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Being a detectorist has its moments to treasure

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My fingers are still cracked from the cold of a clear Monday in the Kent countryside. Wrapped up in numerous layers, my friend James and I were out with thermos flasks, shovels and metal detectors to explore the past hidden beneath the frozen turf. Despite the news of a record-breaking find of 5,251 Anglo-Saxon coins, metal detecting is not a sexy hobby. The geeks of Mackenzie Crook’s recent sitcom, Detectorists, are all too close to real life – and yes, we dig up more ring pulls than ancient coins. But you can keep your parkour, your sourdough baking or your street dance – they’ve got nothing o…

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Tags: Comment is free Hobbies Archaeology Life and style Science Comment UK news Article Mark Wallace

New generation of archaeologists takes ancient Egypt into 21st century

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Five years ago, if archaeologists digging up pharaonic ruins in Egypt found any human bones, they would usually throw them away. “Most Egyptian archaeological missions looked at human remains as garbage,” said Afaf Wahba, a young official at Egypt’s antiquities ministry. But osteology, the study of bones, is standard practice on digs outside Egypt – and Wahba wants Egyptian teams to follow suit. After a five-year campaign, each Egyptian province is now meant to have an osteologist, and Wahba hopes the ministry will found its own osteology department. But, as she put it: “I am struggling to inform people in the SCA [the ministry’s governing body] that human remains are very important.” Wahba’s mission is one example of a generational shift that optimists hope can slowly reform Egypt’s bureaucratic state institutions, not least its ministry of state for antiquities (MSA). The MSA has ultimate jurisdiction over arguably the planet’s most impres…

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Tags: Egypt Archaeology News Article Patrick Kingsley The Guardian International Main section

The joy of metal detecting – it’s not just about the treasure

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Yesterday, a treasure hunt began on a Folkestone beach where a German artist, Michael Sailstorfer, has buried £10,000 of bullion – 30 bars of 24-carat gold – as part of an arts festival. People started to descend with metal detectors, spades, forked sticks and anything else they thought might help, and on Thursday night a family found the very first bar. Is this art? It’s not for me to say. I can’t tell a Picasso from a potato, but it’s certainly given my hobby a boost. I live in deepest Wiltshire, and can assure this talented artist that there are plenty of places around here where he would be welcome to practice his chosen art form. Four years ago, I was lucky enough to uncover the world’s

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Tags: Comment is free Heritage Archaeology Science Culture Museums Folkestone Triennial Art and design Comment UK news Article Dave Crisp

Volunteers help British Museum in crowdsourcing archeology project

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A 3D plastic model of a 3,000-year-old bronze axe – stored in the British Museum since it was found more than 30 years ago at Jevington, East Sussex – has been printed out in a public library in Washington DC through a unique experiment in crowdsourcing archaeology.Volunteers worldwide are logging on to help transcribe more than 30,000 handwritten catalogue cards dating back to the late 18th century, and making digital photographs of thousands of ancient bronze objects so they can be stitched together to form 3D images.The catalogue records and the images – which are freely available in return for the volunteers' help and are starting to appear on T-shirts and as miniature axe-head jewellery – will form one of the largest databases of prehistoric metalwork in the world.There will be no copyright on the objects or the information, and the project is entirely built on open-source software, …

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Tags: Archaeology Crowdsourcing Museums UK news London Technology Education World news Maev Kennedy News UK news Main section Article The Guardian

Great North Museum needs to raise £7,000 to safeguard Lindisfarne Hoard

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In the 1560s Lindisfarne, a tidal island off the Northumberland coast near Berwick, was something of an armed camp close to the front line of the defence against Scotland. After Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, stones from Lindisfarne Priory were used to build a small castle and other fortifications for the harbour.So the garrison seems an unlikely place for not one but two of Britain's greatest treasure discoveries. Perhaps an officer stationed on Lindisfarne was careless, forgetful or unlucky, as two small hoards of coins dating from shortly after the castle was built in 1550 have been found near a watercourse by the same house.The first collection came to light in 1962, and consists of 50 silver 16th-century English and Scottish coins. It now belongs to the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle, and is housed in the

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Tags: The Northerner Blogposts UK news Alan Sykes Archaeology Northumberland Article

