Analysis by Rossella Lorenzi

Thu Oct 7, 2010 02:24 PM ET


Norwegian archaeologists have unearthed a Neolithic “mini Pompeii” at a campsite near the North Sea, they announced this week.


Discovered at Hamresanden, not far from Kristiansand’s airport at Kjevik in southern Norway, the settlement has remained undisturbed for 5,500 years, buried under three feet of sand.


“We expected to find an 'ordinary' Scandinavian Stone Age site, badly preserved and small. Instead, we discovered a unique site, buried under a thick sand layer,” lead archaeologist Lars Sundström, of the Museum of Cultural History at the University in Oslo, told Discovery News.


Digging about 80 meters (262 feet) from the shoreline, in the headland formed by the river Topdalselva and the North Sea, Sundström’s team first unearthed what appears to be the remains of a walled structure.


“So far, we have evidence of a 30-meter (98.5-foot) bank made from sand mixed with clay and silt. We believe that this bank has been shoveled up against a wooden wall in order to support it," Sundström said.


The structure, whose length continues beyond the limits of the excavation trenches, is made of large stones.


"They must have been carried from some distance, since the area is devoid of stone naturally," Sundström said.


Most likely a seasonal aggregation site conveniently located between a river and the sea, the settlement is filled with shards of beaker-shaped vessels, many of which could be restored to the original state.


Highly decorated with the use of stamps, mostly cords used to form patterns, the pottery belong to the earliest phase of the Trichterrandbecherkultur (TRB) , or Funnel-Beaker Culture. This is a late Neolithic culture which spread in north-central Europe between 4000 and 2700 B.C.


“The pottery has allowed us to date the site to between 4000 – 3600 B.C. We found it on top of the cultural layer which reflects the last event of the occupation,” Sundström said.


According to the archaeologist, the way the pottery was found suggests that the seasonal Stone Age settlers left their pots with the intent of reusing them upon their return.


But a sudden, catastrophic event buried everything.


“The formation of the upper layer remains somewhat mysterious. Most probably the site was suddenly flooded, and covered with sand by the nearby river. There are no signs of occupation within this thick sand layer. This is a strong indication of a relatively quick process,” said Sundström.


Encapsulated between the sand layer and an underlying layer of silt and clay, the remains are virtually untouched.


The archaeologists, who have so far dug out about 500 square meters (5381 square feet) out of several thousand, hope to  uncover much more in the following months.


“The site is lying on top of a silt and clay layer which we know preserves wood, so we have good hopes for finding buried wood from the occupation phase later on in the excavation,” Sundström said.



Neolithic tomb unearthed in South Ronaldsay garden

By Sigurd Towrie

Story dated: thursday, October 7, 2010


There’s no shortage of mounds in Orkney, but little did one couple expect that the one in their garden contained a Neolithic burial chamber, complete with 5,000-year-old human remains.


The discovery, and its announcement last week, has prompted a race against time, with archaeologists keen to retrieve the fragile contents of the tomb before they are destroyed by the water filling one of the chambers.


The suspected tomb was uncovered on September 18, by Hamish Mowatt, by the car park of the Skerries Bistro, at Banks, South Ronaldsay.


Mr Mowatt said he had always wondered what lay under an 8ft stone in the garden and eventually curiosity got the better of him.


He dug a small hole close to the stone to see how thick it was. He then managed to get a thin wire pushed under the stone and confirmed there was definitely a space underneath. While doing this, a finger-hole size appeared in the earth to his right. This allowed him to push the wire in — to a depth of three feet.


By carefully removing a small area of earth and two stones, Mr Mowatt could see a rock face. Shining a torch inside, he saw a chamber with about nine inches of water lying in the bottom.


Mr Mowatt added: "I have an underwater camera, so I got it in through the hole and the monitor rigged up. On the screen, I could see the rock face clearly, but when I went further I could clearly see what I thought was a white skull, with two eye sockets, looking back at me."


Mr Mowatt and his fiancee, Carole Fletcher, who owns and runs the bistro, contacted county archaeologist Julie Gibson, who confirmed they had a Stone Age chambered tomb on their property.


Although it is difficult to tell at present, the structure may contain a number of chambers, one of which has been cut down into rock and is capped by a massive flat stone.


Mrs Gibson said: "The chamber under the huge stone is made up of three rock cut walls, some with supplementary building, and a fourth built wall, which has a lintel in it.


"We can see that there are at least three skulls inside, and possibly pottery, which need to be recovered before the water inside the structure destroy them.


"When it comes to excavating, the large stone 'roof' needs to be handled carefully and we need to see whether we can safely enter the chamber leaving the rock in place or whether it has to come off first."


