Bus driver unearths £80,000 hoard of Bronze Age axe heads with metal detector

Last updated at 17:31pm on 21st January 2008


Bus driver and metal detector fanatic Tom Peirce is in for a bumper pay day after unearthing 500 Bronze Age artefacts - one of the largest ever ancient finds.


Amateur treasure hunter Mr Peirce started combing a field after dropping off a school coach party at a farm - and now he could have a haul worth more than £80,000 on his hands.


Within a few minutes, the device began beeping and the 60-year-old dug 10 inches into the ground to find a partial axe head.


He realised he had struck it lucky when he dug deeper and found dozens more.


Over the next two days, he and colleague Les Keith uncovered nearly 500 bronze artefacts dating back 3,000 years.


The find prompted a Time Team-style search of the area by excited archaeologists.


The hoard, which included 268 complete axe heads, is one of the biggest of its kind found in Britain.


Mr Peirce, 60, will have to split any proceeds with landowner Alfie O'Connell.


Mr Peirce said: "We are extremely thrilled and excited because this was a once-in-a-lifetime find. It's like winning the lottery - you don't think it is going to happen to you.


"If you speak to other detectorists, they will find a nice coin or something in 20 or 30 years of treasure hunting.


"You do it as a hobby - you don't do it for the money but if you strike it lucky then so be it."


Mr Peirce stumbled upon the field after taking a group of schoolchildren for a day out at the farm near Swanage, Dorset.


He asked farmer Mr O'Connell for permission to search the two-acre field and later returned with Mr Keith.


The hoard was found up to 2ft down in three holes spread 50ft apart.


It is believed there was a Bronze Age settlement nearby where the axe heads would have been manufactured.


Archaeologists believe the hoard was buried in the field as some form of ritual offering to the gods.


Grandfather Mr Peirce, from Ringwood, Hants, said: "When we took them out of the ground, some of them were so pristine you would think you had just bought them at B&Q yet they were 3,000 years old."


There were so many of the artefacts that the pair couldn't collect them all so returned the following day with fellow detectorist Brian Thomas,75, to gather the rest.


Mr Peirce, who has been a metal detectorist for five years, added: "We went back and dug in another hotspot and found a load more.


"We were very lucky because there was not much else in the field.


"If we had tried another place or walked in a different direction, we'd never have found them."


Mr O'Connell, 62, who has owned the farm for four years, said: "Within about half an hour of Tom searching, he came rushing over to me looking shocked.


"During the war, a plane had crashed in the same field and for a minute I thought he had found a bomb.


"We went back up there on my tractor and saw the axe heads. I didn't have a clue what they were - I thought it was scrap metal at first.


"I have owned the farm for four years and had no idea they were up there. It is very exciting."


The axe heads are four inches long and two inches wide and are currently being assessed by the British Museum, which may buy them.


The coroner for Bournemouth, Poole and East Dorset has been informed of the find and will hold an inquest at which it is expected the axe heads will be declared treasure.


At that point, the landowner and finder will receive a reward to the sum of the market value of the hoard, believed to be about £80,000.


Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick, of Wessex Archaeology, said they were asked to excavate the site by the British Museum to look for signs of a settlement.


He said: "It is one of the largest and most important finds of its kind because of the size of it and the condition they were in.


"The axe heads would have been cast nearby. We have been looking for signs of a settlement in the area but haven't found anything.


"It is likely we are off the edge of it." Dr Fitzpatrick said his team will carry out a ground survey of the area to see where the earth has previously been disturbed in a bid to find the settlement.


He added: "The artefacts could have been used as a form of currency and buried at a time of crisis but many people believe they were buried as an offering to the gods.


"A lot of Bronze Age objects like this were buried in the ground and it is a bit of a coincidence that many people didn't go back for them."



Bronze Age site is found in city


Archaeologists in Cambridge have unearthed the first hard evidence that an area of the city was occupied during the Bronze Age.


The remains were found during a dig at Fitzwilliam College and probably belonged to a 3,500-year-old farmstead.


The remains comprise a series of ditches, in which the team found pieces of antler, flint tools, pottery and animal remains.


The items were discovered by the Cambridge Archaeological Unit.


Christopher Evans, from the Unit, said the site would help people understand the early development of the city.


