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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.

 

 
 
Image courtesy of Musée National de Préhistoire collections. Photo MNP/Ph. Jugie
 
This 38,000 year-old engraving of an aurochs, recently discovered by anthropologists in south-western France, is among the earliest known engravings found in Western Eurasia. Read more about the discovery here.
 
rillatoncup1
 
Sketch of the Rillaton Barrow and the Rillaton Gold Cup and Dagger
Artist unknown
 
Workmen engaged in construction work in 1837 plundered a burial cairn for stone on part of Bodmin Moor, at Rillaton. In one side of the mound they came upon a stone-lined vault, or cist, 2.4 m long and 1.1 m wide. It contained the decayed remains of a human skeleton accompanied by this gold cup, a bronze dagger and other objects that have not survived – a decorated pottery vessel, a ‘metallic rivet’, ‘some pieces of ivory’ and ‘a few glass beads’. The pot and gold cup were set beneath a slab leaning against the west wall of the cist.
 
Source British Museum.
 
 
The Rillaton Barrow today
©
The Heritage Trust
 
Please see our earlier feature on the Rillaton Gold Cup here.
 
 
Figurines found by Polish archaeologists in Turkey. Image credit Jason Quinlan
 
Science & Scholarship in Poland have reported on the discovery by Polish archaeologists of two unique eight thousand year-old figurines in Turkey –
 
The discovery was made in one of the largest urban centres of the first farmers and one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world – Çatalhöyük, located in the southern part of the Anatolian Plateau in central Turkey. The project leader is Prof. Ian Hodder of Stanford University in the US, but a team of Polish scientists has been involved in the project for several years.
 
Çatalhöyük was inhabited continuously for over one thousand years between the years 7100 and 6000 BC. According to the researchers during its heyday the densely built-up settlement had by approx. 5000 residents. The site became famous thanks to the murals, which decorated the walls of houses. They depicted as human and animal figures and geometric motifs. In 2012 Çatalhöyük was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
 
Full article 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.

 

 
A 3,000 year-old gold torc recently found by a metal detectorist in a Cambridgeshire field
Image credit Dominic Lipinski/PA
 
The torc is so big that one expert thinks it may have been worn to protect a pregnant woman. It is made from 730 grams of almost pure gold and is regarded as the best found in England in more than a century. The workmanship is astonishing. “The torc was shaped from a square section bar of gold, and then twisted and burnished. “If you take callipers, and measure the gaps between the twists, they are absolutely spot on accurate.”
 
More by Maev Kennedy in The Guardian here.
 
 
The town was discovered across the Nile from Luxor
©
Littlestone
 
A 7,000 year-old lost town has been discovered near Luxor in Egypt –
 
Egypt has unearthed a city more than 7,000 years old and a cemetery dating back to its first dynasty in the southern province of Sohag, the antiquities ministry has said. The city is likely to have housed high-ranking officials and grave builders. Its discovery may yield new insights into Abydos, one of the oldest cities in ancient Egypt, the ministry said in a statement.
 
Experts say Abydos was Egypt’s capital towards the end of the predynastic period and during the rule of the first four dynasties. The discovery was made 400 metres away from the temple of Seti I, a New Kingdom period memorial across the Nile from present day Luxor.
 
More in today’s Guardian here. More images here.
 

We received the following (edited for clarity) last week from Dr. Mustafa Elhawat, Head of the Department of Classical Archaeology, University of Elmergheb, Al-khums in Libya. If any of our readers can assist Dr. Mustafa Elhawat please contact him at the email address below.

Dear The Heritage Trust

The political situation and the war in Libya has several complications. The problem lies in the risk to archaeological sites and buildings by militant Islamists, and exploration of these sites by thieves and vandals. There is also the illegal trade in stolen artefacts from some sites and cemeteries which are then sold on the internet and smuggled out of the country. Also, there are numerous monuments in Libya that need to be archived as they are not registered at present. There are two sections in Libya – East and West – but staff there are inexperienced and are in need of training.

We are doing as much as possible and are campaigning to raise awareness among the Libyan population. We are also setting up workshops and seminars but we need to acquire more skills, set up courses etc because archaeological sites in Libya are currently in crisis and at severe risk.

Cultural heritage in Libya belongs to all of humanity and the duty of everyone is to protect and preserve it. So we extend our hands to you, in the international community, to work with us together in order to preserve these treasures and this heritage. I hope there will be close cooperation between us all which will provide an appropriate solution to this crisis.