Aside from the Crantit tomb in 1998, which yielded human remains in a poor state of preservation, the Banks tomb is the first Neolithic cairn which contains human remains since the excavation at Quanterness in the early 1970s.


"It's a very exciting find," said Mrs Gibson. "Not only do we have the discovery of relatively undisturbed human remains, but we've now got two tombs - the Banks tomb and the nearby Tomb of the Eagles - in close proximity and both found in relatively recent times, where we can see how the dead were being handled in the Neolithic. The possibility of untouched human remains is particularly exciting, considering the techniques we have now that were not available back in the 1970s.


"Because of the construction of the tomb, we need to think carefully about how it is excavated and I hope that Historic Scotland will be able to help in that respect."



Neolithic tomb found in garden 'extremely significant'

Published Date: 02 October 2010



WHEN Hamish Mowatt decided to investigate a mysterious mound as he tidied an Orkney garden, he had little idea he would uncover a hoard of bodies that had lain untouched for around 5,000 years.


Archeologists believe the tomb he discovered under a boulder outside a bistro in South Ronaldsay could lead to new insights into how our neolithic ancestors lived and died.


But they face a race against time as water washing in and out of the newly uncovered tomb could wash away its contents and dissolve any pottery and human remains inside.


Mr Mowatt uncovered the tomb in the garden of Skerries bistro and self catering cottages. He said: "There is a big slab of stone about eight foot by eight foot and I had always wondered what was underneath it. I had a bit of time at the end of the summer and I thought I would take a look."


Mr Mowatt, who runs a boat business, pushed a piece of wire down a hole at the side of the stone and discovered a cavern underneath it. He then pushed down a rod attached to an underwater camera he used for looking at wrecks and discovered a chambered cairn with skulls against the edge.


"I have never really been that interested in archaeology, but when the rod went down into the chamber I could not leave it alone, my blood was pumping when I got a torch. Carole and I looked inside and saw the skull sitting in the murky water.


"It was amazing to think that we were looking at something that had not seen the light of day for 5,000 years. One of the skulls was looking straight at me. It set me back for a moment."


Mr Mowatt and his fiancee Carole Fletcher, who owns the bistro, got in touch with Julie Gibson, the Orkney county archaeologist, who told them they had made a significant find.


"She was really blown away. She said it might be the missing part of the jigsaw - and they could discover a lot by excavating it."


Ms Gibbon said she hoped Historic Scotland would support the excavation of the site - which is around 100 metres away from the Tomb of the Eagles, the chambered cairn where Orkney farmer Ronnie Simison found 348 human skulls in 1958.


Mr Simison and his family run a tourist attraction based around the 3,000 year old tomb - which they believe was a centre for sky burials - where dead bodies were exposed on the cliffs so the sea eagles could carry off their meat.


Seventy talons from sea eagles were found inside the tomb as well as 14 birds.


The archeologist said the new find was extremely significant. She said it could lead to new discoveries about the life and the death of some of Orkney's earliest inhabitants.



Unearthed Aryan cities rewrite history

From: The Sunday Times October 04, 2010 12:00AM 3 comments


BRONZE Age cities archaeologists say could be the precursor of Western civilisation are being uncovered in excavations on the Russian steppe.


Twenty of the spiral-shaped settlements, believed to be the original home of the Aryan people, have been identified, and there are about 50 more suspected sites. They all lie buried in a region more than 640km long near Russia's border with Kazakhstan.


The cities are thought to have been built 3500-4000 years ago, soon after the Great Pyramid in Egypt. They are about the same size as several of the city states of ancient Greece, which started to come into being in Crete at about the same time.


If archaeologists confirm the cities as Aryan, they could be the remnants of a civilisation that spread through Europe and much of Asia. Their language has been identified as the precursor of modern Indo-European tongues, including English. Words such as brother, guest and oxen have been traced back to this prototype.


"Potentially, this could rival ancient Greece in the age of the heroes," said British historian Bettany Hughes, who spent much of the northern summer exploring the region for a BBC radio program, Tracking the Aryans.


"We are all told that there is this kind of mother tongue, proto-Indo-European, from which all the languages we know emerge.


"I was very excited to hear on the archaeological grapevine that in exactly the period I am an expert in, this whole new Bronze Age civilisation had been discovered on the steppe of southern Siberia."


She described driving for seven hours into the steppe grasslands with chief archaeologist Gennady Zdanovich. "He took me to this expanse of grass; you couldn't tell there was anything special. Then, as he pointed to the ground, suddenly I realised I was walking across a buried city," she said.


