Top 10 Treasure, Artifact, and Valuable Finds of 2015
Silver, gold, jewels, and other precious belongings that were lost or forgotten with the passage of time… There were many luxurious artifacts discovered this year. Narrowing the list to ten cannot encompass them all. But there are some finds from 2015 that stood out for their unique or lavish nature. Some of the artifacts had symbolic as well as monetary use, while others demonstrate that the people of the past had just as much of an inclination for the finer things as those of the present.
Members of the Israeli Caving Club uncovered ancient treasures tucked into a narrow crevice of a stalactite cave in the Galilee region of northern Israel. The men found two ancient silver coins, minted in the late fourth century BC with an image of Alexander the Great on one side and Zeus on the other side.
The remains of a pouch cloth contained jewelry – rings, earrings and bracelets. The items were well preserved and intricately detailed and it is believed that the pouch was hidden during a time of political unrest and the owner never returned to claim their belongings. The cave’s location remains a secret, and further examinations by archaeologists and geologists are planned. It is hoped future digs will reveal more interesting and important finds which will shed light on the lives and times of ancient Israel.
A metal detectorist near Tangley, England, found an exquisite onyx and gold ring from about the 300s AD depicting the god of love, Cupid. Per law, the ring was reported to the antiquities authorities and it will be displayed in the Andover Museum for others to appreciate it.
Several rings showing Cupid are known to researchers. But this ring’s design was what made Worrell and her co-author and colleague, John Pearce of King’s College London, conclude it was made around the fourth century AD.
About 1,000 years ago an unlucky soul apparently buried his treasure—a cache of Viking coins—in a field in Llandwrog, Wales and never dug it up again. Perhaps the medieval person died before retrieving it or forgot exactly where it was buried. Whatever the case, the apparent bad luck of the medieval hoarder turned out to be good luck for a Welshman with a metal detector.
Found among the collection of coins were fragments of three or four pennies with the visage of Cnut, all likely from the Chester mint. Cnut or Canute was king of England from 1016 to 1035. He also ruled over Denmark, Norway and part of Sweden from 985 to 1035.
The cache also includes 14 silver pennies minted in Dublin under the Irish-Scandinavian king Sihtric Anlafsson, who ruled from 989 to 1036. Archaeologists say such Irish coins are rarely unearthed on the British mainland. Eight of these coins were dated 995 AD and six were thought to be from 1018.
Archaeologists carrying out excavations in the port of Birka, Sweden’s oldest town, unearthed a tiny dragon head once used on a Viking brooch or costume needle. The bronze relic matches the shape of a mold that was found back in 1870, but it is the first time researchers have found an actual object that came from it. The dragon is wearing a collar and has open jaws and curls of hair, a style which researchers have said is unique to the island on which it was found.
A forest ranger in east central Poland stumbled upon the find of a lifetime this year—he discovered a hidden treasure of thousands of silver coins in a wooded area near the village of Guzów. More than 6,000 silver coins were discovered contained within two clay pots. He turned the find over to the Archaeological Museum of the Middle Oder in Zielona Góra, where conservation experts are now attempting to restore the coins.
In total there were 5,370 smaller coins (denarii), and 787 larger ones (Prague groschen). The silver coins have been provisionally dated to the sixteenth and seventeenth century. They were recovered in fairly good condition, but were tarnished and stuck together in lumps. The area where the coins were found has been marked as an archaeological study location.
Archaeologists in China made a spectacular discovery at a construction site in Zhoukou City, Henan Province – a tomb complex containing 21 ancient tombs filled with treasures - including a 2,000-year-old bronze sword, which belonged to the tomb owner and was buried with him when he died. Other artifacts in the tombs include: jewelry, ceramics, utensils, tiles, and bronze wares.
The age of the tombs spans from the Warring States Period (475 – 221 BC) to the East Han Dynasty (25 – 220 AD). Most of the tombs had been looted in the past, but five of the tombs remained intact. Archaeologists said that they hope the new discovery will bring a greater understanding of the culture and customs between the Warring States Period and East Han Dynasty.
