A lucky discovery made nearly a decade ago just got even luckier for one German farmer. In 2009, archaeologists excavating a former Roman settlement on the man's farm in Lahnau, Germany found a 2000-year-old bronzed horse head, and now Artnet reports that the property's owner has been awarded roughly $904,000 for the artifact.
The gold leaf–covered head, which weighs about 55 pounds and measures 20 inches long, had likely been part of a larger statue, as indicated by a bronzed foot found nearby. Experts believe the horse's rider was Augustus, Rome's emperor at the turn of the first millennium CE. The head had been preserved under water at the bottom of a 36-foot well for years, making the find even more remarkable.
The anonymous farmer was originally given $55,946 for the artifact by the German state Hesse, but after reading news reports declaring it to be one of the best-preserved Roman bronzes ever discovered, he suspected he'd been underpaid, and sued. On July 27, a German court ruled that he was entitled to half the head's worth. The object is valued at around $1.8 million, which means the farmer is now owed nearly $904,000 plus interest. The German state has yet to say whether or not it plans to appeal the case.
The general area where the horse head was found has produced a wealth of Roman artifacts. Experts think the Romans had been planning to make the town into a major capital city. Plans changed abruptly after three Roman legions were defeated by Germanic tribesmen in 9 CE, prompting the Romans to abandon their settlement and the fancy bronze statue of their leader along with it.
Hurricane Dorian skimmed the United States' East Coast last week, creating a trail of damage residents are still dealing with. But it wasn't just trash and debris the storm surges left behind: As WCSC reports, two cannonballs dating back to the Civil War were discovered on Folly Beach in South Carolina in the aftermath of the storm.
Aaron Lattin and his girlfriend Alba were walking on the beach on September 6 when they saw what looked like rocks nestled in the sand. As they examined them more closely, they realized they had found something much more special. The weathered objects were actually cannonballs that have likely been buried in the area for more than 150 years.
Incredibly, this isn't the first time Civil War cannonballs have been discovered on Folly Beach following a hurricane: In 2016, Hurricane Matthew unearthed 16 of them. Folly Island was used as a Union base a century and a half ago, and items leftover from the artillery battery built there are still scattered around the shoreline. The couple behind this latest discovery believes there are more waiting to be found.
Old cannonballs may look like cool artifacts to treasure hunters, but they should still be treated with caution. Police and bombs disposal technicians were called to the scene at Folly Beach to confirm the cannonballs were no longer functional.
In 2004, a retired forester reached out to Capilano University archaeology professor Bob Muckle about investigating what looked like the remnants of an old logging camp in the forests of British Columbia, Canada. North Shore Newsreports that each spring for the next 14 years, Muckle took his students there to help him excavate what he now believes was a sort-of-secret Japanese settlement.
The site is located on the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, about 12 miles northeast of Vancouver. It’s approximately the size of a football field and contains the remains of more than a dozen cabins, a bathhouse, a road made of cedar planks, and a cedar platform that may have been a shrine. Muckle and his students have also unearthed more than 1000 items, including sake and beer bottles from Japan, teapots, game pieces, medicine bottles, clocks, pocket watches, clothing buttons, coins, and hoards of ceramics.
Yet another media outlet is reporting on my archaeology project on a Japanese camp in Canada. This time its 'Smithsonian Magazine,' based on some communication with me last week and earlier reporting by @BrentRichter and @CBCNewshttps://t.co/KY6UUkp7gN
Japanese businessman Eikichi Kagetsu secured logging rights to the area near the camp around 1918, so it’s likely that the settlers were originally loggers and their families. Though the trees were cleared out by 1924 and Kagetsu continued his business ventures on Vancouver Island, there's evidence to suggest that some members of the logging community didn't leave right away.
Muckle believes that at least some of the 40 to 50 camp inhabitants chose to remain there, protected from rising racism in Canadian society, until 1942, when the Canadian government started moving Japanese immigrants to internment camps in the wake of the outbreak of World War II.
Muckle thinks the residents must have evacuated in a hurry since they left so many precious and personal items behind. “When people leave, usually they take all the good stuff with them,” he told North Shore News. His team even uncovered parts of an Eastman Kodak Bulls-Eye camera, a house key, and an expensive cook stove that someone had hidden behind a stump on the edge of the village. “They were probably smart enough to realize people might loot the site,” he added.
According to Smithsonian.com, Japanese immigrants had been victims of racism and discrimination in Canada since the first wave of immigration from Japan in 1877. They were generally met with hostility across the country, and kept from voting, entering the civil service, and working in law and other professions. Anti-Japan sentiment dramatically worsened after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, and The Canadian Encyclopediaestimates that more than 90 percent of Japanese Canadians—many of them citizens by birth—were displaced during the war.
To Muckle, this all contributes to the likelihood that villagers would have chosen to stay insulated by the forest for as long as they could. “The impression that I get, generally speaking, is it would have been a nice life for these people,” he said. It wouldn't be the first time a remote, wild area served as a refuge for a persecuted community—farther south and east, escaped enslaved people settled in the swamplands bordering North Carolina and Virginia for the century leading up to the Civil War.
While Muckle believes people stayed in the Canadian camp until the 1940s, it's hard to prove—there are no records for the inhabitants of the camp or where they might have gone. If there’s evidence in the village that can prove residents did stay until the 1940s, it will soon fall to other curious archaeologists to find it: Muckle thinks this will be his last season at the site.
Or, maybe the smoking gun will be discovered by someone who isn’t an archaeologist at all. Here are 10 times ordinary people (and one badger) unearthed amazing archaeological finds.