In September 2007 archaeologists found a Bronze Age burial site at Pode Hole Quarry, in Thorney, near Peterborough.



Ancient Tomb Art Found in Path of Irish Highway

James Owen for National Geographic News

January 14, 2008


Tomb engravings dating back 6,000 years are among the latest discoveries unearthed on the route of a controversial highway under construction in Ireland.


The historic site, at Lismullin in County Meath, was handed over to road builders last month, just weeks after the Stone Age art was found inside a medieval bunker.


The engravings have been removed to allow construction of the highway to proceed.


The new find follows the discovery last spring of a prehistoric open-air temple nearby, causing construction along the 37-mile-long (60-kilometer-long) M3 highway northwest of Dublin to be temporarily suspended (see map).


The timber ceremonial enclosure was found just 1.25 miles (2 kilometers) from the Hill of Tara, once the seat of power of ancient Celtic kings.


The latest excavations at Lismullin revealed part of a large stone monument, or megalith, decorated with engravings dating to the Late Stone Age, according to archaeologists from Ireland's National Roads Authority (NRA).


Discovered some 165 feet (50 meters) from the temple's enclosure, the stone features a series of zigzags, concentric circles, and arcs.


"It's classic megalithic art," said Mary Deevy, NRA's chief archaeologist.


The engravings are similar to those that decorate other burial chambers in the region known as passage tombs, Deevy noted.


"We've only got half a boulder, but we think originally it was probably a curbstone from a passage tomb," she said.


The stone would have formed a wall that kept the burial mound together, with the artwork displayed on the outer surface, Deevy said.


What the motifs symbolized remains a mystery, the archaeologist added.



Iraqi archaeologists excavate new sites and find ‘rare’ artifacts

By Amar Imad


Iraqi archaeologists have resumed excavations in southern Iraq uncovering three important ancient sites and collecting magnificent items some of them more than 4000 years old.


The Iraq Museum has received 700 artifacts from official diggings in these sites, one of them belonging to the Sumerian civilization which flourished in southern Iraq at about 2500 BBC.


The museum’s information officer, Abdulzahara al-Talaqani, said there were 400 Sumerian pieces among the finds including cylinder seals and a variety of pottery items.


Talaqani said 11 Iraqi excavation teams were busy digging sites in southern Iraq “and more finds are on their way to the museum.”


The resumption of official digging signals relative calm in these areas.


Talaqani said Iraqi diggers have come across “a very important” Parthian site which has so far yielded “200 rare pieces”.


The Parthians, or ancient Persians of Iran, ruled most of ancient Iraq in 200 B.C.


The head of the excavation team of the Parthian site, Mohammed Abbas,  said: “Most of the finds are unique. We have a silver statue of a woman, another silver piece representing a cobra, household utensils, legendary animals, incised pots and various other magnificent items.”


An Islamic site yielded 119 pieces. Saleh Yousef who led the excavation there said the artifacts represented inscribed pots, glassware and beautiful beakers.



1500-yr-old brick structure excavated in Bogra

Hasibur Rahman Bilu, Bogra

Published On: 2008-01-19


The Department of Archaeology recently excavated brick structure of a temple more than 1,500 years old and a dilapidated wall from the Gupta dynasty at the Vasu Bihara site of Shibganj upazila in Bogra.


Archaeologist Mahabubul Alam, assistant custodian of the department, said the brick built temple resembles the temple of Vasu Bihara constructed during the Pala dynasty suggesting it belonged to the same period.


Chinese pilgrim Yuang Chwang, during his visit to the area between 639AD and 645AD, saw several temples near Vasu Bihara which is known as Narapatir Dhap, Alam said.


Nahid Sultana, custodian of the department, said during the ongoing archaeological excavation, walls, held together with mud, about two metres wide and antiques including part of an ornamental brick have been found. "But the entrance gate has not yet been found," she said.


Most of the bricks on the walls are 35cm long, 27cm wide and four centimetres thick. To protect the walls of the main structure of the temple from collapsing, support walls were built with the same kind of bricks. A brick-built floor of a room of the temple was also discovered in western side of the structure.


During excavation of trench No-15, a dilapidated wall dating back to the Gupta dynasty (320AD-550AD) was found under the recently discovered structure, Alam said.


