the undisturbed portion in the ground before reporting the finds to Mark Lodwick, Co-ordinator of the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales (PAS Cymru) and archaeological curators at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales. This allowed museum staff to lift it intact for detailed excavation in the museum laboratory.
 
More here.
   

Coins dating from 286–293ce from the Frome Hoard. The coins depict the usurper Roman emperor Carausius

A new exhibition now running at the British Museum focuses on the practice of hoarding in prehistoric and Roman Britain –

People have been placing metalwork and valuable objects in the ground and in water since the Bronze Age (c. 2200–800 BC). These prehistoric hoards are widely accepted as having been deposited as part of ritual practices. Later hoards were traditionally seen as a response to invasion threats and economic upheaval – riches buried in the ground to be retrieved at a later date. The 2010 discovery of a huge Roman coin hoard in Frome in Somerset raised many questions about this traditional interpretation, suggesting that ritual practices also played a part in the burial of Roman hoards.

This display showcases some recent discoveries of hoards reported through the Treasure Act and studied at the British Museum. It begins with the large metalwork deposits of the Bronze and Iron Ages such as the Salisbury hoard and weapons found in the River Thames at Broadness.

The exhibition will run until 22 May 2016 and can be found in Room 69a of the Museum. Admission is free. More here.

  

 
 
The East Grafton Saxon gold coin
 
The Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, Wiltshire England has launched a fund-raising campaign to secure a rare Saxon gold coin for the Nation. The coin was found in April in East Grafton, a village between Burbage and Great Bedwyn in Witshire, south-west England. Struck in what is now modern-day France, sometime between 655ce and 675ce, the coin features a head and cross on one side and a pair of clasping hands on the other. The coin dates to a period of transition from Paganism to Christianity, and shortly after the Sutton Hoo ship burial and the Staffordshire Hoard which also contain objects with both Pagan and Christian themes.
 
This remarkable find brings new light to the vale of Pewsey in the Saxon period. East Grafton was part of the parish of Bedwyn until medieval times. There are a number of pagan Saxon cemeteries nearby and there was an early Saxon Royal manor at the Iron Age hill fort at Chisbury, just to the north of Great Bedwyn. Later in the Saxon period, the focus moved to Great Bedwyn where there was a Royal Manor and an important Minster church. Bedwyn was held by King Alfred and it also had a Saxon mint in the time of King Edward the Confessor soon after 1,000 AD. Bedwyn was very important and it was only with the building of its Norman castle that the focus moved to Marlborough. (Wiltshire Museum).
 
The coin is being auctioned early next month (2 December) by Spink & Son, Bloomsbury London and is estimated to achieve a sale price of around £12,000. The Wilshire Museum is therefore launching a fundraising campaign to secure this important find for the Museum and the Nation. They will be seeking grant aid but still need help. To make a donation please click on the Wiltshire Museum website here.
 
 
 
An 8th century Anglo-Saxon brooch representing the Christian tree of life
Image credit Department for Culture/PA
 
The Guardian reports that –
 

An elaborate Anglo-Saxon brooch that is more than 1,000 years old may be exported if a UK buyer is not found who will pay at least £8,000 for it. The gilt bronze brooch, from the late 8th century, is one of just 12 such ornaments in existence, and it stands out from the rest for the skill and creativity employed in the creation of its unique complex leaf pattern, which could represent the Christian tree of life.

An illustration dating from the same period of the Virgin Mary in the Book of Kells shows her wearing a similar brooch, suggesting they were worn by high-status women. Experts said the brooch is of outstanding significance for the study of Anglo-Saxon art and material culture, but it could be exported unless a UK buyer matches the £8,460 asking price.

Full article here.

 

 
Thin filaments of gold spirals found in a field in eastern Denmark
©
West Zealand Museum, Denmark
 
BBC News reports on nearly 2,000 tiny golden spirals found in a field in eastern Denmark –
 
The coils, made from thin filaments about 3cm (1in) long, date from between 900BC and 700BC, according to Flemming Kaul of the National Museum in Copenhagen. But he and his colleagues aren’t quite sure what they have found. “The fact is we don’t know what they were for, although I’m inclined to think they were part of a priest-king’s robes, perhaps a fringe on a head-piece or parasol, or maybe woven into cloth,” he says on the museum’s website. The gold spirals will go on display at Skaelskor City Museum next week.
 
More here.
 
 
2,000 year-old Roman figurine of Mercury
©
Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS)
 
Ben Miller, writing in Cuture24, reports on –
 
The 1,000th officially recorded archaeological find of the year in Yorkshire… Registered on May the 15th – the day of the festival of Mercury – a 2,000-year-old figurine of the Roman god, found by Dave Cooper while he was metal detecting in a field near Selby, is a remarkable reminder of Roman times.
 
“It honestly was pure coincidence – but a very happy one,” says Rebecca Griffiths, the Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme at the York Museums Trust.
 
Read more here. You can also discover more about the figurine here, and Public Finds Days will be held by the PAS at Hull and East Riding Museum on July 31, September 25 and November 27 from 11am-1pm and at the Yorkshire Museum on June 5, August 7, October 2, December 4 from 10am-1pm.
 
 
 
One of two gold lock-rings worn as either ear-rings or to gather together hair
Image credit Amgueddfa Cymru (National Museum Wales)
 
A press release by Amgueddfa Cymru (National Museum Wales) reports –
 
A Late Bronze Age hoard of two gold artefacts, which are thought to be dated to around 1000-800 BC, or 3,000-2,800 years ago, have today (26th March 2015) been declared treasure by H.M. Coroner for North East Wales. The hoard of two gold penannular rings, which are personal ornaments known as lock-rings, were discovered in the Community of Rossett in June 2012 and March 2013 by Mr. John Adamson. The artefacts were found in the same area of a field while Mr. Adamson was metal detecting on farm land. The artefacts, once buried all together as a hoard group, had been disturbed and separated, probably through a recent drainage ditch clearing event. 
 
The discoveries were reported at different times to Vanessa Oakden and Elizabeth Stewart, Finds Liaison Officers for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, based at National Museums Liverpool, and were subsequently reported on by museum archaeologists at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales. The lock-rings are made of sheet gold. Their similar size (each approximately 3.5cm in diameter and 8-9g in weight) and decoration suggest they were once worn as a pair. Their circular faces have been expertly decorated with series of incised parallel and circular rings, providing an eye-catching decorative effect. They were once bi-conical in shape, but have since become crushed and distorted in the ground.
 
The lock-rings will be acquired by Wrexham County Borough Museum and Archives following their independent valuation.
 
Full Amgueddfa Cymru (National Museum Wales) press release here.
 
 
Romano-British tombstone found in Cirencester, England
 
On the 25 February we reported on a rare Roman-British tombstone that had been discovered in Cirencester, southern England. Today we learn that because the tombstone was found on private land belonging to St James’s Place (a wealth management company) it might not be displayed in Cirencester’s excellent Corinium Museum (situated just a few hundred metres from where the tombstone was unearthed) and may not even stay in the area at all.
 
The Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard quotes Amanda Hart, Director of the Corinium Museum, as saying, “I really, really hope it comes back to Cirencester…” A spokeswoman for the St James’s Place wealth management company, however, is reported as saying, “Unfortunately we haven’t come to a conclusion yet, we haven’t quite firmed it up.” and declined to comment further.
 
The Heritage Trust strongly urges those in a position to decide the fate of this rare artefact from Britain’s Roman period to do the honourable thing and donate it to the Corinium Museum where it can be appreciated by all members of the public and not just by a select few.
 
Related article here.
 

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