January 2013 - CARRICK-ON-SUIR, IRELAND - A hoard of 81 gold coins dating from the 17th century that was found by builders working on a Carrick-on-Suir town centre pub has been hailed by the National Museum of Ireland as one of the most significant discoveries of its kind ever in Ireland. Minister for Arts, Heritage & Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan and European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth Androulla Vassiliou will this morning (Wednesday) view the hoard of coins found at Cooney’s Bar on Carrick-on-Suir’s Main Street at the National Museum on Dublin’s Kildare Street. The coins, dating as far back as 1630, were unearthed around 12 noon on Monday, January 14 by construction workers employed by building contractor Shane Comerford from Breanormore, Grangemockler while they were digging out a hole to lay a concrete pad in the front bar area of the pub that has been closed for the past three years.
The coins were laid in a line together and the National Museum believes they may have been wrapped and held together by some material in the past that has not survived. The find consists of 81 gold coins dating to the reigns of Charles II, James II, William and Mary and William III.A National Museum spokesperson said no comparable 17th century hoard of gold coins has been found in Ireland since the discovery in Portarlington, Co. Laois, around 1947, of a hoard that contained little over 100 gold coins as well as some silver coins.According to the National Museum, the coins have yet to be examined in detail but they appear to be mainly Guineas and a small number of half Guineas. The Guinea was a British gold coin minted by the Royal Mint between 1663 and 1814 and they were called ‘Guineas’ because the gold used in making some of them came from West Africa.
The site was investigated by archaeologists from the National Museum of Ireland and the National Monuments Service last week. Marie McMahon, curator of South Tipperary Museum in Clonmel, who was at Cooney’s Bar last Wednesday while the archaeological examinations were taking place, hailed the hoard of coins as South Tipperary’s most important archaeological find since the discovery of the Derrynaflan chalice in the early 1980s. She said the coins were in very good condition but there wasn’t any clues as to why they were there. The premises they were found in may have been built on the site of one of Carrick-on-Suir’s old lanes.
Ms McMahon said South Tipperary Museum hoped in the future to be able to display the entire collection of coins. If that was not possible for insurance and security reasons replicas of the coins would be made and put on show. She said the value of the coins has still to be fully determined by the National Museum, which has yet to carry out a thorough examination of them. “It’s very exciting to be involved in such an amazing find and it’s fantastic for the National Museum. The coins are stunning, absolutely beautiful. It’s a great story for Carrick-on-Suir,” she told The Nationalist. Ms McMahon and the National Museum have paid tribute and thanked the construction workers and Mr Kiersey for handing over the coins to the authorities.
David Kiersey, who owns Cooney’s Pub popularly known in the town as Cleggs, was on site when construction worker Shane Murray found the coins in a recess in the front bar area opposite to where the bar counter used to be. He said most of the coins were lying in a cylindrical row like what you might get in a bank. “To be honest, I was kind of sceptical when we first saw them but Shane knew instantly they were gold and he turned out to be right. David and building contractor Shane Comerford consulted their solicitors about the coins. They were informed they were the property of the State and they had 96 hours to declare them. Shane Comerford handed the coins over the to gardai at Carrick-on-Suir Garda Station 72 hours after they discovered them and the gardai passed on the hoard onto South Tipperary Museum.
Archaeologist Isabella Mulhall from the National Museum visited Cooney’s Bar last Wednesday, January 23 and carried out a detailed examination of the site throughout that day that included a survey using a metal detector. Mr Kiersey said Ms Mulhall was satisfied after her examinations that there was no more treasures or artefacts to be found at the bar and he has since secured permission from the National Monuments Service to continue the construction works on the premises, which he is planning to re-open for business later this year.
Building contractor Shane Comerford said the hoard would never have been found only they had to made a last minute change to one of the concrete pads they were installing in the floor to hold up steel structures to support the building. “When Shane Murray showed them to me I just threw them on the ground and told him to keep digging and get the concrete laid. I thought they were ten a penny things,” he recalled. When Mr Comerford returned a few minutes later the workers had taken a closer look at the coins and discovered they dated back to the 17th century. He believes the recess in the front bar area of Cooney’s where the coins were found may have once been an old door opening or a fireplace. He said he had no hesitation in handing the coins over to the Gardai as he reckons you’d never have luck for keeping one of them. The builders and Mr Kiersey may be in line to get a reward from the State for handing over their discovery. David Kiersey said it was at the discretion of the State to decide what to give the finders of national treasure like these coins.
October 2012 - HERTFORDSHIRE, ENGLAND - A novice treasure hunter who bought a basic metal detector returned to the shop in shock weeks later, clutching part of the country's finest ever hoard of Late Roman gold coins. The man stunned staff by showing them 40 gold Solidi, before asking them: "What do I do with this?" They contacted local experts and together got the permits they needed, headed back to the scene and pulled up another 119 gleaming pieces.
David Sewell, the lucky shopkeeper who joined the second search party, said: "It’s a staggering thing. We sold this guy an entry-level machine and he went off and pulled off one of the largest ever hoards of Late Roman gold coins. We believe it’s the second largest. He came up with approximately 40 coins to start with. He came to see us and we looked at it and thought: Is this a stunt? I’ve heard in the past that the general reaction with things like this is that people are terrified. They don’t know what they (the artefacts) mean."
They advised the man to get in touch with the local finds liaison officer and armed with a JCB they went to the woodlands spot near St Albans, Hertfordshire, and continued the work. Mr Sewell, who founded metal detecting shop Hidden History with Mark Becher in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, last year, said: "We went with them and took with us a couple of slightly more potent machines and we pulled 119 more coins out of the ground. "These are 22 carat gold, they haven’t got any damage and they came out of the ground looking like the day they were made. All I can say is I was there and my heart was going at 10 to the dozen."
The man had bought a Garrett Ace 150, retailing at around £135 and described as being ideal for children to use for a hobby. Local heritage officials described the find as "a nationally significant find." The coins are a rare example of the Solidus, dating from the last days of Roman rule in Britain. The last consignments of them reached these shores in 408AD. Officials refused to identify the exact site of the discovery or the landowner to stop others from trying to cash in. They also would not name the person who found them, who could profit from a share of the proceeds from the coins.
A spokesman for St Albans City and District Council said: "A nationally significant find of 159 Late Roman gold coins has been found by a metal detectorist on private land in the north of the district of St Albans, in Hertfordshire. Local museum staff, together with Hidden History, travelled to the rural site to confirm the find. "Evidence suggests that the hoard was disturbed in the last couple of hundred years due to quarrying activity or plough action," said the spokesman. Mr Sewell said the coins were found across about 15 metres of woodland. It is believed that the area was used during the Second World War to cultivate crops and it may be then that the coins were shifted. "The interesting thing is there were no other artefacts there at all, no brooches," said Mr Sewell. "Oddly there was no vessel at all to hold them. It is quite a significant stash and I’m surprised that it would have been in an organic holder."
The council has now referred the hoard to experts at the British Museum to investigate and prepare a report for the local coroner. They will also determine the value of the coins, which could fetch anything from £400 to £1,000 apiece. The coroner will then determine whether the hoard counts as treasure.
David Thorold, curator of the prehistory to medieval section at the Verulamium Museum, in St Albans, said: "Gold Solidi were extremely valuable coins and were not traded or exchanged on a regular basis. They would have been used for large transactions such as buying land, or goods by the shipload. The gold coins in the economy guaranteed the value of all the silver and especially the bronze coins in circulation. However, must people would not have had regular access to them. Typically, the wealthy Roman elite, merchants or soldiers receiving bulk pay were the recipients."
Mr Sewell, who resumed detecting three years ago after a 36-year gap, has himself found a number of items, including a rare silver Tealby Penny. He said: "I’ve found bits and pieces but nothing like this. I’ve got immense satisfaction that the guy came to us and bought the machine from us but I would be lying if I said I didn’t wish it had been me. It beggars belief. Thanks to things like Time Team people’s interest in archaeology has really taken off. You do have the possibility to change history."
July 2012 - TAMPA, FLORIDA - Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc., a deep-ocean exploration company, said it recovered about 48 tons of silver from a World War II shipwreck three miles (4.8 kilometers) beneath the Atlantic Ocean. The company retrieved 1,203 silver bars, or about 1.4 million ounces of the metal, from the SS Gairsoppa, a 412-foot (126-meter) British cargo ship that sank after being torpedoed by German U-boat in February 1941, Tampa, Florida-based Odyssey said today in a statement. The metal, worth $38 million at today’s prices, is being held at a secure facility in the U.K.
Odyssey said the recovered silver represents about 20 percent of the bullion that may be on board the Gairsoppa, which lies about 300 miles off the coast of Ireland. The operation, the largest and deepest recovery of precious metals from a shipwreck, should be completed in the third quarter, Tampa, Florida-based Odyssey said.
“With the shipwreck lying approximately three miles below the surface of the North Atlantic, this was a complex operation,” Greg Stemm, Odyssey chief executive officer, said in the statement. “Our success on the Gairsoppa marks the beginning of a new paradigm for Odyssey in which we expect modern shipwreck projects will complement our archaeological shipwreck excavations.”
The recovery began in May using a chartered 291-foot ship after a series of reconnaissance dives earlier in the year, the company said. Odyssey last year announced plans to recover another 600,000 ounces of silver from the SS Mantola, a British vessel sunk by a German submarine in 1917, which lies about 100 miles from the the Gairsoppa. Odyssey has salvage contracts with the U.K. allowing it to retain 80 percent of the net silver value recovered.
July 2012 - HERZLIYA, ISRAEL - One of the largest gold treasures ever to be discovered in Israel was uncovered last week at an archaeological dig near Herzliya. The treasure, more than 100 gold pieces and weighing approximately 400 grams (nearly one pound), is estimated at a worth of more than $100,000.
The coins were found hidden in a partly broken pottery vessel at the Appollonia National Park, where archaeologists say the former Crusader town of Apollonia-Arsuf once thrived. The dig is being carried out under the joint auspices of Tel Aviv University and the Nature and Parks Authority.
Included among the items found were 108 gold coins, including 93 that weighed four grams each, and 15 that weighed 1 gram each. The gold was not new and clearly was part of someone's family treasure or business investment. The coins were minted in Egypt approximately 250 years prior to their burial under the floor tiles of the 13th century CE fortress that has been under excavation for more than 30 years.
A large cache of arrowheads – hundreds, in fact – and other weaponry, including stones used in catapults, also was found. Archaeologists said the find indicated a fierce battle had taken place at the time the Mameluks seized the area from the Crusaders.
TAU Professor Oren Tal pointed out that the manner in which the treasure was hidden indicated its owner's intention of returning to reclaim it. "I think the stash was deliberately buried in a partly broken vessel, which was filled with sand and buried under the floor tiles so if anyone were to discover it, he would simply believe it to be a broken pot, and ignore it.”
Appollonia National Park director Haggai Yoynana added that if one were to add the treasure to the findings of the weaponry, “it tells the story of a prolonged siege and a harsh battle.” According to the website of the Biblical Archaeological Society, the clash has been identified as the Battle of Arsuf, between Saladin and Richard the Lionheart.
The Crusader fortress had been uncovered at the site some time ago, along with remains of a port city dating back to the time of the Phoenicians. Archaeologists have also found the remains of a Roman villa, a well-preserved market street from the Early Islamic period and a massive gate complex.
June 2012 - JERSEY, CHANNEL ISLANDS - After hunting for buried treasure for three decades – and not finding a great deal – even the most diligent of us might have given up. But not Reg Mead and Richard Miles. The two amateur metal detectors kept up their search of the same area throughout the decades and have finally struck gold – or rather silver. They have unearthed the largest hoard of Celtic coins ever found. Each one of the 30,000–50,000 coins is estimated to be worth around £200 each, putting the value of the haul at up to £10milion.
They are thought to be from the first century BC and were found buried 3ft deep under a hedge in a farmer’s field on Jersey. Two thousand years ago the Channel Island – which remains a popular spot to stash large sums of money – was a refuge for tribes fleeing what is now northern France from the invading Roman armies. As the legions of Julius Ceasar drew closer, the treasure is thought to have been buried by a Celtic tribe called the Coriosolitae, in the hope it could be dug up once the danger had passed. And there the coins – packed in clay and weighing a ton – have remained undisturbed until last week.
The men who discovered them, Mr Mead, 70, and Mr Miles, a customs officer in his 40s, suspected treasure was in the area three decades ago, when they heard rumours a farmer had found some silver pieces on his land. After a series of largely unsuccessful forays in the area, they unearthed a stash of 120 coins in February.
Mr Mead, a grandfather who lives with wife Ruth in St Clement, Jersey, said: ‘Richard found the first one and it was amazing – when you see him raising his hand above his head (saying) “got one”.’ The pair used a powerful metal detector known as a deepseeker to search for more treasure in the field and struck lucky last week.
‘The machine picked up a really strong signal – so we immediately got in touch with professional archaeologists,’ Mr Mead said. ‘They started digging and we could not believe how many coins there were. ‘All of them were stuck together. I have been searching for things like this since 1959 and never found anything on this scale before. ‘We had been searching that land for 30 years.’
After four days of careful digging the hoard was hauled to the surface by crane. It will now be subject of an inquest to determine ownership rights. Mr Mead added: ‘I am absolutely numb at the moment. To find one haul of coins in a lifetime is rare, but to find two is just unheard of.’ The location of the find is being kept secret.
Neil Mahrer of Jersey Heritage Museum, who helped to excavate the money, said: ‘This is the biggest Celtic coin hoard ever found which is tremendously exciting.’ The previous record find was in 1935 at La Marquanderie in Jersey when more than 11,000 were discovered.
Mr Mahrer added that the coins, which are called staters and quarter staters, weigh as much as a 50p piece. ‘All the coins are silver and a common theme is a picture of a man or god’s head on one side of the coin and a horse on the other,’ he said. ‘They are covered in green corrosion because the silver is mixed with copper and copper corrodes. But they should come up again in a good condition.’
Dr Philip de Jersey, a former Celtic coin expert at Oxford University, said: ‘The find is very significant. It will add a huge amount of new information, not just about the coins themselves, but the people who were using them.’
June 2012 - FINLAND - The champagne (six bottles of Juglar, four of Veuve Clicquot, and one of Heidsieck) was sitting at the bottom of the Baltic Sea for nearly 170 years until it was discovered by divers in 2010. The discovery yielded 162 bottles.
The 11 bottles sold for a total of $156,000. One of the Veuve Clicquot bottles was sold for close to $20,000 on its own.
Christian Ekstroem, 33, who was on the dive that uncovered the old champagne said, "We didn’t know what we had found at first. I brought a bottle up and the closer I got to the surface, I had to hold the cork down with my thumb. It popped when I was in the boat, so we poured some into cups. We had no idea how valuable it was."
That taste may be the last that Ekstroem or his fellow divers ever receive of the valuable champagne. According to Bloomberg, wrecks more than 100-years-old belong to the government. Which means that Ekstroem hasn’t seen any revenue from expensive champagne. "We’ve had nothing, not even a thank you. It’s not even about the money."
The most recent auction brought in some big money, but according to Bloomberg, the most expensive bottle of champagne was sold last June. A bottle of Vueve Clicquot, from the same stockpile of shipwreck champagne, sold for close to $40,000.
March 2012 - BATH, ENGLAND - More than 30,000 Roman coins were found by archaeologists working in Bath in 2007, it has been revealed. The silver coins are believed to date from 270AD and have been described as the fifth largest UK hoard ever found.
The coins are fused together and were sent to the British Museum. Conservators are expected to take at least a year to work through them. A campaign has now been started at the Roman Baths to try to raise £150,000 to acquire and display them.
The size of the find is not as large as the Frome Hoard in April 2010 when more than 53,500 coins were discovered by metal detectorist Dave Crisp near Frome in Somerset. The coins found in this hoard date from a similar time and are thought to be the largest ever discovered in a Roman town in the UK.
Roman Baths spokesman Stephen Clews said: "We've put in a request for a formal valuation and then hope to buy the coins to display them at the baths. At the time there was a lot of unrest in the Roman Empire so there may be some explanation for why the coins were hidden away. The find is also unusual as it was discovered by professional archaeologists as opposed to an amateur using a metal detector," he added.
January 2012 - LONDON, ENGLAND - The remains of the first HMS Victory are to be raised from the sea bed nearly 300 years after it sank. The vessel, predecessor of Nelson's famous flagship, went down in a storm off the Channel Islands in 1744, taking more than 1,000 soldiers to their deaths.
Along with a bronze cannon collection, some believe the ship was carrying a large quantity of gold coins from Lisbon to Britain, which would now be worth a reported £500 million.
The wreck is to be handed over to the Maritime Heritage Foundation, which is expected to employ Odyssey Marine Exploration to carry out the recovery. The American company found the ship four years ago. A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said: "Efforts to protect key parts of British Naval history such as the wreck of HMS Victory 1744 are very welcome and we hope to make an announcement shortly."
The guns and other artefacts will be displayed in British museums, while Odyssey is likely to receive the bulk of any treasure under the laws of salvage, the newspaper reported.
The Maritime Heritage Foundation was set up by Lord Lingfield, the Tory peer formerly known as Sir Robert Balchin. He is a relative of Admiral Sir John Balchin who was on board the Victory when it sank, although he stressed he would not profit personally from the ship's cargo.
Lord Lingfield told the Sunday Times: "The foundation seeks to prevent damage to this historically important site and maximise its archaeological, scientific and educational value. "We hope it will give a unique insight into the world of the mid-18th century Royal Navy."
The ship's location remained a mystery despite numerous searches, until Odyssey discovered the wreck in May 2008. The Florida-based firm found the site 330ft under the English Channel, nearly 65 miles from where the ship was historically believed to have been wrecked, near the Channel Islands.
The Dutch financial publication Amsterdamsche Courant reported on November 18 1744, a month after the ship sank: "People will have it that on board of the Victory was a sum of 400,000 pounds sterling that it had brought from Lisbon for our merchants."
It was also thought that large quantities of silver and gold coins would have been on board the Victory from enemy prize ships captured by Balchin, worth 120,000 pounds sterling at the time.
