Category Archives: Archaeology

Celtic gold coins found whilst volunteering for an archaeological unit

Celtic gold staters of Tasciovanus, king of the Catuvellauni tribe

Celtic gold staters of Tasciovanus. Celtic gold coins.
Celtic gold staters of Tasciovanus. Celtic gold coins.

Celtic gold stater (right) and quarter stater (left) of Tasciovanus, king of the Catuvellauni tribe (from around 20BC until around 9AD) and father of Cunobelin, that I found whilst volunteering for an archaeological unit. Equipment used was a Compass Coin Pro II metal detector and a massive yellow JCB in place of my usual Black ADA. These photos turned out pretty well considering they were taken on the cover of one of my finds log books that was sitting on the boot of the presiding archaeologists car!

Celtic gold staters of Tasciovanus. Celtic gold coins.
Celtic gold staters of Tasciovanus. Celtic gold coins.

Payment received by me for these two rare gold coins? £0.00p. If they were acquired by a museum after the Treasure Act inquest (I was not told what happened to the coins after that point) at St Albans Coroners Court, they certainly got a bargain! The FLO who attended the inquest as expert witness certainly seemed impressed. They are certainly among my all time favourite metal detecting finds! Celtic gold coins found whilst volunteering for an archaeological unit forum thread.
Celtic gold stater of Tasciovanus

Celtic gold staters of Tasciovanus. Celtic gold coins.
Celtic gold staters of Tasciovanus. Celtic gold coins.
Celtic gold staters of Tasciovanus. Celtic gold coins.
Celtic gold staters of Tasciovanus. Celtic gold coins.

Celtic gold quarter stater of Tasciovanus

Celtic gold quarter stater of Tasciovanus

Metal Detecting UK

The Thirteen Treasures of the Island of Britain

The Thirteen Treasures of the Island of Britain

The list of the Thirteen Treasures of the Island of Britain – the original manuscripts, written in Welsh, date from the 15th and 16th centuries, but they almost certainly draw on paper sources and oral traditions that are far, far older.

The list of the Thirteen Treasures of the Island of Britain is long over due an update, let’s bring the list of the Thirteen Treasures of Britain into the 21st century!

I’m not talking strictly about metal detecting finds here, but also coins, artefacts, hoards, brooches, weapons etc. that may have been excavated by archaeologists, found purely by chance by people digging drainage ditches or ploughing fields, uncovered by barrow diggers or by workman renovating old buildings.

Here are a few suggestions to get things started:

The items on the above list may not possess the supernatural abilities and properties of the original Thirteen Treasures, but they are certainly all magical in their own way.

Have your say, what are Great Britain’s Thirteen Greatest Treasures? leave a comment here, over on the forum or email me! If we can get together a good, interesting list, I’ll set up a poll so that everybody and anybody can vote for their favourites.

Roman Silver Leda mirror from the Boscoreale treasure

Roman Silver Leda mirror from the Boscoreale treasure

Roman first century silver Leda mirror from the Boscoreale treasure, photo courtesy of the Louvre.
Roman first century silver Leda mirror from the Boscoreale treasure, photo courtesy of the Louvre.

Another superb piece of roman silversmithing – the Leda and the Swan mirror from the Boscoreale treasure. This piece dates from the first century AD and was found in the remains of the Boscoreale Villa, a high status dwelling just outside Pompeii, that was destroyed in 79AD by the eruption of mount Vesuvius.

Silver cup with Athena seated from the Hildesheim Treasure

Probably the finest known example of the Roman silversmith’s art:

Silver cup with Athena seated from the Hildesheim Treasure. Photograph by Andreas Praefcke from Wikipedia
Silver cup with Athena seated from the Hildesheim Treasure. Photograph by Andreas Praefcke from Wikipedia

Silver cup with Athena seated from the Hildesheim treasure, discovered on October 17, 1868 on Galgenberg Hill in Hildesheim, Germany. Dating from the first century AD, this cup may have been owned and used by the commander of the lost Varus legions.

Bronze Age hoard found below plough soil in Essex field (the Burnham hoard)

Bronze Age hoard found below plough soil in Essex field (the Burnham hoard)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11651691

A rare Bronze Age founders hoard, buried in a pot in an Essex field, has been excavated by archaeologists after being discovered by metal detectorists. The excavation was recorded by 360Production who uploaded the following video to YouTube:

Laura McLean, Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, told the BBC that “This is a really exciting find and a good example of metal detectorists and archaeologists working together to uncover and record our history, making sure it is not lost forever”

Founders hoards are usually found scattered in the soil of ploughed fields, the vessel or bag they were originally buried in having perished in antiquity, to find one not only intact and in its original context, but also still in the pot, is highly unusual!

Well done to Mr J. Humphreys, the finder, and everybody else involved! Check out the story on the BBC website and the excavation video for further details.

Metal Detecting UK

Some very interesting Silbury Hill news

Some very interesting Silbury Hill news

Silbury Hill
At 37 metres (120 ft) high, Silbury Hill – which is part of the complex of Neolithic monuments around Avebury, which includes the Avebury Ring and West Kennet Long Barrow – is the tallest prehistoric human-made mound in Europe (Wikipedia)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11621802

BBC news reports that Silbury Hill may have been used as a fortification by the Anglo-Saxons. Anybody who has ever walked up the Silbury monument would agree that you would be hardpressed to find a more effective defensive position!

