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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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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Buckingham Palace Was Built With Jurassic Fossils, Scientists Find
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iStock

The UK's Buckingham Palace is a vestige from another era, and not just because it was built in the early 18th century. According to a new study, the limestone used to construct it is filled with the fossilized remains of microbes from the Jurassic period of 200 million years ago, as The Telegraph reports.

The palace is made of oolitic limestone, which consists of individual balls of carbonate sediment called ooids. The material is strong but lightweight, and is found worldwide. Jurassic oolite has been used to construct numerous famous buildings, from those in the British city of Bath to the Empire State Building and the Pentagon.

A new study from Australian National University published in Scientific Reports found that the spherical ooids in Buckingham Palace's walls are made up of layers and layers of mineralized microbes. Inspired by a mathematical model from the 1970s for predicting the growth of brain tumors, the researchers created a model that explains how ooids are created and predicts the factors that limit their ultimate size.

A hand holding a chunk of oolite limestone
Australian National University

They found that the mineralization of the microbes forms the central core of the ooid, and the layers of sediment that gather around that core feed those microbes until the nutrients can no longer reach the core from the outermost layer.

This contrasts with previous research on how ooids form, which hypothesized that they are the result of sediment gathered from rolling on the ocean floor. It also reshapes how we think about the buildings made out of oolitic limestone from this period. Next time you look up at the Empire State Building or Buckingham Palace, thank the ancient microbes.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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©Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello
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Inside the Kitchen of Thomas Jefferson's Acclaimed—and Enslaved—Chef James Hemings
 ©Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello
©Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello

James Hemings once prepared lavish dishes for America's founding fathers at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's Virginia plantation. Though enslaved, he trained in France to become one of colonial America's most accomplished chefs. Now, archaeologists have uncovered the kitchen where Hemings created his elaborate banquets, LiveScience reports.

Researchers at Monticello are conducting a long-term effort, the Mountaintop Project, to restore plantation premises, including slave quarters, to their original appearance. Archaeologists excavated a previously filled-in cellar in the main house's South Pavilion, where they found artifacts like bones, toothbrushes, beads, and shards of glass and ceramics. Underneath layers of dirt, experts also uncovered the kitchen's original brick floor, remnants of a fireplace, and the foundations of four waist-high stew stoves.

"Stew stoves are the historic equivalent of a modern-day stovetop or cooking range," archaeological field researcher manager Crystal Ptacek explains in an online video chronicling the find. Each contained a small hole for hot coals; centuries later, the cellar floor still contains remains of ash and charcoal from blazing fires. Hemings himself would have toiled over these stoves.

During the colonial period, wealthy families had their slaves prepare large, labor-intensive meals. These multi-course feasts required stew stoves for boiling, roasting, and frying. Archaeologists think that Jefferson might have upgraded his kitchen after returning from Paris: Stew stoves were a rarity in North America, but de rigueur for making haute French cuisine.

Hemings traveled with Jefferson to France in the 1780s, where for five years he was trained in the French culinary arts. There, Hemings realized he was technically a free man. He met free black people and also learned he could sue for his freedom under French law, according to NPR.

And yet he returned to the U.S. to cook for Jefferson's family and guests, perhaps because he didn't want to be separated from his family members at Monticello, including his sister, Sally. He later negotiated his freedom from Jefferson and trained his brother Peter as his replacement. Hemings ended up cooking for a tavern keeper in Baltimore, and in 1801, shortly after turning down an offer from now-president Jefferson to be his personal chef, he died by suicide.

"We're thinking that James Hemings must have had ideals and aspirations about his life that could not be realized in his time and place," Susan Stein, senior curator at Monticello, told NPR in 2015. "And those factors probably contributed to his unhappiness and his depression, and ultimately to his death."

Hemings contributed to early America's culinary landscape through dessert recipes like snow eggs and by introducing colonial diners to macaroni and cheese, among other dishes. He also assisted today's historians by completing a 1796 inventory of Monticello's kitchen supplies—and he's probably left further clues in the estate's newly uncovered kitchen, says Gayle Jessup White, Monticello's community engagement officer—and one of James's relatives.

"My great-great-great-grandfather Peter Hemings learned to cook French cuisine from his brother James on this stove," White tells Mental Floss. "It was a spiritual moment for me to walk into the uncovered remains of Monticello's first kitchen, where my ancestors spent much of their lives. This discovery breathes life into the people who lived, worked and died at Monticello, and I hope people connect with their stories."

[h/t Live Science]

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