September 2011 - STIRLINGSHIRE, SCOTLAND - An Iron Age hoard of gold, unearthed by an amateur treasure hunter, has been highlighted as the major discovery of a host of "outstanding finds" from Scotland's past which have been allocated to museums over the past year. The dramatic discovery of the four golden neck ornaments - known as torcs - near Stirling has resulted in the rewards being made through Scotland's Treasure Trove Unit (TTU) leaping from just under £11,000 in 2010 to £483,702 this year.
The majority of the reward money - £462,000 - went to David Booth, the chief ranger at Blair Drummond Safari Park, who found the valuable pieces of 2,000-year-old jewellery, hailed as one of the most important hoards of Iron Age Britain. He discovered them in a field near his home, buried six inches beneath the surface, using a £240 metal detector.
The ceremonial neck pieces have already been saved for the nation and are on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Catherine Dyer, who is responsible for claiming objects for the Crown under the law of Treasure Trove as the Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer, said the annual report of the TTU showed that 2011 had been an outstanding year for finds in Scotland.
She said: "The report confirms that this has been another magnificent year, with some outstanding finds being reported, preserved and displayed in breathtaking museum collections around Scotland. "Every artefact recovered tells us a story of life in Scotland through the ages." Ms Dyer added: "March 2011 saw the allocation of one of the most outstanding finds we have ever had reported - the magnificent gold Iron Age torcs found in Stirlingshire. The torcs rightly feature prominently in the list of Treasure Trove claimed for the nation and are on display in the National Museum for everyone to marvel at and enjoy.
"It is truly astounding that such beautiful items were around in Scotland so many centuries ago and further that they lay hidden, but largely undamaged, under the earth in that Stirlingshire field for so long." The treasure trove report states: "This hoard comprises the most significant discovery of Iron Age gold objects from Scotland for well over 100 years.
"Two of the torcs are 'ribbon torcs', finely twisted ornaments of a type found in Scotland and Ireland. The remaining two are far more unusual; a fragmentary torc in two pieces is of a type known to originate from south-west France, while the last piece has an unusual mixture of styles. "This last torc has a body made from braided gold wire, a common technique for torcs made in the British Isles. However, the terminals are highly unusual, decorated with beading and gold wire. This latter technique is typical of the Mediterranean."
The report reveals the torcs were among 269 finds reported to the Treasure Trove Unit. Among the other important finds, unearthed from Scotland's past and given to museums over the last year, were half of a silver penny of King William the Lion, minted during his reign in the 12th century, which was found in Prestonpans in East Lothian, and a mid-16th to early-17th century gold button found in Braco, Perth and Kinross.
One of the other more intriguing finds was a 13th century Papal Bulla of Pope Gregory IX which was found at Culross in Fife. Bulla were lead seals used to authenticate documents and communications issued from the Vatican. According to the report, the Bulla had been pierced to allow the lead seal be to converted to be worn around the neck, much like a pilgrim badge. The report states: "This is an unusual example of a mundane item of ecclesiastical bureaucracy being transformed into one of personal significance."
Other discoveries include a medieval dagger pommel, decorated on both sides with heraldic shields on both blue and red enamels, found at Blair Drummond, and a Bronze Age spearhead at Yetholm in the Borders.
Professor Ian Ralston, chairman of the Scottish archaeological finds allocation panel, said: "The objects which were allocated to museums range from the relatively everyday in terms of category of finds, but nonetheless significant, right through to the spectacular, including the Blair Drummond torcs." He added: "The panel is very pleased that those individual chance or metal-detector finds have been allocated to public museums in many communities across the country, and their public-spirited finders suitably acknowledged."
But Prof Ralston warned: "The panel remains concerned … that there seems to be serious under-reporting of casual archaeological finds from Scotland. The current decline in the number of archaeologists employed in the museum sector in Scotland seems likely to mean these issues become more acute." The report reveals that during the year the unit handled 128 claimed Treasure Trove cases. The total sum paid in respect of ex-gratia awards was £483,702. Individual payments ranged from £10 to £462,000. In four cases, the finders chose to forgo their ex-gratia awards.
July 2011 - MONTGOMERY, ENGLAND - More than 3,000 Roman coins have been discovered in a field, it has emerged. The hoard of copper alloy coins, dating from the 3rd Century, was unearthed in Montgomery, Powys, several weeks ago. About 900 were found by a member of a Welshpool metal detecting club, with the rest of the discovery made with help from archaeologists. The exact location is being kept secret to protect the site. The Powys coroner will determine whether they qualify as treasure.
Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust (CPAT), which helped unearth the coins, said the discovery had the potential to reveal more about Roman life in mid Wales in the late 3rd Century. The find in Montgomery is a few miles away from where a Roman fort once stood in the village of Forden. The majority of the coins were found buried in a ceramic pot, said the trust.
The initial discovery of more than 900 coins was made by Adrian Simmons, a member of Welshpool's Oldford Force Team metal detecting club in June. He called in the trust, who excavated the site on 5 July, finding more than 2,000 coins.
Chris Martin, regional archaeologist at the trust, said: "We are very excited about this discovery and are very grateful to Mr Simmons for acting so responsibly and to the landowner for his support. "This was probably a time of considerable political and economic unrest and the coins may have been buried for safekeeping with the intention of returning for them in the future. "Unfortunately for the original owner, but happily for us, for some reason they never had the chance to recover them."
The coins were taken to the National Museum Wales in Cardiff, where an expert is writing a report. This will be passed to Powys coroner Peter Maddox, who will decide on what happens to the coins, and whether the finder is entitled to a fee if they are ruled to be treasure.
July 2011 - ANGLESEY ISLAND, ENGLAND - Treasure hunters have recovered gold from a Victorian shipwreck that sunk off Anglesey Island in Wales while returning laden with riches from the Australian gold rush. For more than 150 years it has lain tantalisingly close to the shore. Now the ship that sank in a storm in 1859, claiming 450 lives, has given up its most precious secret: gold. But this treasure trove is not in a distant tropical lagoon -- it is near the ferry port of Holyhead, in the remains of an iron-clad steam clipper called the Royal Charter.
A team of divers at the ship, which sunk off Anglesey while returning with riches from the Australian gold rush of the 1850s, has brought gold coins and nuggets to the surface and expects to find more. The ship foundered on rocks just yards from the shore after a hurricane hit on the last leg of its journey from Melbourne to Liverpool in October 1859. On board were gold prospectors returning with their fortunes. By daybreak the ship had sunk and 450 passengers and crew, along with the gold, had been lost.
Vincent Thurkettle, a full-time gold panner who is leading the expedition, said: "We have got some gold dust, nuggets and coins as well as about 200 artefacts. And there is more gold down there." The finds have all been reported to the Receiver of Wreck, who administers all shipwrecks. People connected to the passengers can claim ownership -- although claims are thought to be unlikely. The gold will then be returned to the team or sold to a museum, with a fee passed to the divers. The treasure has yet to be valued and the team have declined to say how big their haul is. However, the value, particularly of the coins, will be inflated because of where they were found. Mr Thurkettle said: "To have a coin from the Royal Charter will probably be worth double or treble what it would otherwise be worth."
His team of about 12 divers and gold panners have been visiting the wreck for the past seven summers, but only now have they agreed to reveal details. They estimate there's another two years' worth of exploring left. The wreck lies just off the village of Moelfre, on Anglesey's east coast, in clay beneath about 15ft of water, and sand. To search for gold, the team blow away the top sand. They then use a machine to suck up sand and clay to be sifted for gold fragments.
Her captain had tried to anchor in Moelfre Bay to escape the storm but the vessel's chain broke and her engine was not strong enough to keep her off the rocks, where she was battered by 60ft waves and 100mph winds. The ship snapped in two while less than 50 yards from the coast. A Maltese seaman made it to shore with a lifeline, allowing a few survivors to reach land. But only 39 of the estimated 490 on board were saved.
The storm was one of the worst of the 19th century and became known as the "Royal Charter gale" with about 200 vessels lost around the British coast. Charles Dickens, at the height of his fame, went to north Wales to report on the aftermath. At least 79,000 ounces of gold were on the boat. Soldiers and coastguards salvaged some before many of the bodies had been recovered. The press upset villagers by accusing them of stealing the gold. About 80 per cent of the haul was recovered, leaving the tantalising prospect that, even after the latest find, millions of pounds' worth of gold remain on the seabed.
July 2011 - MILLAU, FRANCE - A French couple have found a hoard of gold coins worth at least 100,000 euros (£89,000; $140,000) in the cellar of their home in the town of Millau. They were working on their drains when they dug up the 34 coins in a little clay pot, French media said.
The coins date from 1595 to the French Revolution, which began in 1789, said a local coin expert who evaluated them. The most valuable is a double louis from 1640, during the reign of Louis XIII, worth 6,500 euros.
The coin expert, Marc Aigouy, told AFP news agency that he offered either to buy the coins from the couple or to organise an auction on their behalf. He said if American and Japanese buyers participated, the coins could fetch at least 100,000 euros.
Mr Aigouy said the couple wish to remain anonymous but they live on rue Droite, an old Roman road which is the oldest street in Millau, in southern France. Under French law, the couple are allowed to keep the treasure because it was found on their own property, Mr Aigouy said.
July 2011 - MUMBAI, INDIA - A court-ordered search of vaults beneath a south Indian temple has unearthed gold, jewels and statues worth an estimated $22 billion, government officials said Monday. The treasure trove, at the 16th century Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple, is widely believed to be the largest find of its kind in India, catching officials in the state of Kerala by surprise and forcing the government to send two dozen police officers to the previously unguarded shrine for round-the-clock security.
The discovery has also revived questions about who should manage the wealth, much of which is believed to have been deposited at the temple by the royal family of the princely state of Travancore, which acceded to India when the country became independent in 1947. Some of the vaults under the temple have not been opened for nearly 150 years, temple officials have said.
Temples in India often have rich endowments, mainly from donations of gold and cash by pilgrims and wealthy patrons, but the wealth discovered at Padmanabhaswamy dwarfs the known assets of every other Indian temple. Such assets are typically meant to be used by administrators to operate temples and provide services to the poor, but they have often become the subject of heated disputes and controversies.
India’s Supreme Court ordered the opening of the vaults at Padmanabhaswamy to assess the wealth of the temple after a local activist, T. P. Sundararajan, filed a case accusing administrators of mismanaging and poorly guarding the temple. Descendants of the royal family still control the trust that manages the temple, which is devoted to the Hindu god Vishnu.
Searchers have found bags of gold coins, diamonds and other jewels and solid-gold statues of gods and goddesses. On Monday, searchers started to unseal “Section B” of the vaults, a large space that was expected to reveal another sizable collection, said P. T. Chacko, the spokesman for the chief minister of Kerala, Oommen Chandy.
Mr. Chacko said Kerala would not seek control of the temple or its treasure, a step that some activists have recommended. “The treasure is donated to the temple from disciples and believers; it’s the property of the temple,” he said. “It has nothing to do with the state.”
India’s Supreme Court will decide what happens to the treasure and the rest of the temple, which sits in the heart of Kerala’s capital, Thiruvananthapuram, once it has established the total value of the holdings, which could take months to finish. Early estimates of the treasure have been raised several times as searchers have opened more of the vaults in recent days.
June 2011 - KATHMANDU, NEPAL - Workers renovating a former royal palace in the Nepalese capital have discovered a huge stash of gold and silver ornaments weighing more than 300 kilograms (661 pounds), the government said Tuesday.
Three boxes of treasures, thought to be more than 500 years old, were hidden in a store room under the sprawling 16th-century Hanuman Dhoka palace, a UNESCO world heritage site, a spokesman for the culture ministry told AFP.
"There are coins and ornaments that look like offerings to the gods and goddesses," said the spokesman, Jalkrishna Shrestha. Only one box has been opened so far and its contents would be worth about 17.5 million rupees ($233,334) on the local gold and silver markets, according to an AFP calculation. The other two boxes will be opened later this week. "We expect to find more such treasure as the renovation continues," Shrestha said.
The 4.5-million-rupee government restoration project at the dilapidated palace, which housed Nepal's royals until the late 19th century and is now a museum, began two months ago and will go on until September.
The palace in Kathmandu, with intricately carved features and several courtyards, was named after the Hindu monkey god Hanuman. It was built by Malla rulers who were defeated by Prithvi Narayan Shah, the founder of Nepal in 1768. The palace also served as a venue for the coronation of the country's kings until the monarchy was abolished three years ago.
Nepal's former king Gyanendra was deposed in 2008 after Maoist rebels who fought a decade-long battle against the country's centuries-old Hindu monarchy came to power. Gyanendra, who was widely disliked, came to power in 2001 after the former crown prince shot and killed nine members of his own family including the king and queen, before turning his gun on himself.
June 2011 - KEY WEST, FLORIDA - A gold and emerald ring valued at half a million dollars was found Thursday in the remnants of a Spanish ship that sank off the Florida Keys in 1622. A dive team aboard the Magruder salvage ship, part of the fleet from Mel Fisher's Treasures in Key West, discovered the ring in about 30 feet of water.
The ring, which has initials engraved on it, came from the wreck of the Atocha, which sank during a hurricane nearly 400 years ago. The gold ring has a rectangular cut estimated at 10 karats.
A spokesperson said the ring's estimated value is based on the stone's 2.7- by 2.5-centimeter size and the value of other emeralds from Atocha. Also found were two silver spoons and other artifacts. A 40-inch gold rosary was found in March and a gold bar in April.
Vice president Sean Fisher, the grandson of the late Mel Fisher, was on board the salvage vessel JB Magruder when the big discovery was made at the shipwreck site of the Nuestra Senora de Atocha. The Spanish galleon was the most famous ship of a fleet that was heading to Spain when a hurricane struck in 1622. “This is the most significant artifact I have personally seen them bring out of the water,” Fisher said in a statement.
The Mel Fisher team has been recovering treasure from the Atocha for the last 40 years. The ring is the most valuable artifact found this season and is one of the more significant, valuable and beautiful artifacts from the ship.
March 2011 - LONDON, ENGLAND - They could be the earliest Christian writing in existence, surviving almost 2,000 years in a Jordanian cave. They could, just possibly, change our understanding of how Jesus was crucified and resurrected, and how Christianity was born. A group of 70 or so "books", each with between five and 15 lead leaves bound by lead rings, was apparently discovered in a remote arid valley in northern Jordan somewhere between 2005 and 2007. A flash flood had exposed two niches inside the cave, one of them marked with a menorah or candlestick, the ancient Jewish religious symbol.
A Jordanian Bedouin opened these plugs, and what he found inside might constitute extremely rare relics of early Christianity. That is certainly the view of the Jordanian government, which claims they were smuggled into Israel by another Bedouin. The Israeli Bedouin who currently holds the books has denied smuggling them out of Jordan, and claims they have been in his family for 100 years. Jordan says it will "exert all efforts at every level" to get the relics repatriated.
The director of the Jordan's Department of Antiquities, Ziad al-Saad, says the books might have been made by followers of Jesus in the few decades immediately following his crucifixion. "They will really match, and perhaps be more significant than, the Dead Sea Scrolls," says Mr Saad. "Maybe it will lead to further interpretation and authenticity checks of the material, but the initial information is very encouraging, and it seems that we are looking at a very important and significant discovery, maybe the most important discovery in the history of archaeology."
The texts might have been written in the decades following the crucifixion They seem almost incredible claims - so what is the evidence? The books, or "codices", were apparently cast in lead, before being bound by lead rings. Their leaves - which are mostly about the size of a credit card - contain text in Ancient Hebrew, most of which is in code.
If the relics are of early Christian origin rather than Jewish, then they are of huge significance. One of the few people to see the collection is David Elkington, a scholar of ancient religious archaeology who is heading a British team trying to get the lead books safely into a Jordanian museum. He says they could be "the major discovery of Christian history", adding: "It's a breathtaking thought that we have held these objects that might have been held by the early saints of the Church."
He believes the most telling evidence for an early Christian origin lies in the images decorating the covers of the books and some of the pages of those which have so far been opened. Mr Elkington says the relics feature signs that early Christians would have interpreted as indicating Jesus, shown side-by-side with others they would have regarded as representing the presence of God.
"It's talking about the coming of the messiah," he says. "In the upper square [of one of the book covers] we have the seven-branch menorah, which Jews were utterly forbidden to represent because it resided in the holiest place in the Temple in the presence of God. "So we have the coming of the messiah to approach the holy of holies, in other words to get legitimacy from God."
Philip Davies, Emeritus Professor of Old Testament Studies at Sheffield University, says the most powerful evidence for a Christian origin lies in plates cast into a picture map of the holy city of Jerusalem. "As soon as I saw that, I was dumbstruck. That struck me as so obviously a Christian image," he says. "There is a cross in the foreground, and behind it is what has to be the tomb [of Jesus], a small building with an opening, and behind that the walls of the city. There are walls depicted on other pages of these books too and they almost certainly refer to Jerusalem." The books were bound by lead rings It is the cross that is the most telling feature, in the shape of a capital T, as the crosses used by Romans for crucifixion were. "It is a Christian crucifixion taking place outside the city walls," says Mr Davies.
Margaret Barker, an authority on New Testament history, points to the location of the reported discovery as evidence of Christian, rather than purely Jewish, origin. "We do know that on two occasions groups of refugees from the troubles in Jerusalem fled east, they crossed the Jordan near Jericho and then they fled east to very approximately where these books were said to have been found," she says. "Another one of the things that is most likely pointing towards a Christian provenance, is that these are not scrolls but books. The Christians were particularly associated with writing in a book form rather than scroll form, and sealed books in particular as part of the secret tradition of early Christianity."
Another potential link with the Bible is contained in one of the few fragments of text from the collection to have been translated. It appears with the image of the menorah and reads "I shall walk uprightly", a sentence that also appears in the Book of Revelation. While it could be simply a sentiment common in Judaism, it could here be designed to refer to the resurrection. It is by no means certain that all of the artefacts in the collection are from the same period. But tests by metallurgists on the badly corroded lead suggest that the books were not made recently.