Metal Detecting UK

Auction Day Arrives – Christie’s Sale 5488, Lot 176: The Crosby Garrett Helmet

The Crosby Garrett Helmet at the Christie’s web site:
“Lot Description
A ROMAN BRONZE CAVALRY PARADE HELMET CIRCA LATE 1ST-2ND CENTURY A.D.
Composed of two sections, helmet and mask; the tinned bronze face-mask with idealised youthful features, the openwork eyes with irises formed of delicate perforated rings, the upper and lower lids with incised lashes, the eyebrows arching from the bridge of the nose to the hairline with incised herringbone detail, the nostrils pierced, the fleshy lips slightly parted, with filtrum indicated, the face framed by three rows of tight corkscrew curls, the individual strands finely incised, the lower edge with remains of iron rivets on either side, probably for attachment of a strap for fastening to the helmet; the bronze helmet in the form of a Phrygian-style cap, with curved tip, surmounted by a solid-cast griffin, on an integral base, seated on its haunches, with finely incised details of the fur and mane, an attachment loop on the back of the neck, his wings outstretched with incised feather detail, his right paw raised and resting on the rim of a fluted amphora, an oval recess below with pierced loop at the tip, the back edge of the cap delineated by a raised ridge, curling inwards at the corners, terminating in incised button finals and decorated with pairs of vertical lines bordered by tongues, a row of hair curls emerging from underneath, the back and sides of the cap decorated with five rosettes, with groups of punched dots at the tips of the petals, with narrow flaring neck-guard, pierced in the centre and left corner, the perimeter decorated with incised diagonal dashes and tongues, with original hinge for attachment to the face-mask, mounted 16 in. (40.7 cm.) high

Lot Notes

This remarkable cavalry parade helmet, with its enigmatic features, is one of only three that have been discovered in Britain complete with face-masks. The others being the Ribchester Helmet, found in 1796 and now in the British Museum, and the Newstead Helmet, in the Museum of Antiquities, Edinburgh, found circa 1905. The Crosby Garrett Helmet, found in Cumbria earlier this year is an extraordinary example of Roman metalwork at its zenith.

The Crosby Garrett Helmet sets itself apart by virtue of its beauty, workmanship and completeness, particularly the face-mask, which was found virtually intact. In addition, the remarkable Phrygian-style peak surmounted by its elaborate bronze griffin crest appears unprecedented. H. Russell Robinson, formerly the curator of the Royal Armouries, cites only one other fragmentary helmet found at Ostrov in Romania, dated to the second half of the 2nd Century A.D., in the form of a tall Phrygian cap. Representations of similar helmets can be found at the base of Trajan’s Column among the captured Dacian and Sarmatian armour (cf ., H.R. Robinson, The Armour of Imperial Rome, London 1975, pp. 134-135, pls. 409-410). The openwork eyes and facial features of the Crosby Garrett Helmet find their closest parallels with Robinson’s Cavalry Sports Type E helmets, and in particular with a helmet from Nola, in southern Italy, now in the British Museum, dated to the late 1st to early 2nd Century A.D., (ibid., p. 124, pl. 361). However, the rendering of the hair in large tight curls is comparable to that of the Belgrade mask, now in the Archaeological Museum in Belgrade, belonging to Cavalry Sports Type C, and dated to the 2nd Century A.D. (ibid. p. 115, pl. 326).

These helmets were not for combative use, but worn for hippika gymnasia, (cavalry sports events). The polished white-metal surface of the Crosby Garrett face-mask would have provided a striking contrast to the original golden-bronze colour of the hair and Phrygian cap. In addition, colourful streamers may have been attached to the rings along the back ridge and on the griffin crest. Arrian of Nicomedia, a Roman provincial governor under Hadrian, provides us with the only surviving contemporary source of information on cavalry sports events. He describes, in an appendix to his Ars Tactica, how the cavalrymen were divided into two teams which took turns to attack and defend. He suggests that the wearing of these helmets was a mark of rank or excellence in horsemanship. Participants would also carry a light, elaborately painted shield, and wear an embroidered tunic and possibly thigh-guards and greaves, all of which would contribute to the impressive spectacle. These events may well have accompanied religious festivals celebrated by the Roman army and were probably also put on for the benefit of visiting officials. The displays would have been intended to demonstrate the outstanding equestrian skill and marksmanship of the Roman soldier and the wealth of the great empire he represented.”

Early Anglo-Saxon Coins by Gareth Williams, Shire Archaeology

Early Anglo-Saxon Coins by Gareth Williams
Early Anglo-Saxon Coins by Gareth Williams, Shire Archaeology

I recently picked up a copy of Early Anglo-Saxon Coins by Gareth Williams, published by Shire Archaeology. This is one of the ‘new and improved’ Shire Archaeology series, sporting not only the modernized cover design, but a great many photographs accompany the text and the great thing about those photographs is that they are all in colour!

The book will be of limited value for identifying Anglo-Saxon coins (although there are many colour images of Anglo-Saxon coins and you may get lucky) – a guide to identifying Anglo-Saxon coins was not the authors intent, rather, this book is the story behind those coins and how they came to be here in the United Kingdom.

I hope all of the new look Shire Archaeology publications are produced to this standard, the production values and all the colour photographs are wonderful! When I get time I will write a full review of this book for the main website, in the mean time, I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the Anglo-Saxons or Anglo-Saxon coinage, a must read for metal detectorists and coin collectors everywhere.

The cover image is a hoard of Anglo-Saxon silver pennies, buried around 730AD, found at Woodham Walter in Essex.

Buy on Amazon.co.uk

Early Anglo-Saxon Coins (Shire Archaeology)

Buy on Amazon.com

Early Anglo-Saxon Coins (Shire Archaeology)