A hobby archaeologist with a metal detector has discovered a trove of gold and silver in a German forest dating back to late Roman times, fuelling speculation that it could be the legendary Nibelung treasure which inspired composer Richard Wagner’s operatic “Ring Cycle”.
The haul from the western state of Rhineland Palatinate, which is worth about €1m, includes silver bowls, brooches and other jewellery from ceremonial robes, as well as small statues that would have adorned a grand chair, archaeologists say.
A Celtic treasure looted by the Vikings more than 1,000 years ago has been discovered in the British Museum’s storerooms. An ornate, gilded disc brooch dating from the eighth or ninth century was found by chance and is being described as a “staggering find”. No-one knew of its existence until now.
It had been concealed in a lump of organic material excavated from a Viking burial site at Lilleberge in Norway by a British archaeologist in the 1880s and acquired by the British Museum in 1891.
Curator Barry Ager, a Vikings specialist, was poring over artefacts before a visit from a Norwegian researching the Viking site when his eye was caught by some metal sticking out of the side of the organic lump.
Intrigued, he asked the conservation department to X-ray it. “At that stage, I really didn’t know what was inside,” he said. “It was a staggering find.”
Many hundreds of brooches from the early medieval period have been recovered by metal detector enthusiasts since the hobby became popular in the 1970′s. Although much of this material remains in private hands, some of it has become available for study, either through purchase by the state, or by gracious individual loan. Brooches from Frisia were chosen for this study for several reasons. Firstly and quite crucially was the availability of suitable collections for handheld XRF (hhXRF) analysis. Secondly the region has a particularly interesting early medieval past, especially in terms of its relationship to the North Sea economy and the Carolingian hinterlands, the results could therefore be compared against current historical and archaeological theoretical frameworks.
Very little is known about the organisation of metalworking in the region at this time, a large scale compositional and morphological study could contribute to our understanding of trade, production and the subsequent use of these very personal items, subsequently providing a positive contribution to these debates. Typological studies of brooches also date back well into the 19th century and thanks to the dedication of the late Jurjen Bos, the typologies for two of the most numerous and important categories, the Equal-Arm and the Disc brooches were recently brought up to date (see Bos 2006b, 2006c), providing a solid starting point for my research. Finally, if successful, any results that were of merit could form the basis for future comparisons to other regions, further engaging with debate over the early development of Northwest Europe.
This Master’s thesis from the University of Leiden can be read at New Insights from the Metal Detected Brooches of Early Medieval Frisia. It runs to 180 pages.
I very rarely attend open metal detecting events. I’ve been to a few in the past and found virtually nothing at any of them apart from rubbish. In fact on one such I came back with several dozen mastitis treatment tubes and bugger all else. Yesterday however I attended the NCMD charity rally in support of The Shakespeare Hospice at Stratford upon Avon. My finds for the day were precisely two buttons and the usual scrap.
There were around 200 detectorists on some 150 acres of arable land spread over 4 fields. The land had been roughly disked and roughly tilled, both superficially, with large clods of dried clay liberally spread across the surface of at least 2 of the fields. This made it very difficult to get a good rhythm of low swings and there were a few examples of people more or less waving their detectors about like Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Phil. 6″ down was more or less solid, sticky clay of the sort to excite artisan potters. The surface had been baked and the dry shards of clay were like rough gravel when you put your hand on them. The field between the parking area and the registration tent was fairly rough and uneven, but the far field was reported to be much worse; indeed one chap told me it was “bad enough to break your ankles”. It was, overall, bloody hard work.
One field was fairly smooth but both fields I tried were contaminated by broken bricks, pieces of glass (including much weathered, old glass with large bubbles in it), tiles and other roofing materials, pieces of cement or mortar and by small, shapeless pieces of metal which were very light and therefore probably melted alumimium of some sort.
There was a lot of dissatisfaction with the state of the land, including several comments that it would have been better left as stubble. A couple of people mentioned a lot of problems with falsing but that may have been down to their particular detectors. As with all large rallies people had come from all over the place to attend including Sheffield, Brighton, Northants and London, thus incurring significant travelling costs. The first person left at 11.30am; he was an elderly chap with arthritis who had come from near Heathrow but couldn’t cope with the uneven ground. There were more departures over lunchtime, including a group of 3 who went off to finish the day at one of their local permissions, and a few more by the time I left at around 2.30pm, but most people seemed determined to give it “just another half hour” and to “get their money’s worth” as one chap put it.
It’s surprising what people will complain about. I overheard one chap saying it was a poor do that the NCMD had not arranged for a trade stand or a burger bar to be there, and that next year he would be joining the FID instead. Since most mobile burger vans seem to be of the greasy-donkey-burger-for-50p variety that didn’t seem much of a loss. The same chap bemoaned the lack of “fun” aspects to the rally, specifying that there was no token hunt (in which the organisers bury tokens for people to dig up and win prizes for doing so).
By the time I left I’d heard reliable reports of 5 hammered coins, a gothic florin, an unspecified number of Roman grots and a half sovereign. After the rally additional finds reported on one of the forums included a “nice small Saxon cruciform brooch apparently with loads of enamelling intact”, a lead bale seal, a 16th century harness bell and a silver item which may have been a mount or strap end (date unknown). The FLO was in attendance but whether she had enough to keep her busy I have no idea.
Finds: 2 buttons.