Gold Worth Millions, Salvaged From a 19th-Century Shipwreck, Is Going on Display in California

Phil Arnold/Professional Coin Grading Service
Phil Arnold/Professional Coin Grading Service

In 1857, on the heels of the Gold Rush, the S.S. Central America left Panama and sailed for New York with 30,000 pounds of California gold. A hurricane sent that treasure (and hundreds of the ship's passengers) to the bottom of the ocean off the coast of South Carolina, lost until the wreck's discovery in 1988. After 30 years, we finally have the chance to see the riches in southern California, according to the AP.

After years of controversial legal battles to determine who could claim the treasure, in 2000, Tommy Thompson—who made the discovery—sold his share of the gold to the California Gold Marketing Group for $50 million. The haul included 532 gold bars and thousands of gold coins. Thompson was arrested in 2015 after stiffing dozens of investors who backed his treasure hunting, none of whom saw a dime.

A model of the S.S. Central America sits in front of an illustration of a giant wave
A model of the S.S. South America on display at the National Museum of American History in 2009.
Mr.TinDC, Flickr//CC BY-ND 2.0

Those investors finally got some of their money back when the California Gold Marketing Group paid $30 million for more of the loot brought up from the wreckage in 2014. Now, that gold up for sale, and even those who can't afford to buy 19th-century gold can take a peek at it. The 3100 gold coins, 45 gold bars, and 80 pounds of gold dust on display at the Long Beach Convention Center in February will give the public a rare glimpse of treasure that spent more than 130 years sitting 7000 feet beneath the ocean's surface.

Gloved hands hold a 19th-century coin
Christina Good/Professional Coin Grading Service

Before that can happen, geologist Bob Evans, who took part in the original 1988 mission that located the shipwreck, has to clean off the rust and other sediment that encrusted the gold while it sat underwater. The gold on display was recovered during a 2014 dive to the wreck. According to the California Gold Marketing Group, a single coin could sell for as much as $1 million, thanks to its rare and historic nature.

You can see the gold in Long Beach between February 22 and 24, and if you dare, bid on some of it.

[h/t CNBC]

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]

A 2.63-Carat Diamond Was Unearthed by a Grandmother at an Arkansas State Park

iStock
iStock

Visitors to the Crater of Diamonds Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas clearly have an objective in mind: Excavate one of the diamonds lurking on or beneath the park's soil, the onetime site of a volcanic crater. If they do, it's theirs to keep.

Earlier this month, a 71-year-old grandmother from Colorado made the biggest discovery on park grounds of 2018: a 2.63-carat ice white diamond. And she did it in about 10 minutes.

The retiree, who asked media outlets not to identify her by name, visited Crater of Diamonds with her husband, son, and grandchildren. After briefly scraping away dirt, she saw the gem on the surface. The diamond was so large and clear—roughly the size of a pinto bean—that she assumed it was just a piece of glass. Further inspection by her family and park personnel revealed it was a diamond.

Park officials told press that employees frequently till the soil, which can loosen the gems and allow them to catch the reflection of the sun, making them easier to spot. Roughly 33,000 diamonds have been found by visitors since the park opened in 1972.

It's hard to know the exact value of the diamond. While there is a certain fluctuating value assigned to a carat, appraisers also look at three other "Cs": clarity, color, and cut. A two-carat diamond is often more than double the price of a one-carat diamond because the larger gems are more rare. But tourists have profited from their finds: In 2015, a visitor retrieved a 8.51-carat white diamond that was cut down to 4.6 carats by a jeweler and valued by the American Gem Society at $500,000.

[h/t WGN TV]

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