Cordial greetings

Dr. Mustafa Elhawat

Head of the Department of Classical Archaeology. Faculty of Archaeology and Tourism. (Near Leptis Magna). University of Elmergheb, Al-khums. Libya. Member of the Commission for the Conservation of Libyan Cultural Heritage. email archeologo@live.com

Can Detectorists be Archaeologists? News by Roy Goutté of an upcoming conference.

The author ‘sweeping’ the line of a long lost track-way
Image credit and © Roy Goutté

 

On the 21st November 2016, PAS (Portable Antiquities Scheme) are staging a conference at the Museum of London. It is headed ‘Can Detectorists Be Archaeologists?’ and features many speakers during the day.

Nowadays most archaeologists recognise that responsible metal-detecting has a role to play in archaeology, though there remain concerns about the (seemingly) haphazard searching techniques employed by most finders. This conference explores the various ways in which detectorists (working alone or with archaeologists) have undertaken archaeological fieldwork, and looks to a future of further cooperation for the benefit of archaeology and public interest in the past… Dr Michael Lewis (British Museum).

As a detectorists myself and an amateur archaeologist that has worked with qualified archaeologists where my detector was called upon, this promises to be a very interesting series of talks. Any form of education, as long as it is a balanced appraisal of the subject, is most welcome as irresponsible detecting without giving thought to the archaeology is without doubt a serious matter and hopefully will be discussed at length.

There are two types of detectorists apart from the many thousands out there that, in my opinion, are irresponsible in respect of their lack of concern for our heritage and unseen archaeology. One is the blatant ‘night-hawk’ who purposely sets out to steal artefacts from areas of known ‘hot-spots’ and the other is the genuine beginner/casual user of a detector who seem totally unaware that they could be damaging the archaeology as they have not followed the Metal Detector Code because, on the whole, they are not recognised metal detector club members. As a member they would have been well versed in the rights and wrongs of metal detecting.

This doesn’t make the latter a bad bunch – just an uninformed one that are venturing out for a day’s enjoyable and relaxing detecting with thoughts of finding the odd coin/ring/watch on a beach or local scrub land. They are by far the majority – the ones that have a day out occasionally and not the day in day out detectorists.

To return to the subject matter – Can Detectorists Be Archaeologist? – well of course they can, just as well as anyone else if they are interested in the subject… which undoubtedly some will be of course. If they used their obvious knowledge of our heritage for the good and not just for personal gain as a night-hawk would, then fine. But let’s be quite clear on this – the major hoards and finds in the UK are being made by your bog standard detectorists who report their finds and not night-hawks who don’t and in places not generally being looked at by archaeologists because that is not in their remit.

Another heritage website doesn’t seem to allow for this and offers no credit to the ‘good guys’ seeing the majority of all detectorists as stealing our heritage and the vast number of them not declaring their finds. So where do they think all the hoards and other antiquities found came from if not reported – out of fresh air! The dark or negative side is always highlighted by them and virtually no credit given to the huge amount of detectorists out there doing the right thing! They need to wise-up and smell the roses!

However, not wishing to linger on this negative side, I believe this conference is perfectly timed by PAS and should open up a few eyes and minds with the range of the talks they are encompassing at the event and the quality of the speakers enlisted for it. I hope it is well attended and appreciated by a level-headed audience and hopefully gives the naysayers something that will pacify them a little – but don’t hold your breath!

Here are some more details and the table and time of events:

Can Detectorists Be Archaeologists?

Portable Antiquities Scheme Conference – Weston Theatre, Museum of London. Monday 21st November 2016. 10am – 5pm.

10:00 Roy Stephenson (Museum of London): Welcome
10:10 Dr Michael Lewis (British Museum) & Dr Pieterjan Deckers (Vrije Universiteit Brussel): Working Together.
10:30 Dr Felicity Winkley (University College London): A Font of Local Knowledge: Metal-detectorists and landscape archaeology.
11:00 Dr Phil Harding (metal-detectorist and self-recorder): Metal-detecting in Leicestershire: Insights from detailed recording.
11:30 David Haldenby (metal-detectorist from Yorkshire): Detecting the Landscape.
12:00 Lindsey Bedford (erstwhile metal-detectorist): Detecting a Path into Archaeology.
12:30 Lunch (not provided).
14:00 Faye Minter (Suffolk County Council): The Use of Systematic Metal detecting in Suffolk as an Archaeological Survey Technique.
14:30 Carl Chapness (Oxford Archaeology): Metal-detecting and Archaeology.
15:00 Samantha Rowe (University of Huddersfield) Archaeology of the plough-zone.
15:30 John Maloney (National Council for Metal Detecting) The Future of archaeology and metal-detecting.
16:00 Dr Mike Heyworth (Council for British Archaeology) The Future of archaeology and metal-detecting: Building or burning bridges?
16:30 Finish.