The archaeology of early Christianity is particularly sparse. Little is known of the movement after Jesus' crucifixion until the letters of Paul several decades later, and they illuminate the westward spread of Christianity outside the Jewish world. Never has there been a discovery of relics on this scale from the early Christian movement, in its homeland and so early in its history.
March 2011 - KEY WEST, FLORIDA - A deep sea diver has struck gold after unearthing a 17th century chain worth $250,000 from the ocean floor. Bill Burt, a diver for Mel Fisher's Treasures, spotted the 40-inch gold chain while looking for the wrecked Nuestra Senora de Atocha, which sank off the Florida Keys in a 1622 hurricane. Shipwreck experts have tentatively valued the piece at around $250,000.
The chain has 55 links, an enamelled gold cross and a two-sided engraved religious medallion featuring the Virgin Mary and a chalice. On the edges of the cross there is engraved wording thought to be in Latin. Andy Matroci, captain of Mel Fisher's Treasures salvage vessel, JB Magruder, said the crew had been diving at the North end of the Atocha trail.
On their last trip to the wreck they uncovered 22 silver coins and a cannon ball just east of the site. They had been hoping to find more coins in the area, Mr Matroci said, but instead found the chain.
'In the nine years I have been running this boat this is the most unique artifact we have brought up,' Mr Matroci said. The piece is believed to be from the Atocha's infamous treasure trove. The company has uncovered half a billion dollars in historic artefacts, gold, silver and emeralds since they began diving the wreck in 1969.
In 1985 - after 15 years of searching - the Fisher crew discovered Atocha's 'mother lode', worth more than $450 million. They unearthed thousands of artifacts, silver coins, gold coins - many in near mint condition, exquisite jewellery sets with precious stones, gold chains, disks, a variety of armaments and even seeds, which later sprouted.
They then faced a legal wrangle with the U.S. Government claimed title to the wreck. Florida state officials seized many of the items the Fisher crew had retrieved. But after eight years of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Fisher's favor. The contents of the ships sterncastle - a wooden, fort-shaped area at the back of ship, have never been recovered.
This is where the wealthy passengers, including nobility and clergy, would have stayed. Fisher's estimates the treasure in the sterncastle section is worth in the region of half a billion dollars. The latest find was likely owned by a member of the clergy indicating the company's search for the missing treasure trove could be getting nearer.
March 2011 - SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - It took only two minutes of feverish bidding at a Sacramento auction Wednesday for a buyer to snatch up the biggest existing gold nugget confirmed to have been dug out of Sierra foothills Forty-Niner country. Feverish might be an understatement. The bidder had to cough up $460,000.
The Washington Nugget, which fits in one hand, weighs 8.2 pounds and would have fetched something less than its flat value of $137,744 at current gold prices, considering it has a few rock veins shooting through it. But this isn't merely meltdown gold. This chunk has a story. It was scratched out of the earth by a man wielding a pick in his backyard near the historic town of Washington (Nevada County). That means it was found in the same area where the old Forty-Niners spent their days scramblin', diggin' and wieldin' smoking six-guns in the mid-1800s in the most famous Gold Rush in American history.
Other big hunks of gold exist in museums and private collections, but none is quite like this one, California State Library historians said. If not for a few fateful twists of many shovels, the Washington Nugget might have been found 150 years ago as prospectors extracted millions of dollars worth of gold from the hills and streams around Washington. Instead, the finder pinged it with a metal detector last March.
The finder and the auctioneers have jealously guarded his name for his protection - same with the name of the man who bought the nugget. All the co-auctioneer, coin dealer Don Kagin of Tiburon, would say Wednesday was that the buyer was from "back East," and the seller was "very pleased."
Bidding on the Washington Nugget at the Golden West Auction in Sacramento started at 4:45 p.m., and the opening shot was $250,000. By 4:47 a flurry of bidders had topped each other with bids up to $400,000 - and that's where the hammer fell. The final price was $460,000, once a fee had been tacked on for Kagin and his auction partner, mining geologist Fred Holabird of Reno.
"There's a real art to these things," Kagin said. "The bidding moves at 100 miles an hour." Turns out the bidding might keep on moving. The seller was so inspired by the sale of the nugget sale that he asked Kagin afterward to sell the land where the nugget was found. It consists of 180 acres about 20 miles east of Nevada City, and assayers have already guessed there are at least 4,000 ounces of gold left to drag out of the dirt, Kagin said.
And, oh yes - the seller found two smaller nuggets when he found the whopper. Weighing 4 and 10 ounces, they sold Wednesday for $7,700 and $17,000 to a different bidder. "We'll be looking into auctioning the land after we figure a few things out," Kagin said.
Update: This nugget may have been originally found in Australia.
March 2011 - NEWARK, ENGLAND - A treasure hunter has found 18 Bronze Age items in a field near Newark in Nottinghamshire. Maurice Richardson stumbled across the collection, which includes four socket axes, a spear head, a chisel and a fragmented sword, by mistake. "I was on my way back to the car after being out all afternoon and wandered off the track," he said. "If I hadn't I wouldn't have found it."
This is the third major discovery Mr Richardson has made. In 2005 he dug up an ancient necklace valued at £350,000 while in 2010 he found a hoard of Roman coins. The tools were found just a foot below the surface of a farmer's field. The first things to be dug out were three of the four axes; Mr Richardson said he immediately knew what they were. The items have been confirmed by Dr Chris Robinson, an archaeological officer from Nottinghamshire County Council, as a founders hoard.
"Bronze Age metal workers tended to be itinerant. They would travel around the land plying their trade," said Dr Robinson. "Often they would bury their produce and come back for it later."
The finds will now be submitted to the Portable Antiques Scheme (PAS) so that they can be recorded. Research by Mr Richardson suggests that his latest hoard may be worth a few thousand pounds. But the tree surgeon said his hobby, which he has been doing every Saturday and Sunday afternoon for 40 years, is nothing to do with the money. "It's the interest in the local history and the buzz from handling something that is thousands of years old," he said. Mr Richardson confessed that there was no secret to his success. "It's embarrassing really. There's no recipe. It just seems to happen," he said.
November 2010 - LONDON, ENGLAND - If James Hyatt was old enough to understand the concept, his family would tell him he is blessed with beginner’s luck. The three-year-old was minutes into his first ever attempt at metal detecting when he found a gold locket potentially worth £2.5million. He had just been passed the device at a field in Hockley, Essex, when it began to buzz.
Buried 8in below was a reliquary. This is a gold container used to hold religious relics – items believed to be the remains of religious figures or objects associated with them. Experts have dated the locket to the early 16th century – the era of Henry VIII – and say it could have belonged to a member of the royal family.
The reliquary has been declared treasure trove at an inquest, meaning the proceeds of its sale will be shared between James’s family and the landowner. The sides of the reliquary are about an inch long and it is 73 per cent gold. The front is engraved with an image of the Virgin Mary clutching a cross while the back has five bleeding hearts. Only three other reliquaries of this type are known to have survived. James’s find will be valued and then offered for sale to institutions including the British Museum.
October 2010 - LONDON, ENGLAND - A valuable hoard of American gold coins has been unearthed in an east London garden — one of Britain's most curious treasure finds.
Buried hoards are discovered every so often, but their Anglo-Saxon, Viking or Roman owners were themselves interred long ago. Whoever hid the 80 coins from the 19th and early 20th centuries may be alive. Why they chose the garden of a residential block in Hackney is a mystery.
Archaeologists more used to deciphering which Roman emperor is depicted on a coin have been taken aback by the find — gold $20 “Double Eagle” pieces dating from 1854 to 1913 and minted mostly in San Francisco and Philadelphia. Estimates put the value at hundreds of thousands of pounds. The coins, so large that each one weighs 33 grams, go on show at the Museum of London tomorrow.
They were uncovered by two residents who decided to do gardening with a couple of friends. A spade hit something hard. Expecting to remove a brick or a rock, they found themselves staring at glistening gold. One finder, interested in archaeology, alerted the Museum of London, which contacted the Portable Antiquities Scheme at the British Museum. Scheme head Dr Roger Bland told the Standard: “There is a huge mystery about who might have buried the coins. It's wonderful to speculate. Who buries so many gold coins?”
Today Inner North London coroner Dr Andrew Scott Reid, announcing the find, said the original owner had until next spring to come forward. The finders are remaining anonymous and the find's location is not being released to discourage false claims. An ill-gotten gain has to be possible and police records are being checked. If the coins are declared Treasure, they will become Crown property and will be valued. Hackney Museum wants to acquire them and the money paid would be split between the land owner and the finders.
October 2010 - LONDON, ENGLAND - A bid by a Cumbrian museum to buy a rare Roman helmet and keep it in the county has failed after an anonymous phone bidder bought it for £2m. The helmet was unearthed by a metal detector enthusiast in Crosby Garrett, near Kirkby Stephen, in May. The piece, thought to have been worn by soldiers at sports events, was expected to fetch £300,000 when it went under the hammer at Christie's in London.
Carlisle's Tullie House was one of the bidders but was not successful. Museum director Hilary Wade said: "We are of course disappointed that we haven't achieve it this time but we are going to battle on." The museum's appeal attracted public donations of more than £100,000. It included £50,000 from an anonymous businessman who pledged that amount if the public matched it. The National Heritage Memorial Fund awarded the museum a £1m grant towards its bid. However, she said museum chiefs might look at the possibility of negotiating with the buyer to try to bring the helmet to the museum, at least on a short-term basis.
The helmet was expected to fetch £300,000 Tourism chiefs said they believed keeping the helmet in Cumbria would result in a £3m boost to the local economy. They said they thought the helmet would have a "Mona Lisa" effect in drawing visitors to the region. It is thought to be one of only three of its kind to be found in Britain. It would have been worn, possibly with colourful streamers attached, as a mark of excellence by Roman soldiers at sport parades. Christie's described the find as an "extraordinary example of Roman metalwork at its zenith" and "the discovery of a lifetime" for a metal detectorist.
September 2010 - WESTERN AUSTRALIA - Last weekend the Western Australian gold prospectors assembled for their annual meeting at the pub in Ora Banda, a hamlet in the Western Australian outback. At the end of the meeting a nugget buyer from Perth, a guy named Andy Comas, made quite an interesting announcement: he recently acquired and sold a nugget weighing 23.26 kilogram, making it the world’s third largest gold nugget in existence (just after the Hand of Faith at 27.21 kg and the Normandy Nugget at 25.5 kg). When Andy showed a picture of the monster the bar went dead quiet. People just couldn’t take their eyes of it. This was of course what every prospector dreams of and keeps him going: the bloody big one!
The nugget had been found a couple of weeks ago with a metal detector somewhere in the goldfields around here. Through various tests it had been established that the thing has a 92% purity. With today’s gold price of around 1240 US Dollars, the gold value of this baby would be around $860,000. But of course, nuggets of that rarity go for two, three times the gold value.
Anyway, Andy said that the prospector who found it, and who wishes to remain anonymous, gave him a week to sell it. Andy sold it for an undisclosed sum within a couple of days to a buyer in the US. No Australian could come up with the money, somewhat surprising with all the filthy rich mining executives around here.
Most prospectors in the room expressed regret or even outrage that this nugget would leave the country – although no doubt they would have done the exact same thing: sell it to the highest bidder. And they even might get their wish because the story doesn’t end here. The Australian government might declare the nugget a National Treasure – and I think they should – and then Andy wouldn’t be able to export it.
August 2010 - MOSCOW, RUSSIA - The legendary gold treasure of Russia's last Czar could have been found by Mir-2 mini submarine on the bed of the world's deepest fresh water lake Baikal in Siberia, according to reports. The legends say gold estimated at 1,600 tons and worth billions of dollars, was lost after the train of White Admiral Alexander Kolchak, who had declared himself ruler of Siberia during Civil War plunged into the lake from the Krugobaikalskaya line at Cape Polovinny.
"The Russian Mir-2 mini-sub has found a number of shiny metal objects on the bottom of Lake Baikal that could be the legendary Czar's gold lost during the Russian civil war," RIA Novosti reported quoting the Fund for the Protection of Lake Baikal. Explorers have long been searching for the Czar's gold that was allegedly carried by Admiral Alexander Kolchak as he fled the advancing Red Army during the Civil war after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.
Last year, when explorers found fragments of railway wagons and ammunition boxes dating from the civil war, there was, however, considerable scepticism that the gold was still in the lake. However, yesterday the Mir-2 submersible found "shiny metal objects" resembling gold bullions some 400 metres below the surface near Cape Tolsty.
"Explorers attempted to grab hold of them with the mini-sub's manipulator arm but failed to due to the crumbling gravel on the lake's basin. One consolation is that the explorers have determined the exact position of the alleged treasure," the Fund's director Baira Tsyrenova said. Two mini submarines Mir-1 and Mir-2 of the Science Academy for the second year carrying out detailed study of the bed of Lake Baikal.
August 2010 - SEBASTIAN, FLORIDA - Sunday, 15 August 2010 was one of those days, one of those 'boring' days in Florida when the wind lays the ocean down near the Treasure Coast, and the sea is an aqua blue. Bonnie Schubert and her Mom, Jo, were back in the water after some heavy maintenance on their new salvage boat, "GOLD HAWG" ... and then they found it!
At first thought by most to be an eagle, and by some a turkey, the solid gold bird is preliminarily identified by Historian Dr. Eugene Lyon as a " Pelican in Piety"-- representing the legend of the 'mother pelican' wounding her breast to feed her young on the droplets of her own blood and used as a symbol of Christ's sacrifice.
Standing a stately 5-1/2 inches tall, the avian relic weighs 177 grams --that's without her right wing-- and she tests out at 22 karats of pure gold. In her heyday, her open torso held something, probably something ritualistic, possibly an incense container.
Through a hole in the center of her base, she may have been mounted to a pole ... or to an altar. We'll have to wait for the jury to come in with all the details on this wondrous piece. The ornate base of this statuette, on which the bird is standing, resembles a turban and displays what could be a 'Fleur-de-Lis' on the face of it.
"It was just Mom and me aboard the 'Gold Hawg' (C-11, Harold’s old number – for luck!) – I still am in shock. Didn’t think we were even going to make it out there this year, what with engine rebuild and etc." "One wing is missing, and I have been out three days searching for it – no luck there and now our fingers are crossed that we get in a few more days ... but it looks like the tropics are firing up."
July 2010 - SEBASTIAN, FLORIDA - A bounty within a bounty was discovered inside a 300-year-old bronze cannon that had been taken to a historical conservatory for study. The cannon was part of a 1715 shipwreck off the Florida coast that has been studied for some time by Gold Hound LLC, a treasure hunting group. The ship was headed to Spain when it went down in a hurricane. This latest treasure discovery is valued at $500,000.
Treasure hunters said the cannon was a find in itself, a rare bronze swivel cannon used to fend off pirate enemies on the treasure ship's journey back to King Philip V. The cannon was discovered in shallow waters - less than 15 feet deep - off of Sebastian, Florida, approximately 40 miles north of West Palm Beach. It was found alongside 22 rare gold coins.
The cannon was brought to the conservatory to preserve history, where its hidden bounty was discovered. Among the gold coins was an extremely rare 1698 Cuzco mint coin from a Peruvian mine that operated for just four months, adding to the importance and value of the coin, the news release said. Historians have struggled for decades to unearth more information about the mine, of which little is known.
The remaining gold coins appear to be primarily from Bogotá, Colombia, referred to as “Bogie 2s” for their denominations, the news release said. The silver coins, subject to further identification, likely originate from mines in Mexico and Bolivia.
The 1715 Fleet received a cargo of several million silver coins in Vera Cruz. Bolivia’s Cerro River in Potosi was the single most prolific silver producer in the world for several hundred years, the release said. The 1715 Fleet consisted of 11 Spanish galleons and war ships that sank on July 31, 1715, after they left Havana.
July 2010 - LONDON, ENGLAND - A treasure hunter has found about 52,500 Roman coins, one of the largest such finds ever in Britain, officials said Thursday. 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 April 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 (30 centimeters) deep and weighed about 160 kilograms (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 Thursday 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 Carausius 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.
May 2010 - KEY WEST, FLORIDA - Kicking off the 2010 search and recovery season, underwater exploration divers for Keith Webb’s Blue Water Ventures Key West discovered a five-pound fused conglomeration of artifacts Wednesday afternoon, among which a number of sea-blackened silver “pieces of eight” treasure coins are clearly identifiable.
Returning to port from sea late Friday night, Captain Dan Porter, Operations Manager for BWV, said that it won’t be known exactly how many of the hundreds-of-years-old coins—or other types of treasure—are in the calcareous concretion until the mass has undergone conservation.
Discovered in the Florida Straits on the site of the shipwrecked galleon Santa Margarita, Wednesday’s conglomeration discovery was followed on Friday by the discovery of an ornate silver artifact that may be a handle or base to a larger piece, as well as an early muzzle-loaded firearm called an arquebus, and two more loose silver coins, Porter said.
Since 2006, the Blue Water Ventures team has been pursuing the missing portions of the Santa Margarita, which was destroyed in the hurricane of 1622. In 1980, Blue Water’s joint-venture partner, Mel Fishers Treasures, discovered a 23 foot long section of the ship’s wooden hull with treasures valued at approximately $40 million, but the missing portions of the 600 ton ship remained elusive, largely because the widely scattered nature of the wreck and the deep, rapidly shifting and treacherous sands that conceal her remains present unique challenges that technology has only recently advanced to meet.
Archival records reveal that in 1622, the Santa Margarita was swept across the reef off of Key West, grounding into a sand bar. Here she was dashed to bits, creating a debris field that has been compared to that of a piñata beaten by sugar-crazed children. Since extending previously explored wreckage trails, and identifying and tracking newly discovered ones, the Blue Water Ventures team has discovered multi-millions in treasures. Treasure coins like the ones just found were once the most coveted and widely traded money on earth; the economy of the world depended on an uninterrupted flow of these hand-hewn, individually struck coins pouring from New World mints, across the sea to Europe and beyond. Today, they are collected by enthusiasts all over the world and particularly rare types can be worth up to tens of thousands of dollars each.