"Every now and again you suddenly notice these ghostly shapes of fortresses and cattle sheds and homes and religious sites. I would not have known these had he not shown them to me."


The shape of each of the cities, which are mainly in the Chelyabinsk district, resembles an ammonite fossil, divided into segments with a spiral street plan. The settlements, which would each have housed about 2000 people -- the same as an ancient Greek city such as Mycenae -- are all surrounded by a ditch and have a square in the middle.


The first city, known as Arkaim, was discovered in 1989, soon after the soviet authorities allowed non-military aerial photography for the first time.


The full extent of the remains is only now becoming apparent. Items that have so far been dug up include many pieces of pottery covered in swastikas, which were widely used ancient symbols of the sun and eternal life. The Nazis appropriated the Aryans and the swastika as symbols of their so-called master race. Ms Hughes believes that some of the strongest evidence that the cities could be the home of the Aryans comes from a series of horse burials.


Several ancient Indian texts believed to have been written by Aryans recount similar rituals. "These ancient Indian texts and hymns describe sacrifices of horses and burials and the way the meat is cut off and the way the horse is buried with its master," she said. "If you match this with the way the skeletons and the graves are being dug up in Russia, they are a millimetre-perfect match."



Project Troia - Bronze Age Troy Just Keeps on Growing

Submitted by Ann on Mon, 10/04/2010 - 20:43


German archaeologists have made new discoveries at modern day Hisarlik, northwest Turkey – ancient Troy.


The finds further confirm the area occupied during the Bronze Age was not limited to the citadel; Troy VI and VII were much larger than originally thought.


The three year research project at Troy – lead by Prof. Ernst Pernicka, from the University of Tubingen's Institute of Pre- and Early History – sees scholars focus on the analysis and publication of materials found since the university started excavations at the site in 1988.


But to investigate – and resolve – outstanding issues, Project Troia does undertake some smaller excavations. 


These digs, in combination with geophysical surveying and the drilling of test holes, allow the team to narrow down the Bronze Age occupation below Troy's citadel more closely.


From the early Bronze Age until the Roman Period, at least nine cities – their ruins stacked up to 15 metres high – existed at the archaeological site; Troy I to IX.

This year, the team confirmed the layout of a one kilometre long Late Bronze Age defensive system – a rock-cut ditch – south of the Troy hillfort.


A gate, situated in the southeast area of the trench, is now fully excavated. It is located some 300 metres south of the citadel wall, and dated to about 1300 BC.  The passage is about five metres wide, smaller than the ditch's previously excavated southern gate.


Late Bronze Age layers came to light in the vicinity of the southeastern gate – remains of walls, roads, storage pits and even an ancient oven. The finds suggest the area was occupied from about about 1700 (Troy VI) to 1100 BC (Troy VII). Soil samples, taken 200 metres east of the citadel, reveal Bronze Age remains as well.


Further east, a second trench was discovered, significantly deeper and wider than the excavated ditch. This structure isn't dated yet, but will be further examined next season. 


The archaeological site of Hisarlik was first excavated in the 19th century – not without controversy – by self-taught archaeologists Heinrich Schliemann.


Rather than being one ancient city, it consists of multiple layers of ruins.  From the early Bronze Age (3rd millennium BC) until the Roman Period (1st century BC), at least nine cities – Troy I to IX  – existed at the archaeological site; there ruins are stacked up to 15 metres high (nicely shown in the timeline on the University of Cincinnati's website).


Which of these remains – if any – are those of the Homeric city of Troy, is still debated.


Schliemann nominated Troy I or II, but nowadays the Late Hittite Troy VII – showing traces of fire and possibly warfare – is seen as the most likely source of inspiration for the Trojan myth.  Its remains are dated between the 13th and 10th century BC, where as ancient Greek historians place the Trojan War somewhere in the 12th to 14th century BC.


That Troy VI and VII are far larger than originally thought – not a mere hillfort, but strongholds surrounded by a settlement with its own defensive structures – makes it more likely Hisarlik is indeed the site of the legendary Troy, or Ilion, the siege of which was described by Homer in the Iliad.



Digs at Tel Shikmona unearth 6th-century floor mosaics


10/06/2010 06:16


Researchers say the well-preserved mosaics date back to the Byzantine period and were part of an ecclesiastic structure.


Intricate 6th-century floor mosaics have been uncovered at Tel Shikmona park in the North, the University of Haifa announced on Tuesday.


The mosaics were unearthed by researchers from the university’s Institute of Archaeology, who were taking part in renewed digs at the site. Archaeological digs were held at Tel Shikmona throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but the site was neglected for decades and became strewn with trash. Since the discovery was made, researchers have been working to remove the built-up garbage and clean the mosaic floors to prepare them for viewing by the public.