Further excavation is required to get more information about the wall but the department cannot do so due to fund constraint, he added.



Ancient queen’s tomb discovered in Ibb

Written By: Mohammed al-Kibsi

Jan 19, 2008 - 4:32:04 AM


Three tombs believed to date back to the Hemiriate dynasty have been discovered in the al-Usaibyah area of the al-Sadda district of Ibb last week.


The tombs housed three women, one of them believed to be a queen. Local sources from al-Sadda confirmed that golden jewels were found in the tomb, believed to be for a queen or a princess. Other jewels were found in the other two tombs. In addition, a bronze spear was found in a second tomb and a 70 centimeter sword in a third tomb.


The three tombs were found in a rocky room around five meters deep and about 3 meters wide. The room contained large pieces of alabaster, each piece around 150 cubic centimeters. The room also contained a 20 centimeter bronze belt.  


The al-Usaibyah area is near the Raidan Palace, not far from the ancient city of Dhafar, the capital of the Saba and Tho Raydan kingdoms.  Dr. Abdullah Ba-Wazir, head of the General Authority of Antiquities and Museums, said that the discovery in al-Ausaibyah came about after two tribes began fighting about the discovery the tombs. When local authorities intervened to resolve the conflict between the two tribes, they discovered the tomb.


Ba-Wazir revealed to the 26 September newspaper that an archeological team from Ibb governorate was sent to the area together with another team from Sana’a.


He said that they found a royal tomb, designed in a rare architectural style. Found inside the tomb was a bronze coffin containing the remains of a woman believed to be of a high political status. 


Ba-Wazir explained that the site is a royal grave built in an artistic style indicating that the grave is of an important political person, presumably a woman. It may belong to the Himiriat period. 


Authorities also sent a specialized archaeological team in addition to the team from Ibb. They are to do rescue excavations at the site at which the bronze coffin was found. He explained that the team treated the discovery site with great caution due to bad conditions such as high humidity and moisture making it difficult to preserve the coffin.


Ba-Wazir confirmed that the team will document all the antiques and other items discovered at the site. The coffin will be sent to the Ibb city museum for further preliminary preservation. Some scientific archaeological institutes will be contacted so their experts can inspect and determine the chronological age of the decaying body.


The authority manager explained that one of the duties of their team is to evaluate the discovery site in order to know if the site extends further in the area or whether it is isolated. He added that they will know more when they receive the report within the next two days. 


Ba-Wazir warned people in the area not to do any diggings because of their negative effects on the current excavations by the authority teams. He called for them to cooperate with local authorities and security forces for the good of the public. Cooperation will result in saving the cultural heritage of this historical area and provide a suitable atmosphere for the excavation.



Tithebarn could yield medieval treasures


Medieval treasures could be buried beneath the site of Preston's £750m regeneration project, it has been claimed.


Archaeologists think there could be relics from the "medieval and post-medieval periods, and perhaps even earlier" under the 30-acre site.


Investigations are to start next month so that, should anything be found, it can be incorporated into the already delayed time schedule.


Council bosses have stressed that the work is routine for a planning application of this size.


Last year, a development was delayed when 30 graves, 12 of them containing virtually complete skeletons, were discovered off Marsh Lane.


Experts said the graves, less than a mile from the Tithebarn site, were the likely remnants of a medieval friary located in Preston from 1260 to 1539.


The Tithebarn developers will be asked to provide information on how their proposals for the flagship site could impact on any remains.


County archaeologist Peter Iles, employed by Lancashire County Council, said: "There may be further recording or excavation to be done.


"There may be areas we'd like to see preserved but we can't say that until the investigations are undertaken.


"It's not an archaeologist jumping in front of a bulldozer.


"We feel it needs to address the archaeology of the town – this is quite a normal procedure.


"Much of the town is fairly modern, and therefore when an opportunity comes up for these things to be looked at, it's only right and proper that it's investigated."


He said any delays to the project would "depend entirely on what is found and what they intend to do on that area of the site" but some remains may be buried deep enough to build over.


He said: "There's no reason to suspect it will cause significant delays to the development.