Go beachcombing for lost treasure

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On a morning tube full of commuters, I am the only person in wellies. At London Bridge, I break away from the suits filing towards the City, and make for the river. Moments later I'm down on my knees, sifting through rusty metal and rocks in the mud. Office life feels very far away.I am here to learn how to beachcomb with Steve Brooker of the Society of London Mudlarks. "Mudlarks" were originally Victorian children who scavenged on the Thames for coal, bones or wood to sell. Now they're amateur archaeologists who search the shore for artifacts turned up by the river.To gain a mudlark's licence, you have to put in two years as a beachcomber, recording your finds with the Museum of London. But beachcombing is a skill, too, and by learning the basics you are much more likely to discover something of interest – and take your first step towards becoming a mudlark.When and where to goWe start on the beach below the Globe theatre, a go…

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Tags: Do Something: how to ... Do Something active Features Becky Barnicoat Do Something Do Something Article The Guardian

Civil war silver jug among 990 treasures unearthed in 2012

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When three friends first saw a great lump of silvery metal just below the surface of a Dorset field, they thought they'd hit a metal pipe and, because it was so shiny, that it must be aluminium.Stuart McLeod, the primary school headteacher who had started metal detecting a few weeks earlier, had only found horseshoes until then. He yearned to find a good early coin, like the fistfuls regularly unearthed by his veteran metal-detecting friends Stephen Tharp, a retired chef, and joiner Shawn Miller.It took the three of them to ease their find out of its pit in the ground. It turned out to be one of the most spectacular treasure finds of 2012, 1kg of silver fashioned into a massive jug.

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Tags: Heritage Archaeology Science Culture Museums UK news Maev Kennedy News UK news Main section Article The Guardian

Silverdale Viking treasure to go on display in Lancashire

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A spectacular stash of Viking treasure – more than 200 pieces of silver including beautiful arm rings, brooches, silver ingots, and a battered, misspelt coin that revealed a previously unknown Viking ruler – will go on display this month near where it was found by a metal-detector enthusiast two years ago.The hoard was found packed into a lead container inches below the surface of a field in Lancashire. But whether it would be displayed in the county where it was found had seemed in doubt in the economic climate.Now, though, Lancashire county museum service has raised the £110,000 that it needed to acquire the third-largest Viking hoard found in the UK, with the help of a £45,000 grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, £33,000 from the Art Fund charity, plus other grants and local donations.It was found in 2011 by Darren Webster, a stonemason who was out with the metal detector his wife had given him for Christmas. The field, on the outski…

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Tags: Heritage Culture News Maev Kennedy UK news UK news Main section Article The Guardian

Newcastle's Society of Antiquaries celebrates its 200th birthday

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At noon this Wednesday the Lord Mayor of Newcastle will unveil a plaque celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The plaque will be on the corner of the Bigg Market and Grainger Street in the city centre, on the site of the Turk's Head Inn, where the Society was founded. The inn also had a popular cock pit, but it is unknown whether local bookseller John Bell and the 16 other men who decided to establish the Society will have also paused to enjoy a cock fight – although the society's collection does include spurs for fighting cocks.

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Tags: The Northerner Blogposts UK news Alan Sykes Heritage Heritage Newcastle Newcastle University Northumbria University History Society Life and style Museums Museums Roman Britain Article

We came, we saw, we detected: relics from Caesar era among amateur finds

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When the battered metal helmet turned up in a field on the outskirts of Canterbury, the archaeologists had to peer at it carefully to be sure it wasn't a relic from a careless American GI in the second world war — albeit one with eccentric tastes, since it contained a mass of burned human bone.The helmet, revealed for the first time as last year's haul of archaeological finds by metal detectors was unveiled at the British Museum, is in fact an artefact from a much earlier conflict. It is an exceptionally rare Iron Age Celtic helmet from the time of the first invasion of Britain by Julius Caesar, who landed only a few miles away on the Kent coast. The bones haven't yet been analysed, but the presumption is that they are those of the helmet's owner, who must have been a warrior — and could in those complicated times have been a Gaul fighting either by Caesar's side, or with the defending Britons.It is one of only a handful of such helmets from the period from…

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Tags: Roman Britain Archaeology Science Maev Kennedy Heritage Museums Article The Guardian UK news Main section

