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 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

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]

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Scientific Reports, Fernando Ramirez Rozzi
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Humans Might Have Practiced Brain Surgery on Cows 5000 Years Ago
Scientific Reports, Fernando Ramirez Rozzi
Scientific Reports, Fernando Ramirez Rozzi

In the 1970s, archaeologists discovered a site in France containing hundreds of cow skeletons dating back 5000 to 5400 years. The sheer number wasn't surprising—human agriculture in that part of the world was booming by 3000 BCE. What perplexed scientists was something uncovered there a few decades later: a cow skull bearing a thoughtfully drilled hole. Now, a team of researchers has released evidence that suggests the hole is an early example of animal brain surgery.

Fernando Ramírez Rozzi, a paleontologist with the French National Center for Scientific Research, and Alain Froment, an anthropologist at the Museum of Mankind in Paris, published their findings in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. After comparing the opening to the holes chiseled into the skulls of humans from the same era, they found the bones bore some striking similarities. They didn't show any signs of fracturing from blunt force trauma; rather, the hole in the cow skull, like those in the human skulls, seemed to have been carved out carefully using a tool made for exactly that purpose. That suggests that the hole is evidence of the earliest known veterinary surgery performed by humans.

Trepanation, or the practice of boring holes into human skulls, is one of the oldest forms of surgery. Experts are still unsure why ancient humans did this, but the level of care that went into the procedures suggests that the surgery was likely used to treat sick patients while they were still alive. Why a person would perform this same surgery on a cow, however, is harder to explain.

The authors present a few theories, the first being that these ancient brain surgeons were treating a sick cow the same way they might treat a sick human. If a cow was suffering from a neural disease like epilepsy, perhaps they though that cutting a hole in its head would relieve whatever was agitating the brain. The cow would have needed to be pretty special to warrant such an effort when there were hundreds of healthy cows living on the same plot of land, as evidenced by the skeletons it was found with.

Another possible explanation was that whoever operated on the cow did so as practice to prepare them for drilling into the heads of live humans one day. "Cranial surgery requires great manual dexterity and a complete knowledge of the anatomy of the brain and vessel distribution," the authors write in the study. "It is possible that the mastery of techniques in cranial surgery shown in the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods was acquired through experimentation on animals."

Either way, the bovine patient didn't live to see the results of the procedure: The bone around the hole hadn't healed at all, which suggests the cow either died during surgery or wasn't alive to begin with.

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Stefan Sauer, AFP/Getty Images
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
13-Year-Old Amateur Archaeologist Discovers the Buried Treasure of a Danish King
Stefan Sauer, AFP/Getty Images
Stefan Sauer, AFP/Getty Images

In January, amateur archaeologist René Schön and his 13-year-old student Luca Malaschnitschenko were scouring a field on an island in the Baltic Sea when something small and silver triggered their metal detector. What they initially thought was aluminum trash turned out to be a coin from a 10th-century treasure hoard that once belonged to a Danish king, AP reports.

Schön and Malaschnitschenko discovered the site on the eastern German island of Ruegen, but it wasn't until mid-April that state archaeologists uncovered the hoard in its entirety. Both of the amateur archaeologists were invited back to take part in the final dig, which spanned 4300 square feet.

The treasure trove includes pearls, jewelry, a Thor's hammer, and about 100 silver coins, with the oldest dating back to 714 CE and the most recent to 983 CE. Experts believe the collection once belonged to the Viking-born Danish king Harald "Harry" Bluetooth, who abandoned his Norse faith and brought Christianity to Denmark.

Pile of silver coins.
Stefan Sauer, AFP/Getty Images

Threatened by a rebellion led by his son, the king fled Denmark in the late 980s—around the same time the silver hoard was buried—and took refuge in Pomerania, on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea. He died there in 987.

Harry Bluetooth derived his nickname from his bluish dead tooth. Today his legacy lives on in the Swedish Bluetooth technology that bears his name. The symbol for the tech also uses the runic characters for his initials: HB.

According to the archaeologists who worked there, the dig site represents the largest trove of Bluetooth coins ever discovered in the southern Baltic region.

[h/t AP]

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