The ultimate prize? Says BWV CEO Webb, “not including the inevitable smuggled contraband, some 169 silver bars weighing as much as 100 pounds each, close to 3000 ounces of gold in the form of bars, discs and bits, and up to 80,000 more silver treasure coins. We are searching for the point of the Margarita’s first impact. Along the way, we are discovering treasure, and we are discovering history.”
January 2010 - GAZA CITY, ISREAL - The Hamas-run ministry of tourism and antiquities in Gaza on Monday announced the discovery of ancient artifacts near the Egyptian border town of Rafah.
"The most important of the findings are 1,300 antique silver coins, both large and small," said Mohammed al-Agha, tourism and antiquities minister in the Islamist-run government. He said archaeologists had also uncovered a black basalt grinder, a coin with a cross etched on it, and the remains of walls and arches believed to have been built in 320 BC.
They also discovered a "mysterious" underground compartment with a blocked entrance that appeared to be a tomb, Agha said. The Palestinian Authority has been carrying out archaeological excavations since the 1990s, but this was the first major find to be announced by the Hamas-run government.
The archaeological dig, still under way, is close to where a vast network of smuggling tunnels provides a vital economic lifeline amid strict Israeli and Egyptian closures imposed after the takeover.
September 2009 - LONDON, ENGLAND - A man using a metal detector in a rural English field has uncovered the largest Anglo-Saxon gold hoard ever found -- an "unprecedented" treasure that sheds new light on history, archaeologists said Thursday. The hoard includes 5 kilograms (11 pounds) of gold and 2.5 kilograms (5.5 pounds) of silver. That is more than three times the amount of gold found at Sutton Hoo, one of Britain's most important Anglo-Saxon sites, said the local council in Staffordshire where the latest haul was found.
It's an "incredible collection of material -- absolutely unprecedented," said Kevin Leahy, an archaeologist with the Portable Antiquities Scheme, a voluntary group that records finds made by members of the public. "We've moved into new ground with this material." Because the find is so large and important, experts haven't been able to say yet how much it is worth. They hope to make a valuation within 13 months, Staffordshire Council said.
The hoard was first discovered in July by Englishman Terry Herbert, who was using a metal detector he bought more than a decade ago in a jumble sale for only a few pounds (dollars). He belongs to a local metal detecting club in Staffordshire and was just out enjoying his hobby when he made the find. There was so much gold at the site that Herbert said he was soon seeing it in his sleep. "Imagine you're at home and somebody just keeps putting money through your letterbox. That's what it was like," Herbert told Britain's Press Association. "As soon as I closed my eyes I saw gold patterns. I didn't think it was ever going to end."
Herbert found 500 items before he called in experts, who then found a further 800 articles in the soil. Officials aren't saying exactly where the gold was found, other than to say it was in Staffordshire, in north-central England. "Pieces were just literally sat at the top of the soil, at the grass," said Ian Wykes, of the county council. He said the hoard had been unearthed by recent plowing.
Most of the pieces appear to date from the 7th century, though experts can't agree on when the hoard first entered the ground, Staffordshire Council said. The pieces are almost all war gear, Leahy said. There are very few dress fittings and no feminine dress fittings; there are only two gold buckles, and they were probably used for harness armor, he said. Sword hilt fittings and pieces of helmets, all elaborately decorated, are among the more remarkable finds.
"The quantity of gold is amazing but, more importantly, the craftsmanship is consummate," Leahy said. "This was the very best that the Anglo-Saxon metalworkers could do, and they were very good. Tiny garnets were cut to shape and set in a mass of cells to give a rich, glowing effect; it is stunning." The items belonged to the elite -- aristocracy or royalty, he said, though it's not clear who the original or final owners were, why they buried it, or when. "It looks like a collection of trophies, but it is impossible to say if the hoard was the spoils from a single battle or a long and highly successful military career," he said.
More work will help determine how the hoard came to be buried in the field, Leahy said. Many of the objects are inlaid with garnets, which Leahy called "stunning" and "as good as it gets." The filigree on the items is "incredible," he said. Some are decorated in an Anglo-Saxon style consisting of strange animals intertwined with each other. That decoration appears on what is believed to be the cheek-piece of a helmet, decorated with a frieze of running, interlaced animals.
A strip of gold bearing a Biblical inscription in Latin is one of the most significant and controversial finds, Staffordshire Council said. One expert believes the lettering dates from the 7th or early 8th centuries, but another is sure it dates from the 8th or 9th centuries. The inscription, misspelled in places, is probably from the Book of Numbers and reads: "Surge domine et dissipentur inimici tui et fugiant qui oderunt te a facie tua," or "Rise up, o Lord, and may thy enemies be dispersed."
Regardless of the exact date, the hoard is certainly from a period of great turmoil, when kingdoms with tribal loyalties battled each other in a state of perpetual warfare, experts say. The land was also split along religious lines. Christianity was the principal religion, having gained ground at the expense of local pagan forms of worship, experts said. At least two crosses are among the items in the hoard. The largest is intact, though it has been folded, possibly to make it fit into a small space prior to burial, Staffordshire Council said. The folding may mean it was buried by pagans who had little respect for the Christian symbol, but it may have also been done by Christians who had taken it from someone else's shrine, experts said.
The hoard will likely help rewrite history, experts said. "Earlier finds will be looked at in the context of what we find amongst this mass of material," Leahy said. Said Leslie Webster, the former keeper of the Department of Prehistory and Europe at the British Museum, "This is going to alter our perceptions of Anglo-Saxon England."
Excavation of the field where the hoard was found is now complete, and all items that were found are being held at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. The most important objects will go on exhibit from Friday until October 13, after which they will go to the British Museum in London for valuation.
Once the items have been valued, Staffordshire Council said it hopes a selection of the pieces can go on temporary display at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent. Once the hoard is sold, the market value of the find will go to Herbert and the owner of the field where the hoard was discovered. The pair have agreed to split the amount.
September 2009 - SHROPSHIRE, ENGLAND - A massive haul of more than 10,000 Roman coins has been unearthed by an amateur metal detecting enthusiast - on his first ever treasure hunt. The silver and bronze "nummi" coins, dating from between 240AD and 320AD, were discovered in a farmer's field near Shrewsbury, in Shropshire, last month. Finder Nick Davies, 30, was on his first treasure hunt when he discovered the coins, mostly crammed inside a buried 70 lb clay pot.
Experts say the coins have spent an estimated 1,700 years underground. The stunning collection of coins, most of which were found inside the broken brown pot, was uncovered by Nick during a search of land in the Shrewsbury area - just a month after he took up the hobby of metal detecting.
His amazing find is one of the largest collections of Roman coins ever discovered in Shropshire. And the haul could be put on display at Shrewsbury's new £10million heritage centre, it was revealed today. It is also the biggest collection of Roman coins to be found in Britain this year.
Nick, from Ford, Shropshire, said he never expected to find anything on his first treasure hunt - especially anything of any value. He recalled the discovery and described it as "fantastically exciting." Nick said: "The top of the pot had been broken in the ground and a large number of the coins spread in the area. "All of these were recovered during the excavation with the help of a metal detector. "This added at least another 300 coins to the total - it's fantastically exciting. I never expected to find such treasure on my first outing with the detector."
The coins have now been sent to the British Museum for detailed examination, before a report is sent to the coroner. Experts are expected to spend several months cleaning and separating the coins, which have fused together. They will also give them further identification before sending them to the coroner. A treasure trove inquest is then expected to take place next year. Peter Reavill, finds liaison officer from the Portable Antiquities Scheme, records archaeological finds made by the public in England and Wales. He said the coins were probably payment to a farmer or community at the end of a harvest. Speaking to the Shropshire Star, Mr Reavill said the coins appear to date from the period 320AD to 340AD, late in the reign of Constantine I. He said: "The coins date to the reign of Constantine I when Britain was being used to produce food for the Roman Empire. It is possible these coins were paid to a farmer who buried them and used them as a kind of piggy-bank."
Mr Reavill said that among the coins were issues celebrating the anniversary of the founding of Rome and Constantinople. In total the coins and the pot weigh more than 70lb. He added: "This is probably one of the largest coin hoards ever discovered in Shropshire. The finder, Nick Davies, bought his first metal detector a month ago and this is his first find made with it. The coins were placed in a very large storage jar which had been buried in the ground about 1,700 years ago." However, Mr Reavill declined to put a figure on either the value of the coins or the pot until the findings of the inquest are known, but he described the discovery as a "large and important" find. Mr Reavill said the exact location of the find could not be revealed for security reasons.
August 2009 - YORKSHIRE, ENGLAND - Two amateur diggers in northern England have together pocketed 541,000 pounds ($878,000) for finding the most important Viking treasure of its kind in 150 years, soon to go on show at the British Museum.
Metal-detector users David and Andrew Whelan, a father-and- son team, uncovered the hoard in 2007, in Harrogate, Yorkshire, and handed it to the local representative of a national program that registers archaeological finds. The treasure was valued at 1.08 million pounds and has been bought for the nation, with the money split between the finders and landowner.
Andrew Whelan, a 37-year-old real-estate surveyor, recalled setting out on a "fairly typical dreary January day" with his retired father to scour a field that had never yielded anything. Shortly after arriving, David ran over to say he’d hit a hoard.
"The first thing that we found was the bowl, a cup. There were bits of silver chains poking through, and just the edge of a couple of coins," said Andrew Whelan in an interview. He described seeing ingots, a gold bracelet, and perfectly stacked coins. The treasure was placed in plastic Tupperware, taken home, and reported.
The treasure consists of 67 precious-metal objects including bracelets, ornaments, and ingots; 617 coins -- and the gilt silver vessel that contained most of the smaller objects, according to the British Museum. The vessel was made in France or Germany in the mid-9th century, and seems to have been intended for church services.
July 2009 - BERLIN, GERMANY - A Dresden real estate investor and his partner have raised €7 million worth of gold, silver and other artefacts from a sunken pirate ship off the coast of Borneo, daily Bild reported Wednesday.
The pirate ship Forbes sank off the coast of Borneo in 1806. Dresden resident Martin Wenzel and his partner Klaus Keppler spent €3 million of their own money over the past two years trawling the tropical waters for loot from the Forbes and other vessels, the newspaper reported.
"Up until now, we’ve searched 35 wrecks, two had valuable cargo. Now the costs for our three salvage ships, 50 man crew, the licences and all that, are covered," Wenzel told Bild.
The haul from the Forbes turned up 1.5 tonnes of silver coins, gold jewellery, cannons, crystal, Ming porcelain, and 400 bottles of wine. The newspaper reported that the coins alone are worth at least €7 million.
The Forbes was a prolific trading and buccaneering ship that had King George III's approval to attack and plunder foreign vessels. It had raided at least one Chinese ship, as there was Ming dynasty porcelain on board, Mr Wenzel said. The Forbes had carried opium and iron from Calcutta to the far east and was, according to the Asiatic Annual Register, on its way home with a "considerable amount" of loot and cargo. But shortly after it raided a Dutch brig, both ships were driven onto a rock reef at five knots, the register writes.
The crew survived and piled into three lifeboats. Then, after "undergoing the greatest distresses from want of water and provisions under a scorching sun without an awning or anything to cover them" they were picked up by another English ship. The Forbes' captain, a Scotsman named Frazer Sinclair, went on to skipper other English ships and was decorated by George III for his bold raids on foreign vessels. National Archives records suggest Captain Sinclair died in 1816 and describe him as "Mariner of Calcutta".
"At first, everything on the ocean floor looks encrusted and worthless. But when you hold the treasure in your hands, it’s an indescribable rush of adrenaline. You’re witness to times past," Wenzel told Bild.
Wenzel flies to Indonesia six times a year to keep track of the salvage operations. His partner Keppler is there permanently. Wenzel said his next trip is already booked. "We’ve found clues in shipping archives about a wreck off of East Timor that had two tonnes of gold on board," Wenzel said. "But we don’t yet have the salvage license. They are extremely expensive and the political situation there is difficult."
June 2009 - HERTFORDSHIRE, ENGLAND - After seven years of combing fields and beaches with a metal detector, the only thing housewife Mary Hannaby had to show for her hobby was an old dental plate. But all those efforts paid off when her first proper find turned out to be a 15th-century gold treasure valued at £250,000 or more. The find is thought to be part of a high-quality reliquary or pendant, and depicts the Holy Trinity.
Mrs Hannaby, 57, from Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, heard her metal detector's tell-tale beep while out on one of her regular six-hour Sunday detecting walks with her son, woodcarver Michael, 33.
For 500 years, the treasure had lain buried four inches below the ground, despite repeated ploughing. The discovery is all the more astonishing as this was not the first time the Hannabys had scoured the arable field between Ashridge and Great Gaddesden.
"You get a buzz every time you get a signal, but chances are it won't be anything," said Mrs Hannaby. "This time, it popped up all of a sudden," said her son. "You can literally miss things by inches. We couldn't believe it. We always dreamed of finding treasure." And the pair struck gold again when the landowner refused Mrs Hannaby's offer to split the money equally and said he wanted only 30 per cent, saying he would never have known about the treasure if not for her.
Under the Treasure Act of 1996, finders must report potential treasure such as gold and silver objects more than 300 years old. Finders are offered the market value for their discoveries which museums have first option to buy.
At 2.8cm by 2.3cm, the treasure is barely larger than a postage stamp, but its importance is exciting experts. Roger Bland, head of treasure at the British Museum, describes it as an 'important find', and regrets that the museum does not currently have the funds to buy it.
Carolyn Miner, sculpture specialist at Sotheby's, was 'awestruck' when the Hannabys first showed the treasure to her and will auction it in London on July 9. As one of only three of its kind to have survived, the find could be worth even more than £250,000, and its engraving is being compared to that of the Middleham Jewel, which sold at auction for £1.3 million in 1986, and was later resold to the Yorkshire Museum for £2.5 million.
February 2009 - TAMPA, FLORIDA - Florida deep-sea explorers who found $500 million in sunken treasure two years ago say they have discovered another prized shipwreck: A legendary British man-of-war that sank in the English Channel 264 years ago.
Odyssey Marine Exploration hasn't found any gold this time, but it's looking for an even bigger jackpot. The company's research indicates the HMS Victory was carrying 4 tons of gold coins that could be worth considerably more than the treasure that Odyssey raised from a sunken Spanish galleon in 2007, co-founder Greg Stemm said ahead of a news conference set for Monday in London.
So far, Odyssey has recovered two brass cannons from the wreck of the Victory and continues to examine and map the debris field, which lies about 330 feet beneath the surface, Stemm said. The company said it is negotiating with the British government over collaborating on the project.
"This is a big one, just because of the history," Stemm said. "Very rarely do you solve an age-old mystery like this." Odyssey said the 31 bronze cannons and other evidence on the wreck allowed definitive identification of the HMS Victory, 175-foot sailing ship that was separated from its fleet during a storm and sank in the English Channel on Oct. 4, 1744, with at least 900 men aboard. The ship was the largest and, with 110 bronze cannons, the most heavily armed vessel of its day. It was the inspiration for the HMS Victory famously commanded by Adm. Horatio Nelson decades later.
Odyssey was searching for other valuable shipwrecks in the English Channel when it came across the Victory. Stemm wouldn't say exactly where the ship was found for fear of attracting plunderers, though he said it wasn't close to where it was expected to be. "We found this more than 50 miles from where anybody would have thought it went down," Stemm said. Federal court records filed by Odyssey in Tampa seeking the exclusive salvage rights said the site is 25 to 40 miles from the English coast, outside of its territorial waters.
A Ministry of Defense spokesman said Sunday the government was aware of Odyssey's claim to have found the Victory. "Assuming the wreck is indeed that of a British warship, her remains are sovereign immune," he said on condition of anonymity in keeping with government policy. "This means that no intrusive action may be taken without the express consent of the United Kingdom." He would not say whether the government had begun talks with Odyssey over the future of the find.
Newspapers of the day and other historical records analyzed by the company indicated that the Victory sank off the Channel Island of Alderney near Cherbourg, France. A 1991 British postage stamp depicts the Victory crashing on the rocks there. Pieces of the ship had washed up in various places, but its final resting place had remained a mystery. The belief that the Victory had crashed onto the rocks had marred an otherwise exemplary service record of the ship's commander, Sir John Balchin, and a lighthouse keeper on Alderney was prosecuted for failing to keep the light on. Odyssey believes the discovery exonerates both men.
"As far as the family is concerned, it is an astonishing revelation," said Robert Balchin, a 66-year-old British university administrator and direct descendant of the commander. "It's as if he's sort of come alive again. "When I went to see this extraordinary find of the cannon with the coat of arms of the king on the side, it was really a wonderful feeling to know that Sir John Balchin saw that every day, and it brought a very special communion with the past."
The HMS Victory was returning from Lisbon, Portugal, and was probably transporting 100,000 gold Portuguese coins for merchants, according to Odyssey's research. The ship had sailed there to help rescue a Mediterranean convoy blockaded by the French in the River Tagus at Lisbon.
The wreck site is roughly 70 feet by 200 feet and littered with other debris, Odyssey said. Its research ship, Odyssey Explorer, is equipped with a remote underwater robot capable of carefully removing the smallest of items from the bottom and shooting high-resolution photos and video.
Odyssey, a publicly traded corporation, announced in May 2007 that it had raised 17 tons of silver coins from an Atlantic Ocean shipwreck. The company later said it believed the wreck to be the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes y las Animas, which sank off Portugal in 1804.
Shortly afterward, the Spanish government sued Odyssey in federal court in Tampa to claim the treasure, arguing that the shipwreck was never abandoned by Spain. The case is pending. Some in the Spanish government have called the company 21st-century pirates, and twice in the months after the 2007 announcement, ships from Spain's Civil Guard seized Odyssey ships off the Spanish coast. Both ships and their crews were released within a week.
The company's relationship with the British government has been more cordial. Odyssey had already negotiated an agreement with British officials regarding the search for the HMS Sussex, which sank in the western Mediterranean in 1694 with gold coins aboard.