"They're doing this work early to make sure there are no unwelcome



Exploratory work will be carried out as part of other investigations needed before a planning application is submitted, such as ground conditions.


The Tithebarn project has already been beset with delays and the latest date for completion is 2014.


Town centre ward Respect councillor Michael Lavalette, said: "Obviously, if there are important artefacts under the Tithebarn area, I would hope that they suspend the regeneration.


"It could be about finding important parts of history and the past.


"They need to do proper investigations and find out what is there."


A spokesman for Preston Council confirmed work would start next month on digging boreholes but said the vast majority of the Tithebarn area was re-developed in the 1960s.


He said: "We'll listen to what the county archaeologist says, and if there's an area they want us to focus on we'll look at that."



Underwater city could be revealed


Britain's own underwater "Atlantis" could be revealed for the first time with hi-tech underwater cameras.


Marine archaeologist Stuart Bacon and Professor David Sear, of the University of Southampton, will explore the lost city of Dunwich, off the Suffolk coast.


Dunwich gradually disappeared into the sea because of coastal erosion.


"It's about the application of new technology to investigate Britain's Atlantis, then to give this information to the public," Professor Sear said.


Mr Bacon, director of the Suffolk Underwater Studies, first located the debris of the lost city in the 1970s.


"I know the site like the back of my hand because I have dived on it about 1,000 times," said Mr Bacon who has been working on the medieval site since 1971.


"We have found three churches and one chapel."


There is diving evidence of debris from lost chapels and churches but high silt levels in the water means visibility is only a few centimetres.


Mr Sear, professor in physical geography at the University of Southampton, said: "Technical advances have massively improved our ability to create accurate acoustic images of the seafloor."


The expedition will use the latest sonar, underwater camera and scanning equipment to build up a picture of the ancient sunken city, that lies between 10ft (3m) and 50ft (15m) down.


Dunwich was the capital of East Anglia 1,500 years ago.


Its decline began in 1286 when a sea surge hit the East Anglian coast and it was eventually reduced through coastal erosion to the village it is today.


Mr Bacon and Professor Sear hope to begin exploring the seabed in June.


The expedition will cost £25,000 - £20,000 of which has already been raised through a donation from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.


Maps and images of the lost city will be exhibited at the Dunwich museum.


A dive of the site will take place later in the year.



Researchers find 1791 time capsule

January 16 2008 at 11:22AM

By Mark Stevenson


Mexico City - A time capsule was found atop a bell tower at Mexico City's Metropolitan Cathedral, where it was placed in 1791 to protect the building from harm, researchers said Tuesday.


The lead box - filled with religious artifacts, coins and parchments - was hidden in a hollow stone ball to mark the moment on May 14, 1791, when the building's topmost stone was laid, 218 years after construction had begun.


Workers restoring the church found the box in October, inside the stone ball base of a cross that sits atop the 60-meter-high (200-foot) southern bell tower. Researchers spent the next three months opening the airtight box and preserving its contents.


Among them was a small case of wax blessed by the Pope that served to protect against mishaps, said Reverend Ruben Avila, rector of the cathedral.


Also inside was an engraving of Saint Barbara, a Roman Catholic martyr associated with lightning whose image served as "a religious lightening rod, to protect against damage," said archaeologist Xavier Cortes, director of historic buildings for the National Council of the Arts and Culture.


The cathedral, like most church buildings in Mexico, is considered government property.


A perfectly preserved parchment listed the time capsule's contents - including 23 medals, 5 coins, and five small crosses made of palm fronds - which it said were "for protection from the storms."


Considering the cathedral's history - it has been flooded, fought over and damaged as the soft soil it sits on sinks - the cathedral may need divine protection.


A new time capsule - with items from this year - will be placed into the stone ball when it is closed again, he said, without specifying what it would contain.


That the box was "buried" at the highest point of the cathedral - rather than in a cornerstone, as was customary - may have been a way to specially commemorate the end of a very lengthy building process.


Although 1791 marked the day the topmost stone was laid, construction on the decorative parts of the church didn't finish until 1813.


The cathedral, built on the swampy terrain of a former island and partially atop an Aztec pyramid, has had structural problems ever since, requiring major renovation efforts in the 1920s, 1940s, 1970's and throughout the last decade. - Sapa-AP