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]

Scientists Find Fossil of 150-Million-Year-Old Flesh-Eating Fish—Plus a Few of Its Prey

M. Ebert and T. Nohl
M. Ebert and T. Nohl

A fossil of an unusual piranha-like fish from the Late Jurassic period has been unearthed by scientists in southern Germany, Australian news outlet the ABC reports. Even more remarkable than the fossil’s age—150 million years old—is the fact that the limestone deposit also contains some of the fish’s victims.

Fish with chunks missing from their fins were found near the predator fish, which has been named Piranhamesodon pinnatomus. Aside from the predator’s razor-sharp teeth, though, it doesn’t look like your usual flesh-eating fish. It belonged to an extinct order of bony fish that lived at the time of the dinosaurs, and until now, scientists didn’t realize there was a species of bony fish that tore into its prey in such a way. This makes it the first flesh-eating bony fish on record, long predating the piranha. 

“Fish as we know them, bony fishes, just did not bite flesh of other fishes at that time,” Dr. Martina Kölbl-Ebert, the paleontologist who found the fish with her husband, Martin Ebert, said in a statement. “Sharks have been able to bite out chunks of flesh, but throughout history bony fishes have either fed on invertebrates or largely swallowed their prey whole. Biting chunks of flesh or fins was something that came much later."

Kölbl-Ebert, the director of the Jura Museum in Eichstätt, Germany, says she was stunned to see the bony fish’s sharp teeth, comparing it to “finding a sheep with a snarl like a wolf.” This cunning disguise made the fish a fearful predator, and scientists believe the fish may have “exploited aggressive mimicry” to ambush unsuspecting fish.

The fossil was discovered in 2016 in southern Germany, but the find has only recently been described in the journal Current Biology. It was found at a quarry where other fossils, like those of the Archaeopteryx dinosaur, have been unearthed in the past.

[h/t the ABC]

Advanced CT Scans Reveal Blood Vessels and Skin Layers in a Mummy's Hand

Jenny Romell, et al./Radiology
Jenny Romell, et al./Radiology

Mummies hold some intriguing secrets to their pasts, like the food they ate and the diseases they had when they were alive. Now scientists are using a tool originally designed for medicine to get an even deeper look at the clues mummified bodies carry with them into the present day, Gizmodo reports.

In a proof-of-concept study published in the journal Radiology, researchers from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden detail how a new-and-improved CT scanning technique can be used to visualize the interior of mummies on a microscopic level. By creating detailed X-ray images, CT scans allow doctors to see inside their patients without invasive surgery. Archaeologists have been using this technology to study delicate ancient artifacts for years, but the level of detail that can be achieved this way—especially when it comes to looking at interior soft tissue—is limited.

The upgraded version of the tech, called phase-contrast CT scanning, measures the phase shift, or the change in the position of a light wave, that occurs when X-rays pass through solid objects. The images generated this way have a higher contrast level than conventional X-rays, which means they capture more detail.

Cross-section of mummy hand.
Jenny Romell, et al./Radiology

Doctors have been using this 10-year-old technology to examine soft tissues like organs and veins in living patients, but it hadn't been used on a mummy until recently. Working with a mummified human right hand dating back to 400 BCE in Egypt, which they borrowed from the Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm, the researchers fired up a phase-contrast CT scanner. It produced images with a resolution of 6 to 9 microns, giving a clear picture of the different layers of skin, individual cells in the connective tissue, and the blood vessels in the nail bed—all without damaging the artifact. Previously, researchers looking to study these same tissues in mummies would have needed to use a scalpel.

As Ars Technica reports, a phase-contrast CT scanner is similar in cost to the conventional machine. The study authors hope their work will lead to phase-contrast CT scanning becoming just as common in archaeology as regular CT scanning, potentially creating new research opportunities in mummies that will be discovered in the future and even in artifacts that have already been examined.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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