January 2009 - SUFFOLK, ENGLAND - One of the UK's largest hauls of Iron Age gold coins, which would have been worth in today's money up to £1m, has been found in Suffolk. The 824 so-called staters were found in a broken pottery jar buried in a field near Wickham Market by a local man using a metal detector.
Jude Plouviez, of the Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service, said the coins dated from 40BC to AD15. They are thought to have been minted by predecessors of Iceni Queen Boudicca. Ms Plouviez said their value when in circulation had been estimated at a modern equivalent of between £500,000 and £1m, but they were likely to be worth less than that now.
"It's a good, exciting find. It gives us a lot of new information about the late Iron Age, and particularly East Anglia in the late Iron Age. The discovery is important because it highlights the probable political, economic and religious importance of an area. It certainly suggests there was a significant settlement nearby. As far as we understand, it was occupied by wealthy tribes or subtribes," she said.
Ms Plouviez said the find was the largest collection of Iron Age gold coins found in Britain since 1849, when a farm worker unearthed between 800 and 2,000 gold staters in a field near Milton Keynes. She said secret excavations had been carried out on the latest find in Suffolk after a man reported it to the council's archaeological service in October.
The staters, which each weigh about 5g, will now be valued ahead of a treasure trove inquest. "We don't know how much they will be worth but it will be less than they were at the time," said Ms Plouviez.
"After the treasure trove inquest, they will be offered to museums at their current value." She said the exact location of the find would not be made public but added "thorough" searches of the area had not uncovered any further artefacts.
December 2008 - JERUSALEM - The Israel Antiquities Authority reported a thrilling find Sunday -- the discovery of 264 ancient gold coins in Jerusalem National Park. The coins were minted during the early 7th century.
"This is one of the largest and most impressive coin hoards ever discovered in Jerusalem, certainly the largest and most important of its period," said Doron Ben-Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets, who are directing the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Researchers discovered the coins at the beginning of the eight-day Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, which started at sunset on Sunday. One of the customs of the holiday is to give "gelt," or coins, to children, and the archaeologists are referring to the find as "Hanukkah money."
The 1,400-year-old coins were found in the Giv'ati car park in the City of David in the walls around Jerusalem National Park, a site that has yielded other finds, including a well-preserved gold earring with pearls and precious stones.
They were in a collapsed building that dates back to the 7th century, the end of the Byzantine period. The coins bear a likeness of Heraclius, who was the Byzantine emperor from 610 to 641. In that style, the emperor is clad with military garb and is holding a cross in his right hand. One the other side, there is the sign of the cross.
Authorities said the excavation of the building where the hoard was discovered is in its early stages. They are attempting to learn about the building and its owner and the circumstances of its destruction. "Since no pottery vessel was discovered adjacent to the hoard, we can assume that it was concealed inside a hidden niche in one of the walls of the building. It seems that with its collapse, the coins piled up there among the building debris," Ben-Ami and Tchekhanovets said.
November 2008 - LONDON, ENGLAND - An amateur treasure hunter hit gold when he found an Iron Age collar worth more than 350,000 pounds sterling (414,000 euros, 520,000 dollars) in a field, a newspaper reported Thursday.
Maurice Richardson, who unearthed the 2,200-year-old gold collar near Newark will not get to keep it but has received an undisclosed reward and his lucky find has been acquired by his local museum. "I was only in the field because a customer kept me late," Richardson, a tree surgeon, told the Guardian newspaper. "Normally I'd never want to go into this field because a plane crashed there in the last war, and the whole place is littered with bits of metal."
Richardson's first discovery in the field was a piece of World War Two scrap metal but as he bent down to throw it away, his metal detector emitted a louder beep. It was then that he discovered the collar, which was hailed by a leading expert as one of the most important finds of its kind in years.
"It's a fabulous thing, the best Iron Age find in 50 years," J.D. Hill, head of the British Museum in London's Iron Age department, told the paper. "When I first saw a picture of it, I thought somebody was pulling my leg because it is so like the Sedgeford torc in our collection that it must have been made by the same hand.
"What is fascinating about it is that it turned up where no torc should be -- to put it mildly, the Newark region is not known for major high-status Iron Age finds." The BBC reported that the necklace was the most expensive single piece of treasure found by a member of the public in over a decade.
November 2008 - AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - A hobbyist with a metal detector struck both gold and silver when he uncovered an important cache of ancient Celtic coins in a cornfield in the southern Dutch city of Maastricht. "It's exciting, like a little boy's dream," Paul Curfs, 47, said Thursday after the spectacular find was made public.
Archaeologists say the trove of 39 gold and 70 silver coins was minted in the middle of the first century B.C. as the future Roman ruler Julius Caesar led a campaign against Celtic tribes in the area.
Curfs said he was walking with his detector this spring and was about to go home when he suddenly got a strong signal on his earphones and uncovered the first coin. "It was golden and had a little horse on it - I had no idea what I had found," he said.
After posting a photo of the coin on a Web forum, he was told it was a rare find. The following day he went back and found another coin. "It looked totally different - silver, and saucer-shaped," he said. Curfs notified the city of his find, and he and several other hobbyists helped in locating the rest of the coins, in cooperation with archaeologists.
Nico Roymans, the archaeologist who led the academic investigation of the find, believes the gold coins in the cache were minted by a tribe called the Eburones that Caesar claimed to have wiped out in 53 B.C. after they conspired with other groups in an attack that killed 6,000 Roman soldiers. The Eburones "put up strong resistance to Caesar's journeys of conquest," Roymans said.
The silver coins were made by tribes further to the north - possible evidence of cooperation against Caesar, he said. Both coin types have triple spirals on the front, a common Celtic symbol. The two other known caches of Eburones coins have been found in neighboring Belgium and Germany.
Maastricht city spokeswoman Carla Wetzels said the value of the coins is not known - their worth is primarily historical. The Belgian cache of similar size was estimated at around 175,000 euros ($220,000).
The farmer who owned the land agreed to sell his interest to the city for an undisclosed sum. Curfs, a teacher at a nearby junior college, continues to own the 11 coins he found, but has lent them to the City of Maastricht on a long-term basis. The coins will go on display at the Centre Ceramique museum in Maastricht this weekend.
October 2008 - SUMATRA - "The local fishermen believe that there are underwater spirits guarding the wrecks," says Tilman Walterfang, as our boatman picks his way through a maze of coral reefs and submerged rocks. "Sometimes, they perform prayers on the boats, sacrificing a goat, spreading the blood everywhere, to keep the vessel safe."
I am on a fishing boat in the Gaspar Strait, near Belitung Island, off the south-east coast of Sumatra. Since time immemorial, this funnel-shaped passage linking the Java Sea and the Indian Ocean has been one of the two main shipping routes. The Malacca Straits is the other, from China to the West. A British sea captain, shipwrecked here in 1817, called it "the most dangerous area between China and London".
Ten years ago, at a spot known locally as "Black Rock", two men diving for sea cucumbers came across a large pile of sand and coral. Digging a hole, they reached in and pulled out a barnacle-encrusted bowl. Then another. And another. They had stumbled on the oldest, most important, marine archaeological discovery ever made in South East Asia, an Arab dhow - or ship - built of teak, coconut wood and hibiscus fibre, packed with a treasure that Indiana Jones could only dream of.
There were 63,000 pieces of gold, silver and ceramics from the fabled Tang dynasty, which flourished between the seventh and 10th centuries. Among the artefacts was the largest Tang gold cup ever discovered and some of the finest Yue ware - a porcelain that the ancient Chinese likened to snow because of its delicacy.
The exceptional quality of the goods has led some scholars to suggest that these were gifts from the Tang Emperor himself. The bulk of the cargo was more homely, including 40,000 Changsha bowls, named after the Changsha kilns in Hunan Province, where they were produced. Found packed inside tall, earthenware jars, some experts believe bean sprouts were placed between the bowls as a sort of organic bubble-wrap. These brightly painted tea bowls were the Tang equivalent of plastic food containers.
"It looks like they were approaching Tanjung Pandang, the main town on Belitung Island, when they hit the reef," explains Walterfang, the stocky German treasure hunter who salvaged the wreck. The Belitung wreck is a time capsule that has revolutionised our understanding of two ancient civilisations that fill the airwaves today, China and the Middle East
"They may have come here for water or other supplies. Perhaps there was an emergency. Or even an attack by pirates. "But we cannot know. It was nearly 1,200 years ago." Magically, everything was perfectly preserved by a layer of silt. Raised from the seabed more than a millennium later, the gold cups and bronze mirrors, silver boxes and ewers look as fresh as the day they were created.
In 2005, the Singapore government paid more than £20m to acquire the treasure as the centrepiece for a new maritime museum. But it is not just about bling. The Belitung wreck is a time capsule that has revolutionised our understanding of two ancient civilisations that fill the airwaves today - China and the Middle East.
The serial nature of the cargo - 1,000 miniature funeral urns and 800 identical inkpots - shows that China was mass-producing goods for export several centuries earlier than previously thought. The Arab dhow, the first of its kind ever found, proves something equally startling - that mariners from the Persian Gulf were trading on a scale, and over distances, unmatched by human beings until Vasco da Gama set sail for India at the end of the 15th Century. Sinbad the Sailor was for real.
One of the Changsha bowls bore a date stamp, "the 16th Day of the seventh Month of the second Year of the Baoli reign", or AD 826. Carbon-14 analysis of some star anise found in the wreck confirmed this as the probable date of the dhow's departure from China.
Most scholars believe it set sail from Canton, or Guangzhou, as it is today, the largest of the five ports servicing the Maritime Silk Route. No-one knows exactly where the dhow was heading when it struck the coral reef. Its most likely destination was a place familiar to us for other reasons, the Iraqi port of Samara, or Basra as it is called today. In the 9th Century, Basra was one of the wealthiest cities in the world, with a prosperous merchant class hungry for Chinese luxury goods.
Among the most sensational artefacts found in the wreck are three dishes decorated with cobalt from Iran which represent the oldest blue and white ware ever found, setting back by several hundred years the invention of what would become known all over the world simply as "china."
August 2008 - LEICESTERSHIRE, ENGLAND - A treasure hunter was stunned when he unearthed a beautiful and historic gold ring with a rare black diamond set inside it in a muddy field. John Stevens, 42, couldn't believe his eyes when he rubbed off the soil and saw lettering indicating the ring was from the early medieval period, possibly the 11th century. It is believed the ring would have belonged to a wealthy person either from the Church, or possibly even royalty. Black diamonds are rare today and would have been even rarer nearly 1,000 years ago, having come from Africa. The ring has not yet been valued but is thought it could be worth tens of thousands of pounds. It is currently being examined and will go to an inquest where it will almost certainly be recorded as treasure.
Mr Stevens, a businessman from Hinckley, has been metal detecting for 30 years, and this find in his home county of Leicestershire is his most valuable yet. After discovering it he contacted antiquities specialist Brett Hammond from Time Line Originals. Hammond said: "I arranged for him to take it to the finds liaison officer in his area under the portable antiquities scheme. It was clearly an important item of treasure. It is a gold ring possibly containing a rare black diamond. It is a beautiful early medieval inscribed finger ring that would have been owned by a very wealthy person, in the Church or possible even royalty. Common people in that era were not even allowed to own gold, so it must have been owned by a powerful person. The ring has gone to the coroner pending an inquest and if tests show what we think it is a museum will almost certainly be interesting in acquiring it."
Stevens said he was with friends in a ploughed field when he came across the ring about five inches down. He said: "We have a really good relationship with the local farmer who more or less gives us a free reign on any fields that have no crops growing. We had noticed a few days earlier that he was busy ploughing up the field in question, so it at once became our target for the day. I stuck at it for a couple of hours and had only a few interesting artefacts for my efforts. Then I found an Edward halfpenny and hope returned only to fade again as the day yielded rather less than we had hoped for. Some of my friends had switched off their detectors and were walking back to their cars.I was about to join them when I got a really good signal. The others grouped round me as I dropped to my knees and dug to a depth of about five inches, then pulled out a clod of damp soil. From the side of it I could see gold. One of my friends thought it was a bottle top but as my fingers closed on it I knew it had never wrapped around the top of a bottle. It is boldly inscribed with lettering that certainly looks very early medieval to my untrained eye. I don't know yet what the letters spell out, but if they indicate a royal owner it might be worth tens of thousand of pounds."
August 2008 - NOTTINGHAMSHIRE, ENGLAND - A pure gold cross dating from the 7th century has been discovered by a man with a metal detector. The inch-long piece of Anglo Saxon jewellery is made out of 18-carat gold and was probably worn as a pendant. Experts believe the English-made piece could be worth at least £25,000. It is thought the cross, which is decorated with fine detail and adorned with red gemstones, might have originally held a religious relic. Two of the four gemstones and any relic are missing.
A treasure hunter found an Anglo-Saxon cross in a field in Nottinghamshire. It is made with gold probably melted down from Merovingian French coins. Two of the red cabochon gemstones are missing as is the relic that would have been kept in its centre. The red stones are among the world's most ancient gems and were used by ancient Greeks who called them granatum, the same word they used for pomegranate seeds.
The anonymous finder discovered the 1,400-year-old cross just 12 inches beneath the sod on a farm in Nottinghamshire. He had already unearthed a Saxon penny and beaten copper plate before probing deeper. "Instinctively I put down the digger and scraped gently at the soil with my gloved hand," he said. "Then I made contact with a piece of metal that made me want to remove my glove. It seemed warm, almost alive, to my touch. My fingers closed on it and when I opened them I was gazing down, literally with my jaw dropped in astonishment, at the most wonderful find I've ever recovered."
He handed the find to a coroner who declared it as treasure trove at an inquest. This means the finder will get half the proceeds of a sale. He is likely to split his earnings with the farmer. The specific location of the find is being kept secret for fear that so-called 'nighthawks' will descend on it in case there is anything else to be found.
June 2008 - KEY WEST, FLORIDA - Shipwreck salvagers have recovered a gold chalice while searching for the wreckage of a Spanish galleon off the Florida Keys. The ornate two-handled chalice stands on a gold base and is adorned with etched scrollwork on the upper portion. It was located by Blue Water Ventures diver Michael DeMar beneath about a foot of sand in 18 feet of water approximately 30 miles west of Key West.
"Oh, my God," diver Michael DeMar said, describing his discovery of the chalice on the site where the Spanish galleon Santa Margarita is believed to have gone down during a vicious storm.
Dented on a few sides and encrusted with marine growth, the chalice weighs more than a pound is etched with scrollwork and boasts decorative handles.
The wreck was from a Spanish fleet that sank during a Sept. 6, 1622, hurricane. Over the past quarter century, it has yielded the biggest treasure find in U.S. history.
The late Key West treasure hunter Mel Fisher began the search for artifacts from the Santa Margarita, which sank in 1622, more than a quarter-century ago.
The chalice is slated to arrive at a Key West laboratory Wednesday morning. Experts hope cleaning it will reveal more details of a crest etched inside the bottom of the piece. Salvors estimated the value of the chalice at at one million dollars or more.
May 2008 - KEY WEST, FLORIDA - Experts found a tiny gold combined toothpick and earwax spoon, believed to be more than 385 years old, during the search for a shipwrecked Spanish galleon off the Florida Keys. The late 16th or early 17th century grooming tool, which weighs only about an ounce, was located Sunday by Blue Water Ventures diver Chris Rackley as he searched the area about 22 feet below the surface and 40 miles west of Key West. He says its value could exceed $100,000.
The divers, who are searching the shipwreck trail of the Spanish galleon Santa Margarita that sank in a 1622 hurricane, also recovered ceramic pieces, spikes, ships' fittings, rigging elements and two skeleton keys. "We were on the trail on the Margarita site following the artifact scatter pattern to the north," said Blue Water head archaeologist Dr. R. Duncan Mathewson. "This is the furthest point on that trail where gold has ever been found before, so it confirms that we're on the right trail."
The search for Santa Margarita artifacts began more than a quarter-century ago by the late Key West treasure hunter Mel Fisher. Today, the Blue Water team is leading that search under a joint-venture partnership with the Fisher family owned company, Motivation Inc.
Almost a year ago, Blue Water divers located gold bars, gold chains and a lead box containing thousands of pearls that were carried by the Margarita. The value of that find was estimated at more than $2 million.
May 2008 - SANTIAGO, CHILE - Remains of a 238-year-old shipwrecked Spanish galleon named "Our Lady of the Good Council and San Leopoldo" have been discovered on the coast near the Chilean town of Curepto, located in Chile's Region VII. Oriflama S.A., the private archaeological excavation firm that discovered the galleon, is now grappling with Chilean authorities for permission to continue their excavation efforts and receive part of the estimated US$30 million in booty.
The Chilean National Monuments Council insists the ship and its treasures are state property under terms spelled out in Chile’s national monuments law N. 17.2888. Even so, the Council has agreed to grant the company 25 percent of the loot. "Because the ship was embedded in the sand rather than deep under the ocean 'Our Lady of the Good Council and San Leopoldo' is property of the private business that found it," the Republic's Comptroller's Office told the Santiago Times.
Most archaeologists expected to find the remains of the ship deep on the ocean floor. But fragments of the 41-meter x 11-meter ship have been discovered embedded in the sand under fairly shallow waters near where the Huenchullami River flows into the ocean. The once ornate vessel was built by the French in the mid 1700s and, loaded with 56 canons, was used by their military until the ship fell into Spanish hands. The Spaniards revamped the ship into a merchant vessel and set it sailing to "New Spain."
After several trips to the new world, the ship sank after five months at sea when it was nearing the end of a journey from Puerto de Cadiz, Spain, to El Callao, Peru. The ship was carrying precious glassware from the Spanish royal family to be sold to Peru’s Spanish royalty. The glassware, along with garments decorated with gold, gold money, fancy furniture and over 50 canons, today have an estimated value of US$30 million.
The company Web site gives a graphic explanation of how the ship went down: the crew was so malnourished and sick that they could not even raise all of the ship’s sails. They were caught in a terrible storm and could not be rescued, condemning the galleon and its crew to Davy Jones’ locker. Twelve bodies and pieces of the ship washed ashore the day after the storm, but no treasure.
