English Hobbyists with Metal Detectors Discover Roman Coin Hoard in Farmer's Field

 Royal Institution of Cornwall. Photo taken by Anna Tyacke, Cornwall Finds Liaison Officer, Portable Antiquities Scheme, British Museum
Royal Institution of Cornwall. Photo taken by Anna Tyacke, Cornwall Finds Liaison Officer, Portable Antiquities Scheme, British Museum

Two men in Cornwall, England, graduated from metal detector hobbyists to bona fide treasure hunters when they discovered a stash of nearly 2000 Roman coins buried in a farmer’s freshly plowed field.

As Cornwall Live reports, Kyle Neil, 18, and Darren Troon, 45, used their electronic instruments to locate a stone-lined pit stuffed with ancient currency. "We just kept getting a signal," Troon told the news site. "We rolled back the earth, and four or five inches down we were looking at bunch of coins. They were dirty, but you could clearly see a lot of them looked like the day they were cast. We were buzzing with excitement."

Parts of a tin container that held Roman coins found in Cornwall, England
The coins had been buried in a tin container with a handle.
Copyright of Royal Institution of Cornwall. Picture taken by Anna Tyacke, Cornwall Finds Liaison Officer, Portable Antiquities Scheme, British Museum

Coins from a Roman treasure stash discovered by metal detector hobbyists in Cornwall, England
Copyright of Royal Institution of Cornwall. Picture taken by Anna Tyacke, Cornwall Finds Liaison Officer, Portable Antiquities Scheme, British Museum

The currency, which dates from 253 CE to 274 CE, consists of bronze and a small amount of silver. Engravings depict Roman emperors Gallienus, Claudius II, Victorinus, and Tetricus I, among others. Some coins, however, were too badly corroded or worn to identify their markings. The remains of a tin container—which may have once stored the treasure—were also discovered. Coin hoards are typically stored in pottery, making this particular burial detail unusual.

"This is a typical hoard of Gallic emperors who broke away from central Roman rule and took charge of Britain in the late 3rd century CE," Anna Tyacke, a finds liaison officer at the Royal Cornwall Museum, tells Mental Floss. "We find a lot of them in Cornwall because the tin trade increased in that century when the Romans had run out of mining tin in their province of Spain or Iberia."

The British Museum is currently valuing the hoard, and the Royal Institution of Cornwall, which runs Royal Cornwall Museum, is interested in purchasing it through the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

As for Troon and Neil, they're still in awe over their find. "It was a day I don’t think we’ll ever forget," Troon told Cornwall Live. "It took us a couple of days just to calm down. It's amazing to think they've been down there just waiting to be found, and there's lot more to find out there."

[h/t Archaeology]

Laser Scans Detect Hidden Buildings and Tunnels Beneath Alcatraz Prison

iStock.com/f8grapher
iStock.com/f8grapher

Isolated in the San Francisco Bay and surrounded by steep cliff faces, Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary seemed like the most secure place to keep dangerous criminals in the mid-20th century. But it's recently come to light that every inmate on Alcatraz Island lived above a series of potential escape routes that predated the prison's construction, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

In a new study published in the journal Near Surface Geophysics, archaeologists reported their discovery of structures and artifacts beneath the Alcatraz prison yard, including underground buildings, tunnels, and ammunition magazines. Guided by historical maps, documents, and photographs, they used laser scanning technology and ground-penetrating radar to locate the subterranean fortress close to the surface.

The site dates back to the mid-19th century, when Alcatraz Island was used for military purposes. The same natural features that would later make Alcatraz an appealing prison also made it an ideal coastal fortification. Enough brick buildings were built there to house 200 soldiers and enough food was shipped in to feed them for four months.

But the fortification wasn't used for its original purpose for very long. It was transformed into the West Coast's official military prison during the Civil War, and in the 1930s, the government turned it into a federal prison. Instead of tearing down the forts and tunnels leftover from its military days, workers left them intact and built over them to save money. Archaeologists plan to investigate the underground structures further without disturbing the historic site.

Alcatraz Prison closed in 1963, so the underground tunnels no longer pose a security problem. Today the island is part of the U.S. National Park Service and is a popular tourist attraction.

[h/t San Fransisco Chronicle]

The Site Where Julius Caesar Was Assassinated Will Open to the Public in 2021

iStock.com/Largo di Torre Argentina
iStock.com/Largo di Torre Argentina

Besides being a sanctuary for stray cats, Largo di Torre Argentina in Rome is best known as the place where Julius Caesar was stabbed 22 times by assassins in 44 BCE. As the city's oldest open-air square, the spot is an important piece of Roman history, but it's fallen into disrepair. Now, Condé Nast Traveler reports that Largo di Torre Argentina will reopen to the public following a $1.1 million restoration project.

The site includes four ancient temples, a medieval brick tower, and the ruins of the senate house where Caesar was murdered. About 20 feet below street level, it was excavated under the rule of Benito Mussolini in the 1920s, and has remained largely closed to the public since. Today, Largo di Torre Argentina is overgrown and accessible only to the feral cats that live there.

On Monday, February 25, Rome mayor Virginia Raggi announced that Largo di Torre Argentina will reopen in the second half of 2021. To get the site ready for the public, the city will add restrooms, install lights, and build walkways that allow visitors to explore the area. Stone ruins, some of which are stacked into piles, will be secured, and artifacts currently sitting in storage will be moved to a museum. The one area the project will avoid is the corner where the cat sanctuary is located.

Rome, of course, is filled with ancient ruins—some that residents weren't even aware of until recently. In 2014, a 2000-year-old Roman road was unearthed during the construction of a McDonald's.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

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