English School Caretaker Discovers Medieval Coin Hoard Buried in Playground

Courtesy of Anderson & Garland Fine Art Auctioneers
Courtesy of Anderson & Garland Fine Art Auctioneers

From Viking silver to Roman bronze, amateur treasure hunters in Europe locate all kinds of buried treasures with their metal detectors. Now, a new hoard is making headlines: As the ChronicleLive reports, the caretaker of a primary school in Northumberland, England used his own electronic device to find a stash of Medieval-era silver coins buried underneath the school's playground.

The discovery occurred at Warkworth Church of England Primary School, in the tiny village of Warkworth. The school sits near a well-preserved medieval castle, which was once owned by the House of Percy, a powerful noble family.

"The collection was found in the playground by the caretaker who had asked to metal detect and was granted permission," Fred Wyrley-Birch, director of Newcastle auctioneers Anderson & Garland, who will auction off some of the coins, told Mental Floss. "The hoard was then declared a treasure trove, and was valued and authenticated by The British Museum."

The cache consists of 128 silver coins forged during the 15th and early 16th centuries, a period of transition in England from the Medieval era to the Renaissance era. It includes groat and half-groat coins, which date back to the reigns of monarchs King Edward IV and King Henry VII, and nine coins from the 1460s associated with Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. Together, they're worth £11,000 (nearly $15,000 US).

Theories abound as to why the coins were buried: The presence of a large medieval castle just up the hill has prompted Wyrley-Birch to concoct "a romantic tale" of a "large tax bill on its way to the local sheriff, which never made it to its intended destination."

Meanwhile, Andrew Agate, a local finds liaison officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, to which discoveries of treasures are reported, proposed to ChronicleLive that "the owner may have felt in danger during turbulent times of Scottish incursions," he said. "The intention would have been to retrieve them, but for some reason, this never happened."

The British Museum didn't opt to purchase the silver currency, so the primary school caretaker and the landowner, the Diocese of Newcastle, agreed to split the buried treasure. On Wednesday, September 13, Anderson & Garland will sell 66 coins at auction, all of which belong to the Diocese.

"The collection is a rare opportunity to buy interesting coins that have been underground for 500 years," Wyrley-Birch says. "Most types of treasure troves are kept for the nation and placed in a museum, but for unknown reasons, this one has been given back."

You can check out some of the coins for sale below:

  A primary school caretaker with a metal detector discovered a hoard of 128 silver Medieval-era coins, which were buried underneath the playground at the Warkworth Church of England Primary School in Warkworth, England.
Courtesy of Anderson & Garland Fine Art Auctioneers

A primary school caretaker with a metal detector discovered a hoard of 128 silver Medieval-era coins, which were buried underneath the playground at the Warkworth Church of England Primary School in Warkworth, England.
Courtesy of Anderson & Garland Fine Art Auctioneers

A primary school caretaker with a metal detector discovered a hoard of 128 silver Medieval-era coins, which were buried underneath the playground at the Warkworth Church of England Primary School in Warkworth, England.
Courtesy of Anderson & Garland Fine Art Auctioneers

A primary school caretaker with a metal detector discovered a hoard of 128 silver Medieval-era coins, which were buried underneath the playground at the Warkworth Church of England Primary School in Warkworth, England.
Courtesy of Anderson & Garland Fine Art Auctioneers

[h/t ChronicleLive]

15th-Century Cannonballs Likely Used by Vlad the Impaler Discovered in Bulgaria

By Anonymous, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Anonymous, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Dracula was known for using his fangs and supernatural powers to dispatch his victims. But he apparently liked to have a few cannonballs by his side as well (just in case).

No, there’s no secret passage from Bram Stoker’s novel involving a battle where the vampire count displays his firepower. Rather, according to the website Archaeology in Bulgaria, cannonballs were recently excavated from the Bulgarian town of Svishtov, the site of a military conquest made by the Romanian prince Vlad III. Known more popularly as “Vlad the Impaler,” he likely served as the inspiration behind Stoker's bloodthirsty antagonist.

During his reign as one of most ruthless rulers in history, Vlad III frequently butted heads with the Ottoman Turks. The conflict came to a violent head in 1461, when Vlad and his army fought for control over Svishtov’s Zishtova Fortress. Now, as Gizmodo reports, archaeologists say they've uncovered a collection of centuries-old cannonballs that may have belonged to Vlad and were most likely linked to the event.

The cannonballs themselves were shot from culverins, medieval cannons that fired missiles weighing up to 16 pounds, which were relatively light compared to later models. Lead archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia said that's what makes these artifacts particularly exciting.

“We rejoice at those small cannonballs because they are from culverins," Ovcharov told Fox News. "These were the earliest cannons which were for the 15th century, up until the 16th century, [and] they weren’t in use after that.”

That battle occurred as an attempt to reclaim the region from the occupying Turks. The region was occupied as far back as the Roman Empire and was abandoned after barbarian invasions. The Zishtova Fortress was built much later, and Vlad III made it his home—after he reclaimed it from his enemies.

But just because Vlad may have had cannonballs at his disposal doesn't mean that some of the battle's victims weren't impaled.

"[We] have a letter by Vlad Dracula to the king of Hungary in which he boasted that he had taken [the fort] after a fierce battle, and that about 410 Turks were killed during the siege," Ovcharov said. "Some of them were probably impaled, in his style."

Easter Island Statues Are Being Threatened By Nose-Picking Selfie-Seekers

iStock/filipefrazao
iStock/filipefrazao

Though geographically tiny at just 64 square miles, Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, is home to a rich a history that's been attracting visitors for centuries. Now, one of the top experts on the island warns that inappropriate behavior from tourists could harm the ancient site, HuffPost reports.

Jo Anne Van Tilburg is an archaeologist who first visited Rapa Nui in the early 1980s. Her team has studied the Easter Island heads (known as moaiup close and uncovered the bodies buried beneath them, revealing that the full moai statues are actually up to 33 feet tall.

As Van Tilburg shared in a recent interview on 60 Minutes, a lot has changed since she first set foot on the island. In the early 1980s, Easter Island received about 2500 visitors a year; in 2018, 150,000 tourists flocked there to see the mysterious artifacts. That many annual visitors wouldn't be a lot for some destinations, but on Rapa Nui, an island with a permanent population of 5700 that relies on a generator for power and a limited water supply, those numbers can be devastating.

To make matters worse, many guests act in disrespectful ways when they arrive. According to Van Tilburg, it's not unusual to see tourists illegally climbing on top of the statues and pretending to pick their noses for selfies. "I am troubled by the lack of genuine tourist interest in the island and its people," Van Tillburg said. "There is a lack of genuine appreciation for the Rapa Nui past.”

The island's scarce resources and delicate ecosystem have long been a problem for the people who live there. This may have even led to the site's iconic statues: A recently published study posits that the moai were positioned in certain spots to mark precious sources of fresh water.

[h/t HuffPost]

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