Oriflama S.A. was formed in 2001, bringing together a scientific team from Cuba with the sponsorship of several Chilean universities. Later, several local museums joined the effort. The goal was to find the galleon and recover the treasure. "Despite frequent contact with the company, until today no one had asked or been given permission to start excavation work on the ship," said Oscar Acuna, the executive secretary of Chile’s National Monuments Society, in a press release. "Since the property is protected under the law, it is the state’s property. The state is willing to grant the company 25 percent of the treasure for its work, but the rest will be state property."
But before the actual worth of the ship’s treasure can be determined, the ship’s remains must be recovered from under the sand. So far, the project has cost the company US$1 million, and another US$15 million in expenses may yet be incurred before the project is completed.
"We are hoping that the National Historical Council will invest in our project so we may complete it," Oriflama CEO Hernan Couyoudijan told the Santiago Times. "It will cost an estimated US$15 million. The National Historical Council does not have rights to the ship and it seems it would be in their best interest to work together with us on the project. We want to make a museum out of it. This would not only preserve some of history, but potentially boost tourism in Curepto." Cuepto’s city government met last week to decide if they will side with the company or with the National Historical Council in the dispute. No decision had been announced by press time.
The Oriflama S.A’s scientific team found the ship through the use of magnetomentry, a methodology using a machine that detects materials with magnetic properties, like iron. The company continues excavation work, but needs more sponsorships to complete the project.
May 2008 - NEW ORLEANS, LOUSIANA - A steamship that sank off the Louisiana coast during an 1846 storm has produced a trove of rare gold coins, including some produced at two, mostly forgotten U.S. mints in the South, coin experts say. Last year, four Louisiana residents salvaged hundreds of gold coins and thousands of silver coins from the wreckage of the SS New York in about 60 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico, said David Bowers, co-chairman of Stack's Rare Coins in New York.
"Some of these are in uncirculated or mint condition," Bowers said, predicting the best could bring $50,000 to $100,000 each at auction. Of particular interest to coin experts - numismatists - are gold pieces known as quarter eagles and half eagles, which carried face values of $2.50 and $5, respectively, in the days before the United States printed paper currency.
Those coins were struck at mints in New Orleans; Charlotte, N.C.; and Dahlonega, Ga. The Charlotte and Dahlonega mints operated from 1838, when the first significant U.S. gold deposits were found in those areas, until the start of the Civil War in 1861, said Douglas Mudd, curator of the American Numismatic Association's Money Museum in Denver. Neither mint ever reopened.
The Dahlonega mint produced 1.38 million gold coins, while another 1.2 million were minted in Charlotte. That was only of the fraction of the tens of millions of gold coins minted in the United States before the federal government confiscated gold coins held by individuals, banks and the U.S. Treasury in 1933 and melted them into gold bars as the country abandoned the gold standard.
The treasure also includes $10 gold pieces, known as eagles, that were minted in Philadelphia and New Orleans, Mudd said. "Relatively speaking, they are rare," Mudd said of the Charlotte- and Dahlonega-minted coins. "The mints were set up to take advantage of the resources there."
The New York was a 165-foot sidewheel steamer built in its namesake city in 1837. By 1846, it was making regular commercial runs between Galveston, Texas and New Orleans. A storm took the ship to the bottom, killing 17 of the 53 people aboard. The other 36 were rescued.
A group of four hobbyists, who enjoyed looking for sunken vessels in the Gulf, discovered what was left of the SS New York around 1990. After several trips in the ensuing years and bringing up a handful of coins at a time from the mud that virtually covered the ship, the four invested in a full-scale salvage operation in 2007.
"What we've found is varied, a little of everything," said one of the four, Craig DeRouen, who is on a leave from his normal job as a mechanical engineer in the oil industry. "There are different denominations from different years, silver and gold."
DeRouen, along with fellow New Iberia residents Avery Munson and Gary and Renee Hebert, have ownership of the coins after obtaining title to the wreck from a federal court. Mudd said that although the coins are worth much more now because of current gold prices around $900 an ounce, that's only a fraction of their value. "The collector value may be three, five, eight thousand dollars more, depending upon their condition," Mudd said. "It depends upon the individual piece and its individual rarity."
John Albanese, a rare coin dealer in Far Hills, N.J. since 1978, appraised about 200 of the gold coins. "This is the most impressive Southern-minted gold I've seen in my lifetime," he said. Mudd said $100,000 for one coin likely would involve an exceptional piece, but a range of $8,000 to $16,000 wouldn't be unusual for a coin in high-grade condition. "Historically, they are interesting. These are the first coins produced by gold from the United States," he said. "The California gold rush didn't occur until about 1850."
Gold resists saltwater corrosion, and mud that had collected on the coins was removed with a chemical compound that does not affect the metal, Bowers said. Meanwhile, the silver coins are etched by the sea water, giving them a "shipwreck effect" that is popular with collectors, Bowers said.
May 2008 - STUART, FLORIDA - They call it the "Unknown Shipwreck." "That's a lot of mystery right there isn't it," said Capt. Doug Pope, a veteran treasure hunting and salvage expert. Pope's crew and vessel, the Polly-L, will be hunting off St. Lucie County this week for a ship believed to part of a 1715 Spanish fleet that sunk in a storm with holds full of treasure. Famed treasure hunter Taffi Fisher Abt, the daughter of the legendary fortune seeker Mel Fisher, chartered the latest search amid the fleet her family has been salvaging since 1963.
This will be the first hunt of the year for the Fisher organization, which runs Mel Fisher's Treasures museum in Sebastian. Fisher Abt said the site about two miles south of the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant is the southern most tip of the fleet's wreckage field. "I think it's one of the 1715 fleet," she said. "We have some evidence of the early record of 1715 fleet material being found in that area." But there may also be wrecks in the vicinity from the 1600s and the 1800s.
Pope, the president of his company Amelia Research and Recovery, dug off shore at Stuart's Tiger Shores Beach last year with another treasure hunter who believes the 1715 wreckage reaches further south. David Jordan plans to return this year, working again with Pope, with hopes of finding a wreck by the cannons he thought he saw 29 years ago while surfing just north of Stuart Beach.
Fisher Abt, meanwhile, said her crews typically find some shards of pottery and musket balls, cannons and anchors, at any given shipwreck. And, "hopefully, some gold coins, gold chains gold jewelry," she said. "You never know."
Already, there has been promise of the Treasure Coast. "Our very first hole we dug . . .," Pope said, "we picked up a piece of copper sheeting from a ship." Copper was typically used for dinnerware and cooking pots, but was also used on the ship itself. The new find was only 3 inches by 6 inches and had not been positively identified. "We live everyday with anticipation of finding lots of treasure," Pope said. "Who knows? The next hole could be the big one."
April 2008 - WINDHOEK, NAMBIA, - De Beers, the world's biggest undersea diamond miner, said its geologists in Namibia found the wreckage of an ancient sailing ship still laden with treasure, including six bronze cannons, thousands of Spanish and Portuguese gold coins and more than 50 elephant tusks. The wreckage was discovered in the area behind a sea wall used to push back the Atlantic Ocean in order to search for diamonds in Namibia's Sperrgebiet or "Forbidden Zone."
"If the experts assessments are correct, the shipwreck could date back to the late 1400s or early 1500s, making it a discovery of global significance," Namdeb Diamond Corp., a joint venture between De Beers and the Namibian government, said in an e-mailed statement from the capital, Windhoek, today.
The site yielded a wealth of objects, including several tons of copper, more than 50 elephant tusks, pewter tableware, navigational instruments, weapons and the gold coins, which were minted in the late 1400s and early 1500s, according to the statement. The Namibian government will claim ownership of the treasure found, Halifa Mbako, group corporate affairs manager at Namdeb, said in a telephone interview from Windhoek today.
"By Namibian law, discoveries of this nature belong to the state," he said. "The discovery was found in our mining area, but the treasure belongs to the state." The Namibian government is in consultations with the governments of Spain and Portugal to try and identify the ship, which was most likely a trading vessel, given the goods on board, said.
On April 1, Bob Burrell, the head of Namdeb's Mineral Resource Department, found some rounded copper ingots and the remains of three bronze cannons in the sand. "All mining operations were halted, the site secured and Dr. Dieter Noli, an archaeologist and expert in the Sperrgebiet, was brought into the project and identified the cannons as Spanish breach-loaders of a type popular in the early 1500s," Namdeb said.
The find may be the oldest sub-Saharan shipwreck ever discovered, Namdeb said. "If this proves to be a contemporary of the ships sailed by the likes of Diaz, Da Gama and Columbus, it would be of immense national and international interest and Namibia's most important archaeological find of the century," according to the statement.
Diamonds have been mined along the south-western coast of Namibia and in its coastal waters for the last 100 years. De Beers, the world's largest diamond company, is 45 percent owned by Anglo American Plc, 40 percent held by the Oppenheimer family and 15 percent owned by the government of Botswana.
April 2008 - STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - A 9-year-old boy's search for shrapnel on an old battlefield resulted in a huge find of medieval silver coins near the Lund in southern Sweden, local media reported Monday. Alexander Granhof, 9, and his grandfather made the recent discovery, dubbed "silverado" by archaeologists.
"We went out on the field looking for cannonballs," Alexander Granhof told the online edition of the Sydsvenskan newspaper. "I found a piece of metal and thought at first it was shrapnel from a shotgun. I shouted to grandfather and then we discovered more and more coins," he added.
In all, the pair found more than 4,600 coins on the field. Archaeologists, using metal detectors, boosted the tally to 7,000 but did not rule out that even more coins were hidden in the soil. "This is incredible," Bernd Gerlach of the Lund University Historical Museum told reporters.
Both Alexander and his grandfather Jens Granhof are interested in archaeology and went treasure hunting after reading about a treasure buried somewhere in the province of Scania. No reward sum has yet been determined but the silver in the treasure alone was estimated to be worth 1.5 million kronor (250,000 dollars).
During the 13th century when the coins were hidden, the sum could have fetched some 15 serfs, museum head Per Karsten said. The coins had been placed in two urns that were wrapped in cloth. The treasure was likely buried during troubled times, and one theory was that the coins were church taxes collected from nearby farms. The find included thousands of English coins with a high silver content and some other markers that likely were used locally.
February 2008 - DEUTSCHNEUDORF, GERMANY - German treasure hunters began digging Tuesday for what they say may be plunder buried by the Nazis in a man-made cavern near the Czech border. The area's mayor, Hans-Peter Haustein, and a man who believes he found the coordinates for the buried booty in a notebook among his deceased father's belongings, maintain that a scan of the spot has revealed that a large quantity of metal is about 20 meters below the surface.
They believe it to be either gold or silver, based on the scan with a sophisticated metal detector. A drilling company began boring pilot holes at one-yard intervals trying to find the entrance of the cavern, about 100 yards from the Czech border in the eastern German state of Saxony. Once it is found, the searchers are to snake a camera down into the enclosure to determine exactly what they have found.
"It can't be iron," Haustein said as work progressed at the site. "The computer readout clearly indicates gold." By late afternoon, however, the most excitement for a crowd of onlookers from the tiny settlement was a short-lived geyser of water that shot up as one of the holes was drilled.
Haustein — an amateur treasure hunter who is also a member of Germany's parliament for the opposition Free Democratic Party — said the process could take several days. Haustein has been working with Christian Hanisch, who found the notebook in the belongings of his father, a former Luftwaffe radio operator who died last year.
Haustein said last week that he was convinced they had found the storied Amber Room treasure but later acknowledged that, while there could be "cultural treasures" in the cavern, such as paintings or amber paneling, they are not things that show up with a metal detector.
The Amber Room — named for magnificent wall panels of golden-brown amber — was stolen by the Nazis from a palace outside St. Petersburg during World War II and has never been recovered in its entirety. The ornate Amber Room, made from amber panels decorated with gold leaf, was originally a gift from the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm I to the Russian Tsar Peter the Great. During the Second World War it was dismantled by the Nazis and later disappeared, and since then archaeologists have searched for the room in over 100 places.
Experts have been skeptical of Haustein's claim, pointing out that stories of the Amber Room surface regularly, only to be proved wrong, and that the Amber Room had no significant amounts of gold or silver in it.
January 2008 - SENORA DESERT, MEXICO - The austere and forbidding Sonoran Desert of the United States and Mexico regularly experiences some of the most extreme weather in the Western Hemisphere. Daytime temperatures often exceed 125 degrees in the shade even as blast-furnace winds swiftly strip life-sustaining water from the few men and animals tough enough and wily enough to make a living in this land of stark, unforgiving beauty. Yet life not only goes on here; it sometimes succeeds in ways that cannot be foreseen even in our wildest dreams. Myths and tales of lost treasure seem to spring into being from out of nowhere. Virtually every remote village has its legends of lost mines and treasure: the Oro de Moctezuma, Tayopa, El Naranjal. Every story is different yet all are the same: A rich deposit of gold or silver is found, and then lost through calamity, treachery or political upheaval. The saga of the "Boot of Cortez" is very much in keeping with all of these tales of discovery and loss - with one exception: This tale is true.
The story begins in 1989 in the area around Caborca, near the Gran Desierto de Altar in the Mexican state of Sonora. The nearest surface water is the Sea of Cortez; some 60 miles to the west. Arizona is 70 miles to the north. Ranching is the chief occupation, but there are a number of mines in the area along with placer gold deposits in some of the canyons. It is within these dry canyons that a local Mexican man began his quest to find hidden treasure in the form of placer nuggets. Some finds of nuggets had been made in the past, and fired with optimistic enthusiasm; our gold-seeker grew determined to find his share. At this point, our latter-day prospector did something very much at odds with tradition: visiting a Radio Shack store - he purchased a metal detector. Practicing on buried coins and other metal objects, he learned how to operate it, and then he set out for an area that was reported to have produced nuggets. Once there, he started to walk; slowly and carefully across the desert, all the while following a grid pattern that would ensure that no areas would be unchecked. Hundreds of boring hours slowly ebbed away with an occasional 'beep' from his ear-phones to signal a potential find. Most were due to scrap iron or old lead bullets. Then one day; the 'beep' sounded a little different. Digging down; he caught that first gleam from his own personal El Dorado. Hardly believing his eyes he kept digging, the gleaming surface kept going - and going. By the time he had completely uncovered this incredible nugget, it was obvious that it was huge. Just hauling it back to his home was a chore since it weighed over twelve kilograms. There; a gentle washing removed the last traces of dust left on the surface from its subterranean resting place. Now the enormity of his find engulfed him: What to do with this massive nugget, shaped like the boot of a conquistador of old? Who could help him with advice regarding the ways of selling such a thing? Ah, but of course - the Patron. He would know. And he did.
Since that fateful day in the Desierto, the "Boot of Cortez" has passed through a number of hands and has been marveled at by hundreds of thousands of museum-goers. It was one of the star exhibits at the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show in 2004, the theme of which was simply: "Gold". Based on its enthusiastic response by the public, the owner of the "Boot" was solicited to place it on loan for the traveling "Gold" exhibition assembled by the Houston Museum of Natural Science where it was exhibited in 2005, along with other notable specimens from: the Smithsonian, Harvard and other major collections. The exhibition then moved to the American Museum of Natural History in 2006 where it opened to rave reviews by collectors and casual visitors alike. After almost a year in New York City, the exhibition recently closed in August 2007.
Its pristine condition and unique shape have earned it the sobriquet "the most unusual and attractive large nugget in the World" and at 389.4 ounces Troy (32.4 Troy pounds) it is the largest surviving placer nugget from the Western Hemisphere. The 2nd largest nugget is Alaskan and is almost 100 ounces smaller. It has a bright, rich golden-yellow color which indicates a high purity (approximately 94% + pure). There have been larger masses of gold but these have consisted primarily of intermixtures of gold and worthless rock. The "Boot of Cortez" measures a stunning 10 3/4 inches in height and 7 1/4 inches in width.
December 2007 - YANGJIANG, CHINA - Chinese archaeologists have raised a merchant ship which sank in the South China Sea 800 years ago while transporting a cargo of precious porcelain. The Nanhai 1 treasury ship, built during the Song dynasty which ruled China from 960-1279, is believed to contain one of the biggest discoveries of Chinese artefacts from that period.
"It's the biggest ship of its kind to be found," said professor Liu Wensuo, and archaeologist from Sun Yat-sen University. "It lay in about 25m (82ft) of water and was covered in mud - perfect conditions for preservation. Both the ship and its contents are in exceptionally good condition."
The salvage team began building a massive steel cage around the 30m (98ft)-long vessel in May in order to raise it and the surrounding silt. The cage was made up of 36 steel beams, each weighing around 5 tons. Together with its contents, the cage weighed more than 3,000 tons. The heavy lifting began a day earlier than expected at 0900 on Friday due to favourable weather conditions. It was completed two hours later and placed on a waiting barge.
As many as 6,000 artefacts have already been retrieved from the 13th Century vessel, mostly bluish white porcelain, as well as personal items from crew members, including gold belt buckles and silver rings. A further 70,000 artefacts are believed to be still on board, many still in their original packing cases.
In the mid-1980s a number of ships, containing enormous hoards of Chinese porcelain, gold and silver, were found by foreign treasure hunters. This really is only the beginning, there are so many shipwrecks in this area... sometimes they even wash ashore Their valuable cargoes were sold at auction houses in the West. At the time, China was too poor to bid for the artefacts. The loss of such an important part of its history spurred the government into action.
Nanhai 1 will be the first major project to be undertaken by Chinese underwater archaeologists. Professor Liu is confident that the salvage will be a success. "This really is only the beginning, there are so many shipwrecks in this area, fishermen often snag artefacts in their nets, sometimes they even wash ashore," he said.
It will also give historians much-needed information on a time when China was trading with the world. During the Song dynasty, most of the country's trade was with India and the Middle East. Later that trade would shift westwards. "People often think of ancient China as being a closed society, but in the Tang and Song dynasties, China traded with the world - much like today," Professor Liu added.