Archaeologists announced the discovery of a vaulted Mycenaean tomb near Amfissa, central Greece, containing human remains and a hoard of treasures. The 3,300-year-old tomb is the first of its kind to be found in the region, and one of only a few that have been found untouched. The finding is expected to provide valuable information regarding the habitation, burial customs, and possessions of the Mycenaeans in the 2nd millennium BC.
The research team unearthed many unique and valuable artifacts inside the tomb, including more than forty pieces of painted pottery, bronze vases, small vessels for storing aromatic oils, gold and bronze rings (one of which had an engraved decoration), buttons made of semi-precious stones, two bronze daggers, spearheads, female and zoomorphic idols, and a large number of seals with animal, floral and linear motives. An analysis of the artifacts and remains revealed that the tomb had been in use for more than two centuries, from 1300 BC to 1100 BC.
Archaeologists in Greece also made a rare and exciting discovery in October– an ancient unlooted tomb with the remains of an unknown warrior and a huge hoard of treasure. The Greek Ministry of Culture announced that it is the most important treasure to have been discovered in 65 years.
The tomb is located at the 3,500-year-old Palace of Nestor on Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula. Inside of it, archaeologists discovered the remains of a wooden coffin containing the skeleton of an unknown warrior, aged between 30 and 35 years old. Next to him were his weapons – a bronze sword with a gold and ivory handle and a gold-hilted dagger.
The treasures also included gold rings, an ornate string of pearls, 50 Minoan seal stones carved with imagery of goddesses, silver vases, gold cups, a bronze mirror, ivory combs, an ivory plaque carved with a griffin, and Minoan-style gold jewelry decorated with figures of deities, animals, and floral motifs. Many of the artifacts found in the tomb have been traced to Crete, the island upon which the Minoan civilization arose.
Archaeologists in France excavated the huge funerary chamber of what they believe was a rich 5th century BC Celtic Prince that held his chariot, a decorated bronze cauldron, a vase depicting the ancient Greek god of wine and ecstasy Dionysus, a giant knife, and other important artifacts.
The treasures of the tomb in the Champagne region are “fitting for one of the highest elite of the end of the first Iron Age,” and one of the most remarkable finds of the Celtic Hallstatt period of 800 to 450 BC.
Archaeologists consider the most important treasures to be the 1 meter-diameter (1 yard) bronze cauldron. It has four handles decorated with the head of Achelous, a horned river god of the ancient Greeks. The cauldron also has eight heads of lionesses. In the cauldron was a ceramic oinochoe wine jug with a drawing of Dionysus under a grapevine. They said the wine set may have been a centerpiece of an aristocratic Celtic banquet. It’s a Greco-Latin in origin and confirms exchanges between the Celts and people of the Mediterranean region.
A major excavation carried out in the ancient city of Aksum in northern Ethiopia yielded stunning treasures from both the Roman empire and Aksumite kingdom, revealing a connection with the Romans hundreds of years earlier than previously believed.
The relics were unearthed in a series of graves dating back to the 1st and 2nd centuries. The artifacts include luxurious items of jewelry, such as a necklace made of thousands of tiny colored-glass beads; a beaded belt, Roman glass vessels, drinking beakers, a flask, clay jug, iron bangles, a glass perfume flask, and a Roman bronze mirror.
Louise Schofield, excavation lead, was “blown away” by the precious grave goods that were unearthed, particularly in one burial belonging to a woman that she named “Sleeping Beauty” - who was found wearing a necklace made up of thousands of beads and a beaded belt. Here is how Schofield described her:
She was curled up on her side, with her chin resting on her hand, wearing a beautiful bronze ring. She was buried gazing into an extraordinary Roman bronze mirror. She had next to her a beautiful and incredibly ornate bronze cosmetics spoon with a lump of kohl eyeliner.