X-rays reveal secrets of Roman coins

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Scientists have used a new x-ray technique to produce spectacular 3D images of Roman coins that were corroded inside pots or blocks of soil.The rotating images built up from thousands of two-dimensional scans are so clear that individual coins can be identified and dated, without a single battered denarius – the Roman currency – being visible to the naked eye.…

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Tags: Archaeology Roman Britain Science Heritage UK news Maev Kennedy News Physics Culture Article

TV treasure hunt show to pick Britain's most important archaeological find

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Historians and archaeologists are arguing over the single most historically important archaeological find among almost a million objects discovered in the UK in the last 15 years. Contenders include the heap of glittering Anglo-Saxon gold of the Staffordshire Hoard, a scruffy little coin that proved the existence of a previously unknown Roman emperor, a bronze token that some claim entitled the bearer to the illustrated services in a Roman brothel, a stone hand axe, or the eerie shimmering beauty of the Crosby Garrett Roman helmet.The debate will be followed over a week of primetime television programmes being made for ITV, Britain's Secret Treasures, to be broadcast in July and presented by the historian Bettany Hughes and the veteran journalist Michael Buerk in his first appearance on the channel.Although filming continues, the arguments are…

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Tags: ITV plc Archaeology Science Television Television industry Media Culture UK news News Maev Kennedy UK news Main section The Guardian Science and nature TV Article

Greece's ancient sites to play starring role in recovery

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Crisis-hit Athens has turned to the glory that was Greece to help its ruined economy. The debt-choked nation has taken the dramatic step of deciding to exploit some of its past majesty by utilising the Acropolis and other antiquities – cultural gems until now considered too sacred to besmirch with commerce.Under a scheme revealed this week, foreign film crews, advertising agencies and other commercial enterprises will be allowed to photograph 5th century BC Periclean masterpieces such as the Parthenon, in the hope that it will help boost the country's coffers and image abroad.Archaeological treasures including the temple of Delphi, the most popular site after the Acropolis, will be available as backdrops for filming and photographic shoots for as little as €1,600 (£1,339) a day.But acutely aware of the sensitivity surrounding the move, officials cautioned that the opening of sites would still be strictly controlled. Following uproar in the…

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Tags: Eurozone crisis World news Europe Business Greece Helena Smith Culture Financial Main section Article The Guardian Guardian Weekly

Evidence for unknown Viking king Airdeconut found in Lancashire

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Evidence of a previously unknown Viking king has been discovered in a hoard of silver found by a metal detectorist, stashed in a lead box in a field in Lancashire.The 201 pieces of silver including beautiful arm rings, worn by Viking warriors, were found on the outskirts of Silverdale, a village near the coast in north Lancashire, by Darren Webster, using the metal detector his wife gave him as a Christmas present. It adds up to more than 1kg of silver, probably stashed for safe keeping around AD900 at a time of wars and power struggles among the Vikings of northern England, and never recovered.Airdeconut – thought to be the Anglo Saxon coin maker's struggle to get to grips with the Viking name Harthacnut – was found on one of the coins in the hoard.The Airdeconut coin also reveals that within a generation of the Vikings starting to colonise permanent settlements in Britain in the 870s – instead of coming as summer raiders – their kings had alli…

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Tags: Archaeology Science Museums Culture UK news Maev Kennedy News UK news Main section Article The Guardian

Leeds needs a hand to keep its golden hoard

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You're not really anything these days if you haven't got a Hoard of your own, which is why Leeds needs to raise a few thousand pounds very quickly.If we fail, the city will lose one of the most interesting treasures to come out of our local ground since the Victorian heyday of Roman finds and the bones of ancient hippopotami which once sensibly favoured the sunny swamps of what is now Armley.What am I on about? The Leeds or West Yorkshire Hoard. Yes, we have got one at last and I went to a very interesting evening of talks about it at the city Museum just the other night. The city's curator of archaeology Kat Baxter and a Leeds university mediaevalist, Dr Alaric Hall, did a marvellous double-act and we were allowed to see the gold it…

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Tags: The Northerner Blogposts Martin Wainwright Leeds Archaeology Gold History University of Leeds Museums Museums Article