The Nanhai 1 will eventually be moved to a new purpose built museum near Yangjiang in Guangdong province. The dramatic building - still far from completion - is being built on the beach. The ship will be stored underwater in a massive tank, in which the water temperature, pressure and other conditions will be identical to where it lay on the seabed, allowing visitors to watch as archaeologists uncover its secrets. China has invested about $40m in this project, in the hope of reclaiming a part of the country's history, and this time ensuring it stays in Chinese hands.
December 2007 - PARIS, FRANCE - Asterix and Obelix, had they existed, might have paid for their mead and other magic potions with gold-silver-copper coins stamped with elaborate images of men and horses. The largest treasure trove of pre-Roman, Gaulish money ever to be found has been discovered in central Brittany.
The 545 coins, each worth thousands of euros to collectors but priceless to historians and archaeologists, could overturn much of the received wisdom about the complexity, and wealth, of pre-Roman Celtic society in France. Why was such enormous wealth, a king's ransom at the time, buried in the grounds of a large Gaulish farm 40 miles south of Saint-Brieuc in the first century BC? Why was the hoard never recovered?
"Treasure on this scale would only have been used for transactions between aristocratic families," said Yves Menez, an archaeologist specialising in iron-age Brittany. It has always been assumed that the Celtic nobility lived in fortified towns, not in the wild and dangerous countryside. "The reality must have been more complex," Mr Menez said. Like all Gaulish coins, the 58 "stateres" and 487 quarter "stateres" found near to the village of Laniscat are copies of early Greek money.
Gauls served as mercenaries in the armies of Alexander the Great. The money that they brought home served as the model for home-minted coins. Some of the new treasure trove, rescued from the site of a proposed dual-carriageway, have the familiar Celtic monetary pattern of a horse on one side and a man's head on the reverse. Other coins have hitherto unknown designs, such as horses with human heads.
There are also images of riders and wild boars. Smaller caches of Gaulish coins have turned up in the past but rarely of such quality and never in such numbers. Most transactions for goods in Gaulish times were conducted through barter. Coins were for the super-rich. "This is an exceptional discovery," said Mr Menez. "It represents a colossal fortune for the period. Each of these coins was like a 500 euro note today."
The hoard of coins was discovered by the French government agency, the Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives (INRAP), which has the right to explore any potentially significant site before a road or new building covers it forever. The coins are believed to have been minted in around 75 to 5BC. They were probably buried just before, or during, the first Roman invasions of what is now northern and western France.
A dig led by INRAP archaeologist Eddie Roy discovered the coins scattered over 200 square metres of a site soon to be occupied by a new by-pass. It is believed that they were all buried together but disturbed over the centuries by agricultural ploughing. "We found a single coin about 30cms down and then we started a systematic search," Mr Roy said. "We found 50 more in a single day and then, with the help of metal detectors, we located all the others."
The dig unearthed the remains of a large manor house or farm, which is thought to have belonged to the "Osisme" people – a Celtic tribe living in the far west of the Breton peninsula. The coins were probably buried in the farm's boundary embankment. Why? To hide the wealth from the Romans? Possibly. The farm was occupied for several centuries after the treasure was buried but the coins were never recovered: one small part of Gaul which resisted the Roman invasion.
October 2007 - ENGLAND - An ancient coin believed to be around 500-years-old has been found in a part of south east Northumberland. The rare gold coin was discovered by a treasure seeker in Choppington and is thought to be one of only a handful of the same kind found in the UK.
Known as an Angel Coin because of the depiction of an angel on one side of it, experts say the coin would have belonged to someone of great wealth and social standing, possibly a merchant trader, in medieval times.
Thought to have been minted in the 1500s, the rare discovery has excited historians and archaeologists in the region who have been desperate to catch a glimpse of the coin first-hand. However, few have clapped eyes on the artifact which is due to be auctioned off in London in the coming weeks.
It is expected to fetch thousands, but there has been widespread disappointment that the unknown seller has decided not to report the coin to the finds liaison officer at the Museum of Antiquities for the North East. Rob Collins, finds liaison officer at Newcastle University's Museum of Antiquities, said the discovery was very exciting, not only for Northumberland but the region as a whole.
He told the News Post Leader: "Gold coins don't turn up very often, they are fairly rare finds. "They are normally found in very good condition as gold doesn't corrode so they appear quite lusty in that sense. "Gold coins like this represent a considerable amount of wealth to the person at the time, so in that way, it's very rare for gold coins to be lost or dropped. "This particular coin would have belonged to someone like a merchant or possibly some type of nobility."
Although Mr Collins has only seen photographs of the coin, he says he would like to have seen it in the flesh in order to verify its identity. "It's important for me to see such artifacts and verify them. "It's disappointing not to be able to see the coin and speak to the finder as well," he said.
Local historian, John Dawson, of Cambois, said the coin was discovered somewhere near the Choppington Pit, between Choppington and Guide Post and claims it could be worth up to £20,000. He said: "One coin is a find but if another was to be found in the same area then it becomes a treasure trove. "The coin would have been made sometime between 1505 and 1529 and it is thought that only another nine have been found in this country."
September 2007 - GOTLAND, SWEDEN - A bout of torrential rain left a surprising legacy in the garden of one Swede: a Viking treasure trove. Two coins were uncovered by the rain on the lawn of farmer Tage Pettersson, on the island of Gotland, in early August. He called in Gotland's archaeologists, who last week found a further 52 coins on the site.
Most of the coins are German, English and Arabic currency from the late 900s and early 1000s. But archaeologists are most excited about the presence of six very rare Swedish coins, from the reign of Olof Skötkonug, king of Sweden from 994-1022. One of the Swedish coins has never been found in Sweden before, although an example has been found in Poland. One of the other coins is only the second of its kind to have been found.
The find contains rare early Viking money and foreign currency from present-day England, Germany, Ireland, Iraq, and Uzbekistan. Along with a similar cache recently discovered in England, the new find paints a picture of Vikings trading and looting their way across Europe and beyond. The Anglo-Saxon coins were likely either plunder or protection money known as danegeld, which was paid by regional rulers to keep Vikings from attacking, experts said. The Asian coins are products of the Vikings' extensive trade, which the Norse conducted by sailing south along Russia's long rivers to reach the Middle East.
Archaeologist Dan Carlsson told Svenska Dagbladet that the coins were "very well preserved, and come from a period about which we know little in terms of coin history." Gotland is one of the richest sources anywhere of buried Viking treasure. Discoveries of coins and other treasure are made on a regular basis.
August 2007 - BOSTON, MA - A boat piloted by underwater explorer Barry Clifford is towing a 10,000-pound mass believed to contain cannons, gold coins, and other artifacts from the sunken pirate ship Whydah to a pier in Provincetown this afternoon, a find that will yield more secrets and treasure from the nearly 300-year-old wreck, Clifford said.
The artifacts are encased in a "concretion," essentially a chunk in which the cannons and other objects have been fused together due to the reaction between saltwater and iron over time. The concretion, which is about the size of a small car, is the largest ever recovered from the wreck and was too heavy to be lifted by crane, Clifford said by cell phone from his boat, the 75-foot Vast Explorer. Instead, a custom-built net was attached to the mass, which was lifted from the ocean floor by four flotation bags, Clifford said.
The concretion was discovered last summer in the same spot as a smaller mass of three cannons that was retrieved from the ocean floor last month, Clifford said. The newly found cannons, believed to be among the approximately 30 cannons that the Whydah had stolen from other ships and was storing in her hold, were found about 10 feet beneath the ocean floor at the spot where the first artifacts from the wreck were discovered in 1984.
The concretion will be tied to a pier in Provincetown tonight and left underwater until it can be transported to a laboratory in Brewster for examination later this week, Clifford said. "All we know is that there are some cannons and other artifacts sticking out of it, but until we get it in the lab and X-ray it, we won't know exactly what's in there," Clifford said. "It's pretty suspenseful."
The Whydah, laden with loot from at least 54 other ships and manned by a crew of about 140 pirates, sank in a northeaster off Wellfleet on April 26, 1717. Clifford has removed about 200,000 artifacts from the wreck since 1984, some 200 of which are on display in Cincinnati as part of a traveling museum exhibit.
July 2007 - YORKSHIRE, ENGLAND - The most important Viking treasure find in Britain for 150 years has been unearthed by a father and son while metal detecting in Yorkshire. David and Andrew Whelan uncovered the hoard, which dates back to the 10th Century, in Harrogate in January.
The pair kept their find intact and it was transferred to the British Museum to be examined by experts, who said the discovery was "phenomenal". It was declared as a treasure at a court hearing in Harrogate on Thursday. North Yorkshire coroner Geoff Fell said: "Treasure cases are always interesting, but this is one of the most exciting cases that I have ever had to rule on. "I'm delighted that such an important Viking hoard has been discovered in North Yorkshire. We are extremely proud of our Viking heritage in this area."
Metal detectorists David and Andrew Whelan, who uncovered the treasures, said the find was a "thing of dreams". The pair, from Leeds, said the hoard was worth about £750,000 as a conservative estimate. They told the BBC News website: "We've been metal detecting for about five years; we do it on Saturdays as a hobby. "We ended up in this particular field, we got a really strong signal from the detector... Eventually we found this cup containing the coins and told the antiquity authority. "We were astonished when we finally discovered what it contained."
The ancient objects come from as far afield as Afghanistan in the East and Ireland in the West, as well as Russia, Scandinavia and continental Europe. The hoard contains 617 silver coins and 65 other objects, including a gold arm-ring and a gilt silver vessel. Dr Jonathan Williams, keeper of prehistory in Europe at the British Museum, said: "[The cup] is beautifully decorated and was made in France or Germany at around AD900. "It is fantastically rare - there are only a handful of others known around the world. It will be stunning when it is fully conserved."
Most of the smaller objects were extremely well preserved as they had been hidden inside the vessel, which was protected by a lead container. The British Museum said the coins included several new or rare types, which provide valuable new information about the history of England in the early 10th Century, as well as Yorkshire's wider cultural contacts in the period.
It was probably buried for safety by a wealthy Viking leader during the unrest following the conquest of the Viking kingdom of Northumbria in AD927. A spokeswoman for the museum said: "The size and quality of the hoard is remarkable, making it the most important find of its type in Britain for over 150 years."
The find will now be valued for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport by the Independent Treasure Valuation Committee. Dr Williams said that the British Museum and the York Museums Trust would be looking to raise the funds to purchase the collection so it could eventually go on public display. The proceeds would be split between the finders and landowners.
June 2007 - KEY WEST, FL - A treasure salvage boat carrying an estimated $1 million worth of 17th century gold and artifacts from a shipwrecked Spanish galleon discovered off Key West is to return to shore Thursday morning.
A gold bar, eight gold chains including two that measure more than 4 feet long, 11 ornate gold pieces and hundreds of other artifacts were recovered earlier this week by divers from Blue Water Ventures of Key West. Among the most intriguing discoveries was an 8-inch-long closed lead box. A small gap in its seal allowed salvagers to glimpse contents thought to be pearls (several thousand).
Found in approximately 18 feet of water, about 40 miles west of Key West, the items are believed to come from the Spanish galleon Santa Margarita. The Margarita sank off the Florida Keys in a 1622 hurricane.
An initial cache of treasure and artifacts from the Santa Margarita was discovered in 1980 by the late shipwreck salvor Mel Fisher. Fisher is best known for his 1985 discovery of the treasure of the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha, which sank in the same hurricane that claimed the Margarita.
Dr. R. Duncan Mathewson III, partner and director of archaeology for Blue Water Ventures, said Blue Water's team has been searching for the remainder of the Margarita wrecksite for two years under a joint venture agreement with the Fisher group, now headed by Mel Fisher's son, Kim Fisher. The elder Fisher began a quest to find the 1622 galleons in 1970.
The latest finds, Mathewson said, occurred in an area known as the Quicksands. The artifacts and treasure will be taken to the Fisher group's Key West headquarters for cataloging and conservation. Experts plan to attempt opening the sealed metal box Friday afternoon after its initial conservation and examination. Mathewson estimates more than $100 million worth of artifacts and treasure from the Santa Margarita remains to be recovered.
June 2007 - BOGOTA, COLOMBIA - The Spanish galleon San Jose was trying to outrun a fleet of British warships off Colombia's coast on June 8, 1708, when a mysterious explosion sent it to the bottom of the sea with gold, silver and emeralds now valued at more than $2 billion. Three centuries later, a bitter legal and political dispute over the San Jose is still raging, with the Colombian Supreme Court expected to rule this week on rival claims by the government and a group of U.S. investors to what is reputed to be the world's richest shipwreck.
Anxiously awaiting the decision is Jack Harbeston, managing director of the Cayman Islands-registered commercial salvage company Sea Search Armada, who has taken on seven Colombian administrations over two decades in a legal fight to claim half the sunken hulk's riches. "If I had known it was going to take this long, I wouldn't have gotten involved in the first place," said Harbeston, 75, who lives in Bellevue, Wash.
In 1982, Sea Search announced to the world it had found the San Jose's resting place 700 feet below the water's surface, a few miles from the historic Caribbean port of Cartagena. Under well-established maritime law, whoever locates a shipwreck gets the rights to recover it in a kind of finders-keepers arrangement meant to offset the huge costs of speculative exploration.
Harbeston claims he and a group of 100 U.S. investors - among them the late actor Michael Landon and convicted Nixon White House adviser John Ehrlichman - have invested more than $12 million since a deal was signed with Colombia in 1979 giving Sea Search exclusive rights to search for the San Jose and 50 percent of whatever they find. But all that changed in 1984, when then-Colombian President Belisario Betancur signed a decree reducing Sea Search's share from 50 percent to a 5 percent "finder's fee."
Current President Alvaro Uribe's office declined to discuss the impending court decision, which is expected by Wednesday. But over the years successive governments have argued that Colombia's maritime agency never had the authority to award exploration contracts to Sea Search because the wreck is part of the country's cultural patrimony. The government may also be motivated by dollar signs. Harbeston believes that if sold skillfully to collectors and museums, the San Jose's treasure could fetch as much $10 billion - more than a third of Colombia's foreign debt.
The real value is impossible to calculate because the ship's manifests have disappeared. But the San Jose is known to have been part of Spain's only royal convoy to try to bring colonial bullion home to King Philip V during the War of Spanish Succession with England from 1701-1714. "Without a doubt the San Jose is the Holy Grail of treasure shipwrecks," said Robert Cembrola, director of the Naval War College Museum in Newport, R.I.
In 1994, Colombia hired treasure hunter Tommy Thompson to verify Sea Search's coordinates. Thompson, an American who has since disappeared allegedly with millions in investors' loot from a previous deep-sea find, turned up nothing. Another oceanographer, Mike Costin, who worked on a commercial submarine brought in by Sea Search for one of the company's early, booze-filled expeditions, also has his doubts.
"We found something, but I don't think it was the San Jose," he said. An underwater video taken of the alleged wreck in 1982 shows what looks like a corral reef-covered woodpile. "But drink a glass of wine and it can look like almost anything," said Tony Dyakowski, a Canadian treasure hunter based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Dyakowski claims to have uncovered sea logs that put the San Jose miles closer to the mainland. Harbeston shrugs off his detractors, saying, "If everyone's so sure it's not down there, then why don't they let us finish what we've started?"
Wherever the hulk lies, marine archaeologists say advances in diving, sonar and metal-detection make it possible to find almost any underwater wreck today. The problem is fending off rivals for whom the glint of gold is too powerful to resist. "It's like when you light a lantern in the forest and you discover all these insects you didn't know were there before are now descending on you," said Peter Hess, a Delaware lawyer who represents salvage companies.
Besides Sea Search, rival salvage companies and the Colombian government, Spain has also actively defended its sovereign rights over sunken ships that flew its flag. Last week, Spain filed claims in a U.S. federal court seeking up to $500 million in colonial treasure a Florida firm estimates it found recently in a shipwreck in the Atlantic Ocean.
Archeologists also have voiced concern, pointing to a 2001 UNESCO convention - backed by Spain but not signed by Colombia or the United States - that outlaws commercial exploitation of sunken cultural heritage. "People forget the San Jose is an underwater grave of 600 men," said Carla Rahn Phillips, a University of Minnesota historian and author of the new book "The Treasure of the San Jose." "The wreck deserves to be treated with respect, and most salvors I know only pay lip service to its historical importance."
The Colombian court ruling will also affect other commercial salvage companies eager to dive for more than 1,000 galleons and merchant ships believed to have sunk along Colombia's corral reefs during more than three centuries of colonial rule. Almost none have been recovered due to the legal limbo in the San Jose case. Daniel de Narvaez, a scuba-diving businessman hoping to salvage a wreck near the Caribbean island of San Andres, said that given the long, tortuous battle, he expects the decision could go either way. "After such a laughable and tragic ordeal, nothing surprises me anymore," he said.
May 2007 - TAMPA, FL - Deep-sea explorers said Friday they have hauled up what could be the richest sunken treasure ever discovered: hundreds of thousands of colonial-era silver and gold coins worth an estimated $500 million from a shipwreck in the Atlantic Ocean.
A chartered cargo jet recently landed in the United States to unload hundreds of plastic containers packed with the 500,000 coins, which are expected to fetch an average of $1,000 each from collectors and investors.
"For this colonial era, I think (the find) is unprecedented," said rare coin expert Nick Bruyer, who was contracted by Tampa-based Odyssey Marine Exploration to examine a batch of coins from the wreck. "I don't know of anything equal or comparable to it." Citing security concerns, the company declined to release any details about the ship or the wreck site.
Company co-founder Greg Stemm said a formal announcement will come later, but court records indicate the coins might have come from the wreck of a 17th century merchant ship found off southwestern England. Because the shipwreck was found in an area where many colonial-era vessels went down, the company is still uncertain about its nationality, size and age, Stemm said, although evidence points to a specific known shipwreck.
The site is beyond the territorial waters or legal jurisdiction of any country, he said. "Rather than a shout of glee, it's more being able to exhale for the first time in a long time," Stemm said of the haul, by far the biggest in Odyssey's 13-year history. He would not say if the loot was taken from the same wreck site near the English Channel that Odyssey recently petitioned a federal court for permission to salvage.