Worth noting that there will be no refreshments provided. If, like many others, you are contemplating taking up this wonderful hobby, the following link to a very informative Beginners Guide to metal detecting is a real must. Check it out!

 

 
 
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.
 
 
Gold coins unearthed from the Haihunhou Tomb
Image credit Jiang Dong/China Daily
 
In a Chinese Government press release, the excavation of the Haihunhou Tomb in Jiangxi Province, south-east China, has now been completed. The Haihunhou Tomb was constructed for the Marquis of Haihun (Liu He, 92bce – 59bce) during the Western Han Dynasty (206bce – 24ce) and contained a plethora of artefacts including gold coins, jade, lacquer ware, bronze bells and inscriptions written on bamboo and wood.
 
According to Chi Hong, Head of the Department of Culture for Jiangxi Province, the contents of the Haihunhou Tomb will go on display after conservation work on them has been completed.
 
 
 
 A dog tooth unearthed near Stonehenge and dating to around 5,000bce
 
The tooth, above, was found at Blick Mead in Wiltshire, southern England, and is believed to be evidence of the earliest journey in British history; so claims archaeologist David Jacques. The tooth is thought to be from a pet Alsatian-type dog that travelled 250 miles from present-day York, in northern England, to Wiltshire in the south. Blick Mead is close to Stonehenge, although Stonehenge as we know it today would not have existed.
 
According to BBC News, David Jacques is reported as saying –
 
“The fact that a dog and a group of people were coming to the area from such a long distance away further underlines just how important the place was four millennia before the circle was built,” Mr Jacques said.
 
“Discoveries like this give us a completely new understanding of the establishment of the ritual landscape and make Stonehenge even more special than we thought we knew it was.”
 
It has also been suggested that the dog was a trade item, though no evidence for that theory has been advanced.
 
 
The Stone of Many Faces (or The Makapan Pebble)
Image credit and © Brett Eloff (University of Witwatersrand)
 
Writing in The Art NewspaperMartin Bailey, reports –
 
Some three million years ago a humanoid in southern Africa stumbled upon a naturally formed stone in the shape of a head and carried it to a nearby cave. The Makapan Pebble, also known as the Stone of Many Faces, was most likely found by an Australopithecus africanus, an ape-like species with some early human characteristics, which became extinct around two million years ago.
 
The Makapan (or Makapansgat) Pebble, which has never been displayed, will be exhibited for the first time at the British Museum in London this month in a show entitled South Africa: the Art of a Nation (27 October-26 February 2017). The stone belongs to the Evolutionary Studies Institute at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, where it is kept in storage. John Giblin, the British Museum’s co-curator of the show, says the pebble “is the perfect size to hold in the palm of the hand”.
 
Full article here.
   
 
 
Katsuren Castle (勝連城), Uruma, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan
Image credit kanegen. Source Wikimedia Commons
 
The Japan Times/KYODO reports 26 September 2016 that –
 
Coins issued in ancient Rome have been excavated from the ruins of a castle in Okinawa Prefecture [southern Japan], the local board of education said, the first time such artifacts have been discovered in Japan. The board of education in the city of Uruma said the four copper coins, believed to date back to the Roman Empire in the third to fourth centuries, were discovered in the ruins of Katsuren Castle, which existed from the 12th to 15th centuries. Okinawa’s trade with China and Southeast Asia was thriving at the time and the finding is “precious historical material suggesting a link between Okinawa and the Western world,” the board of education said.
 
Each coin measures 1.6 to 2 cm in diameter. The designs and patterns on both sides are unclear due to abrasion. Based on X-ray analysis, however, the board said the coins appear to bear an image of Constantine I and a soldier holding a spear. Other relics unearthed from the site include a coin from the 17th century Ottoman Empire, as well as five other round metallic items that also appear to be coins.
 
The coins will be on display at Uruma City Yonagusuku Historical Museum in central Okinawa until 25 November 2016.
 
More here. See also our earlier feature Roman jewellery found in 5th century Japanese tomb
 

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