Putting Picasso's French home in the frame

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Where artists go, money follows. It is a law of real estate that any quarter deemed bohemian is a step away from becoming intensely desirable and valuable. And so it is with Mougins, where the likes of Picabia, Cocteau, Man Ray and Leger used to visit. Picasso came here in 1936, and to the fury of his hotel's owner painted on the walls of his room. He was instructed to cover over his work, but he returned, by then not exactly skint himself, spent the last 12 years of his life in Mougins. He died there in 1973. Now this little hill town, of pre-Roman origins – with its simple, compact buildings wound tightly into defensive circuits of curving streets – finds itself suffused with wealth.A few miles inland from Cannes, Mougins offers more cultured pleasures than that sometimes tawdry place, while still gathering some of its stardust. It has been popular with Winston Churchill, Elizabeth Taylor and Catherine Deneuve, and is famous for its restaurants; there's ev…

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Tags: France Cultural trips Travel Life & style Observer Magazine Features Art Pablo Picasso Rowan Moore Article The Observer

Badge dug up in field is medieval treasure

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A scrap of twisted silver found a few weeks ago by a metal detector in Lancashire will take its place among masterpieces of medieval art at the British Museum, in an exhibition opening this week of the bejewelled shrines made to hold the relics of saints and martyrs.The badge made of silver found by Paul King, a retired logistics expert, is a humble object to earn a place in an exhibition called Treasures of Heaven, but it is unique. It will sit among gold and silver reliquaries studded with gems the size of thumbnails – or the sockets from which they were wrenched by thieves – once owned by emperors, popes and princes.The badge, the only one of its kind ever found in Britain, provides a link 500 years ago between this corner of rural Lancashire and the great pilgrimage sites of mainland Europe. It shows one of the companions of St Ursula, one of the most popular mystical legends of medieval Europe. She was said to be a British princess who sailed with 11,0…

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Tags: Museums Culture News UK news Maev Kennedy Art and design Archaeology Science Exhibitions UK news Main section Article The Guardian

Warriors wielding metal detectors redraw ancient maps of England

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Amateurs using metal detectors have found record amounts of golden treasure and priceless scraps of history across England, according to an annual report from the British Museum.All the items were reported to archaeologists under a scheme which the museum's director, Neil MacGregor, called "quite unique in Europe".MacGregor recently presented the successful Radio 4 series, A History of the World in 100 Objects.The report shows that 2010 was an exceptional year, with 859 treasure discoveries (up by 10%) and 90,146 other finds (up 36%).The finds are helping draw new maps of invasion, settlement, trade and warfare across thousands of years of English history.All were reported through the treasure and portable antiquities sche…

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Tags: Heritage Culture Museums Archaeology Science UK news News Maev Kennedy UK news Main section Article The Guardian

Geoff Egan obituary

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Geoff Egan, who has died of coronary thrombosis aged 59, was the leading UK expert in medieval and later small finds, and pioneered liaison between archaeologists and the "mudlarks" who search for finds on the Thames foreshore. Digging in thick mud against the tide, mudlarks have retrieved a fascinating trove of metal artefacts left by generations of Londoners on the riverbanks.Mudlarks were once shunned by many professional archaeologists, who deplored what they saw as their unscientific methods of retrieval, but many developed great expertise and some, such as Tony Pilson, donated their collections to the Museum of London and the British Museum.Geoff had done some mudlarking himself before he became a professional archaeologist. Together with his colleague Hazel Forsyth, in 2005 he published Toys, Trifles and Trinkets, detailing Pilson's collection. This pioneering work studied a class of artefact (children's metal toys made…

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Tags: Archaeology Science Museums Culture London UK news Obituaries Main section Obituaries Article The Guardian

Elaine Paintin obituary

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Into a life cut short by a heart attack at the age of 63, Elaine Paintin packed three quite different phases of activity, as arts administrator, civil servant at the Department of National Heritage, and director of the Marc Fitch Fund. In each role she achieved a great deal that will be of lasting value for the arts, archaeology and local history of Britain. The second phase was the shortest of all: her secondment as civil servant with responsibility for drafting and getting through parliament the Treasure Act 1996. This major extension of the ancient law of treasure trove has resulted in the saving for the public of hundreds of buried antiquities.Elaine was born and brought up in Oxford, where her father, Leslie, worked in the council's planning department. She would have been the first to declare her debt to her teachers at Milham Ford school in Oxford. At that stage, too, she began an intermittent political involvement, as secretary of the Oxford Young Liberal…

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Tags: Archaeology British Library British Museum Obituaries Main section Obituaries Article The Guardian

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