"In seeking exclusive rights to that site, an Odyssey attorney told a federal judge last fall that the company likely had found the remains of a 17th-century merchant vessel that sank with valuable cargo aboard, about 40 miles off the southwestern tip of England. A judge granted those rights Wednesday.
In keeping with the secretive nature of the project dubbed "Black Swan," Odyssey also is not discussing details of the coins, such as their type, denomination or country of origin. Bruyer said he observed a wide variety of coins that probably were never circulated. He said the currency was in much better condition than artifacts yielded by most shipwrecks of a similar age. The coins - mostly silver pieces - could fetch several hundred to several thousand dollars each, with some possibly commanding much more, he said.
Value is determined by rarity, condition and the story behind them. Other experts said the condition and value of the coins could vary so much that the price estimate was little more than an educated guess. "It's absolutely impossible to accurately determine the value without knowing the contents and the condition of the retrieved coins. It's like trying to appraise a house or a car over the phone," said Donn Pearlman, a rare coin expert and spokesman for the Professional Numismatists Guild. Experts said that controlled release of the coins into the market along with aggressive marketing should keep prices at a premium.
The richest-ever shipwreck haul was yielded by the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha, which sank in a hurricane off the Florida Keys in 1622. Treasure-hunting pioneer Mel Fisher found it in 1985, retrieving a reported $400 million in coins and other loot.
Odyssey likely will return to the same spot for more coins and artifacts. "We have treated this site with kid gloves and the archaeological work done by our team out there is unsurpassed," Odyssey CEO John Morris said. "We are thoroughly documenting and recording the site, which we believe will have immense historical significance."
The company salvaged more than 50,000 coins and other artifacts from the wreck of the SS Republic off Savannah, Ga., in 2003, making millions. But Odyssey posted losses in 2005 and 2006 while using its state-of-the-art ships and deep-water robotic equipment to hunt for the next mother lode. "The outside world now understands that what we do is a real business and is repeatable and not just a lucky one-shot deal," Stemm said.
In January, Odyssey won permission from the Spanish government to resume a suspended search for the wreck of the HMS Sussex, which was leading a British fleet into the Mediterranean Sea for a war against France in 1694 when it sank in a storm off Gibraltar. Historians believe the 157-foot warship was carrying nine tons of gold coins to buy the loyalty of the Duke of Savoy, a potential ally in southeastern France. Odyssey believes those coins could also fetch more than $500 million. But under the terms of an agreement, Odyssey will have to share any finds with the British government. The company will get 80 percent of the first $45 million and about 50 percent of the proceeds thereafter.
Odyssey also is seeking exclusive rights to what is believed to be an Italian-registered passenger vessel that sank during World War I in the Mediterranean Sea east of Sardinia, and to another discovered in the Mediterranean about 100 miles west of Gibraltar.
Mar 2007 - LONDON - Up to a billion dollars worth of gold and silver on a sunken 17th-century English warship may soon be recovered following an agreement with Spanish authorities. Professional marine treasure hunters working with the British government have reportedly been given the go-ahead to recover gold and silver pieces from what is thought to be the wreck of the HMS Sussex, which took 560 sailors to a watery grave off Gibraltar in 1694.
Although the Spanish government had given its approval, authorities in the regional government of Andalucia had been blocking progress towards recovering the 10 tonnes of gold and silver believed to have gone down with the vessel. On Friday, however, they gave the go-ahead for the Odyssey Explorer to go after the wreck, El País newspaper reported yesterday.
The American ship, belonging to the Florida-based Odyssey Marine exploration company, has been scanning the sea bed off Gibraltar for almost a decade. The 400 square miles of Mediterranean sea bed have turned up what appear to be dozens of ancient and modern wrecks, including some believed to date back 2,000 years to Phoenician and Roman times. But one wreck in particular, lying some 2,500 ft (760 metres) down and with the cannons still clearly visible to robot cameras despatched by the company, is thought most likely to be the HMS Sussex. The 80-gun warship, supposedly laden with gold and silver, had been on a secret mission to ensure the support of the Duke of Savoy in the war of the League of Augsburg against Louis XIV of France.
Admiral Sir Francis Wheeler, with HMS Sussex as his flagship, had led a fleet of some 80 vessels to the mouth of the Mediterranean at Gibraltar. "Historical records suggest a million pounds sterling was destined for Savoy," Odyssey Marine says. "Other court records show that just as Wheeler's fleet was assembling to sail for the Mediterranean, a million pounds was being collected at the exchequer ... and that an order was sent to the exchequer to issue 'a million pounds in money for the use of the fleet'."
In mid-February 1694, after a stop-off in Gibraltar, the Sussex found itself caught in a terrible storm. Admiral Wheeler eventually agreed to cut down the main mast to increase its stability. But, according to the two Muslim sailors who were the only survivors from the crew, the mast smashed to pieces while the vessel drifted, took on water and, eventually, plunged to the bottom of the ocean. Some 560 Sussex crew members were among the 1,253 sailors to die that night. Admiral Wheeler's body, dressed in his night-shirt, was discovered later by Spanish fishermen.
The HMS Sussex has long been a treasure hunter's dream. Odyssey Marine, which recovered more than $75m (£38m) of gold and silver coins from the wreck of the SS Republic off Georgia in 2003, began its hunt for the Sussex in 1997. In what was hailed as a ground-breaking agreement between a government and a treasure-hunting company, the UK has signed a deal with Odyssey Marine Exploration to allow it to seek out the Sussex.
Under the terms of the deal, any treasure discovered will be divided between the government and the company. The Spanish government initially tried to block the search, but Spain now agrees that - if it can be proved that this is the Sussex - the cargo belongs to Britain.
Feb 2007 - HUTCHINSON ISLAND, FL - Treasure hunters arrived on the Treasure Coast on Monday in search of what they hope might be a ship from a gold-filled fleet that gave the area its name. The four-person crew of a lift boat named the Polly-L expects to reach Tiger Shores Beach, located just north of Stuart Public Beach, this morning and begin looking for historical artifacts associated with a shipwreck possibly from the 1715 Spanish treasure fleet.
The search begins four years after officials with the Amelia Island-based Amelia Research and Recovery team first surveyed the shallow waters off Hutchinson Island for a stack of cannons that a local surfer discovered almost 30 years ago.
"I'm excited and ready to go," said Dave Jordan, a former Palm City resident and surfer who kept his discovery a secret for 25 years until his wife triggered the memory. "I want to see what's there." So does Doug Pope, the president of Amelia Research and Recovery, who on Monday captained the four-story-high boat down the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Pierce. Pope and Jordan worked with the state to secure necessary permits to "dig and identify" the 42 targets they found during a 2005 survey about 200 yards from the beach.
Starting as early as today, professional divers will use metal detectors to rule out which of the targets are "modern junk" — bridge parts or other metal debris — picked up in the initial survey, Pope said. Then they'll use a 6-inch vacuum dredge to determine what the remaining targets are. If they uncover an artifact of potential historical significance, the treasure hunters must first receive a permit to "salvage" the material.
"When the treasure gods start smiling, then we'll say we found something," Pope said. "They don't smile that often." If Jordan's memory turns out to be accurate, Martin County historians say the shipwreck could be part of an 11-vessel Spanish fleet that wrecked in a hurricane in 1715.
So far, the ship from that fleet discovered farthest south was the Urca de Lima, found north of Fort Pierce's Pepper Beach Park, which now contains a state underwater archeological preserve around the wreck. Other ships from that fleet have been discovered in Indian River County.
While it is unlikely any gold will be uncovered in the search, officials with the Historical Society of Martin County are hoping historical treasures will be discovered and eventually displayed in the new Elliott Museum planned just yards from the possible shipwreck site.
Jordan, who has family in Martin County and is in the process of moving from North Carolina to Gainesville, said he will likely stay on the Polly-L for a few days as the work begins. The project is expected to take about a month. "It's important for me to find the cannons, but it's not about me," he said. "I'm excited Martin County is getting a chance. There's tons of history here. It's unbelievable."
Feb 2007 - ELDORADO DO JUMA, BRAZIL - It's a gold rush in the Amazon jungle, driven by the Internet. Speeding past unbroken walls of foliage, a motorboat packed with gritty prospectors veers toward the shore of the Juma river and spills its passengers into a city of black plastic lean-tos veiled by greasy smoke. All around them are newly dug pits, felled trees, misery and tales of striking it rich. This is Eldorado do Juma, scene of Brazil's biggest gold rush in more than 20 years.
Drawn by a Brazilian math teacher's Web site descriptions of miners scooping up thousands of dollars in gold, between 3,000 and 10,000 people have poured in since December, cutting down huge trees, diverting streams and digging ever-deeper wildcat mines, in an area that only months ago was pristine rain forest.
Hundreds of mud-covered men with picks and shovels hack at the earth, marking their tiny plots with tree branches and string. Others feed dirt into wooden troughs and the residue into pans. A lucky few will end up with tiny nuggets and flakes of gold to sell for $530 an ounce in the town of Apui, about 50 miles north. Even the cooks, cleaners and porters serving the new industry are making about six times the minimum wage.
It's reminiscent of Serra Pelada, a mountain that became a gargantuan hole in the jungle floor after a gold rush in the early 1980s, immortalized in Sebastiao Salgado's photos of what looked like a hellish human anthill. "This is even better than Serra Pelada. I've been mining all around the Amazon since 1978 and this is the best I've ever seen," said Joao Leandro de Azedo, 70, overlooking his stake from a hammock. Azedo said he has panned some 70 ounces of gold worth a total of $19,000 since arriving 17 days ago, including 17 ounces in a single day. Half the proceeds went to the man who staked out his plot, and 8 percent more to Jose Ferreira da Silva Filho, who claims to own the entire "garimpo," or wildcat mine.
Already, too many people are chasing too little gold and there isn't enough space for all the miners at the eight main digging sites. Price-gouging (chain saws costing around $400 in gold) is rampant and malaria is spreading in the makeshift city, nicknamed Eldorado do Juma after the Amazon's mythical Eldorado, or city of gold. It already has bars, restaurants, barbershops, bakeries, equipment shops and jewelry stores, most of them constructed out of tree branches and tarps. A 16-room brothel is under construction.
Federal police armed with automatic weapons arrived last month, imposing a nightly curfew and cracking down on shootings but making it harder to get rich quick. "Luckily, we caught it right at the beginning. It is a concern for everyone that this doesn't become another Serra Pelada," said Walter Arcoverde of the National Department of Mineral Production.
Local people had been mining this area of the jungle state of Amazonas in relative peace until Ivani Valentin da Silva, a math teacher in Apui, posted their pictures and stories on the Internet, said Antonio Roque Longo, the mayor of Apui. "Perhaps he didn't have any idea of the impact it would have," said Longo. "People see this on the Internet and they think they're going to do the same thing. But the truth is, for every one person who strikes it rich there are 30 who go home penniless."
Da Silva said he clearly wrote that the gold would soon run out. "Unfortunately, no one read the article," he said, denying any responsibility for the environmental damage being done by the thousands of fortune-seekers. His Internet posting forced federal police to pay attention, he said, and without that, "the area would be totally devastated."
Government geologists are trying to measure the deposits, while environmental regulators struggle to prevent miners from using heavy equipment or mercury, which joins gold particles together but can ruin the rivers. The fear is that like Serra Pelada, Eldorado do Juma will end up a scarred wasteland.
Already, small rivers of mud gush from streambeds at night, suggesting that heavy-duty water jets are being used illegally, despite promises to wait for permits. "Most of the gold that can be mined manually has already been found, but if they start using heavy machinery this place is going to explode all over again," said Luiz Gonzaga da Conceicao, 51, a miner from Brazil's far west.
The land reform agency says the land actually belongs to the federal government, but now that the miners are here, there's talk of compromise _ authorities say they will permit pressure hoses, rock crushers and other machinery if miners police themselves and stick to an environmental protection plan. But da Silva, the man who claims to own the whole area, says he's working on exactly that. "This place has a great future. There are other minerals here besides gold. We have to get organized to exploit it," he said.
Jan 2007 - NOTTINGHAMSHIRE, ENGLAND - An ancient Celtic gold necklace unearthed in Nottinghamshire has been bought by a council for £350,000. Amateur treasure hunter Maurice Richardson found the torc with a metal detector near his Newark home in February 2005. Newark and Sherwood District Council has now bought the artefact, which dates back to 250 BC.
The authority plans to display the find along with an exhibition on its history in Newark in about 12 months. Sarah Midgley, the council's head of leisure and cultural services, said the authority felt compelled to buy the torc to preserve the area's heritage and prevent it from going overseas.
"The torc is one of the most significant pieces of Celtic artwork found in northern Europe and it proves that there was a significant community in the Newark area," she said. It is thought the relic, which would have been worn as a civic ornament, was buried as part of a religious offering.
An inquest declared the artefact to be "treasure" in May 2005. That meant Mr Richardson and Trinity College, Cambridge, who own the land where the torc was found, will share the £350,000. The authority is now looking at potential sites in the town to display the find, which is currently being looked after by the British Museum.
Jan 2007 - LINCOLNSHIRE, ENGLAND - The finder of the remains of an exceptional 7th-century gold sword in a Lincolnshire field is £125,000 richer after they were acquired by the British Museum. He is expected to share his good fortune with the owner of the field, near Market Rasen, where he made the discovery using a metal detector.
Sonja Marzinzik, curator of prehistory and Europe at the museum, described it as "an outstanding find of very high-quality workmanship." She said that it was a stunning example of early English heritage that reflected the skill of the makers and the importance of Anglo-Saxon England in the wider, early medieval world.
The discovery raises questions about the mobility of people and goods in the early Middle Ages. The gold is studded with large garnets, which would have come from Asia. Dr Marzinzik said: "The large garnet settings are extraordinary, as substantial garnets of this kind are scarce, particularly in the 7th century when supplies from the Indian subcontinent and Sri Lanka dried up. Their analysis can shed light on the economic background of gemstone provenance and trading networks. Suddenly we’re part of a much bigger picture. Before, we were not in the picture."
The finder, who wishes to remain anonymous, reported his discovery to Kevin Leahy, principal keeper of archaeology at Scunthorpe Museum, who is also finds adviser for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which records archaeological objects found by the public.
Dr Leahy said: "He had got a signal and found the first fittings from the gold sword hilt. He realised its importance and brought an excavating machine to take off the turf and pick up the rest. They were about 15 inches down. He brought them to me to declare them as possible treasure.
"He came in with a box, with the objects wrapped up in kitchen-roll paper. He went through each one, as if pulling large rabbits out of a hat. These were clearly very important 7th-century sword fittings with filigree gold, a really top-quality object."
The only other object to emerge from the site was a 1920s lightbulb. Dr Leahy said: "That confirmed my feeling that the sword was originally in the river. There is a history in Lincolnshire of finding weapons in rivers, starting in the Bronze Age. One can only guess why, but there were a lot of early medieval battles and fights on river crossings. This could have been dropped."
The sword’s quality suggests that it was commissioned by someone of high rank. Society was stratified at that time and the owner might have been a member of an important family or a noted warrior. The blade has not survived, although traces of iron are preserved on some of the gold fittings, which include the pommel, the upper hilt guard, the upper hilt collar, the lower hilt collar and the lower hilt guard.
After the find was valued by an independent treasure valuation committee at £125,000, the British Museum had to raise the money. The purchase was made possible with a £70,000 grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund. The rest came from the British Museum Friends and museum funds.
Jan 2007 - ENGLAND - A chance find by a metal detectorist has led to the discovery of an extremely rare Viking burial site, containing the graves of four men and two women. The site, near Cumwhitton in Cumbria, is believed to date from the early 10th century and was unearthed in March this year after local metal detectorist Peter Adams found two copper broaches. Peter reported his discovery to the local Portable Antiquities Scheme Finds Liaison Officer, Faye Simpson, and, as he put it: "Finding the broaches was just the beginning."
Experts from Oxford Archaeology North were brought in and with the help of English Heritage began further excavations. Below the broaches they found the grave of a Viking woman. The two copper alloy broaches that started the whole thing. Courtesy Portable Antiquities Scheme. Then, 10 metres away, they found more burials, full of grave goods. Altogether, Peter’s "find of a lifetime" led to the discovery of two female and four male burials.
"This was a haunting find," explained Faye Simpson. "When I first saw the excavated graves, complete with artefacts but the bodies of those buried long decomposed, it seemed as though the people buried there had indeed followed in the footsteps of their ancestors and gone to Valhalla – the Viking afterlife."
The sandy soil of the area means that while the bodies have decomposed, the goods they were buried with remained exactly where it was interred over a thousand years ago. Archaeologists were therefore given the unique opportunity to excavate a Viking Age cemetery under 21st century conditions.
In the male burials they found weaponry and fire-making materials in two of them, while one was buried with spurs, a possible bridle and what is thought to be the remains of a drinking horn. One of the females was buried wearing a magnificent jet bracelet on her left wrist and with a copper alloy belt fitting. The other had been buried with a wooden chest at her feet, which x-rays may determine holds weaving equipment.
"We could not have expected more from the excavation of the site," said Rachel Newman of Oxford Archaeology North. "We knew the broaches found by Mr. Adams came from a burial of a Viking Age woman, which was exciting and of great importance in itself, but we did not expect to find five other graves complete with such a splendid array of artefacts. It truly has been an amazing few months excavating this extremely important Viking Age site."
The site is made even more remarkable by its rarity. Only one other Viking cemetery has been found and excavated in England to date - a cremation cemetery at Ingleby in Derbyshire, which was excavated in the 1940s. Ashes were found buried in earthenware pots and very few artefacts survive. The only other group of bodies to be found buried together was a battlefield cemetery at Repton, Derbyshire.
According to Sir Neil Cossons, Chairman of English Heritage, it is the fact that the burials are of a domestic type that makes them so important: "This incredible find provides rare archaeological evidence of the Vikings as settlers who integrated themselves into English life," he said. It reveals, he added, "the presence of the Vikings as a community group including women and challenges the war-lords stereotype as depicted by Hollywood."