Researchers say the well-preserved mosaics date back to the Byzantine period and were part of an ecclesiastic structure.


A number of archaeological finds have been discovered at the seaside site south of Haifa, including an Egyptian tomb, a Persian citadel and a number of luxury items from the Bronze Age.


Earlier finds have shown that Shikmona was inhabited over a range of time from the Bronze Age to the Byzantine period, and was the main city of the Haifa and Carmel area from the 4th century BCE to the Muslim conquest in the 7th century CE.


The site is part of the Shikmona National Park in the Shikmona Nature Reserve and is managed by the Israel Parks and Nature Authority. Plans are under way for the site to become a public archaeological park that will be annexed to the Hecht park in Haifa.



Yersinia Pestis Bacteria Confirmed as Cause of Middle Ages 'Black Death' Plague Epidemic

ScienceDaily (Oct. 8, 2010) —


The latest tests conducted by anthropologists at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) have proven that the bacteria Yersinia pestis was indeed the causative agent behind the "Black Death" that raged across Europe in the Middle Ages.


The cause of the epidemic has always remained highly controversial and other pathogens were often named as possible causes, in particular for the northern European regions. Using DNA and protein analyses from skeletons of plague victims, an international team led by the scientists from Mainz has now conclusively shown that Yersinia pestis was responsible for the Black Death in the 14th century and the subsequent epidemics that continued to erupt throughout the European continent for the next 400 years. The tests conducted on genetic material from mass graves in five countries also identified at least two previously unknown types of Yersinia pestis that occurred as pathogens.

"Our findings indicate that the plague traveled to Europe over at least two channels, which then went their own individual ways," explains Dr Barbara Bramanti from the Institute of Anthropology of Mainz University. The works, published in the open access journal PLoS Pathogens, now provide the necessary basis for conducting a detailed historical reconstruction of how this illness spread.

For a number of years, Barbara Bramanti has been researching major epidemics that were rampant throughout Europe and their possible selective consequences as part of a project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). For the recently published work, 76 human skeletons were examined from suspected mass graves for plague victims in England, France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. While other infections such as leprosy can be easily identified long after death by the deformed bones, the problem faced in the search for plague victims lies in the fact that the illness can lead to death within just a few days and leaves no visible traces.

With luck, DNA of the pathogen may still be present for many years in the dental pulp or traces of proteins in the bones. Even then it is difficult to detect, and may be distorted through possible contamination. The team led by Bramanti found their results by analyzing old genetic material, also known as ancient DNA (aDNA): Ten specimens from France, England, and the Netherlands showed a Yersinia pestis-specific gene. Because the samples from Parma, Italy and Augsburg, Germany gave no results, they were subjected to another method known as immunochromatography (similar to the method used in home pregnancy tests for example), this time with success.

Once the infection with Yersinia pestis had been conclusively proven, Stephanie Hänsch and Barbara Bramanti used an analysis of around 20 markers to test if one of the known bacteria types "orientalis" or "medievalis" was present. But neither of these two types was found. Instead, two unknown forms were identified, which are older and differ from the modern pathogens found in Africa, America, the Middle East, and the former Soviet Union regions. One of these two types, which are thought to have contributed significantly to the catastrophic course of the plague in the 14th century, most probably no longer exists today. The other appears to have similarities with types that were recently isolated in Asia.

In their reconstruction, Hänsch and Bramanti show an infection path that runs from the initial transportation of the pathogen from Asia to Marseille in November 1347, through western France to northern France and over to England. Because a different type of Yersinia pestis was found in Bergen op Zoom in the Netherlands, the two scientists believe that the South of the Netherlands was not directly infected from England or France, but rather from the North. This would indicate another infection route, which ran from Norway via Friesland and down to the Netherlands. Further investigations are required to uncover the complete route of the epidemic.

"The history of this pandemic," stated Hänsch, "is much more complicated than we had previously thought."



Archaeologists discover ancient tombs in Siberia

Marina Domnitskaya

Oct 6, 2010 16:58 Moscow Time


Siberian archaeologists have discovered an ancient tomb belonging to unknown people in the Krasnoyarsk region where the construction of the Boguchanskaya hydropower station is now underway. They made the discovery while they were studying the territory that will come under the reservoir.


This unknown group of people lived along the River Angara about one thousand years ago, before the arrival of the Tungus, the ancestors of the present Evenks. All 31 graves of the medieval cemetery were dug according to a single ritual. The body was cremated and the remains were buried. Archaeologists discovered weapons, belts, various jewellery, pots for food and tools. Several graves belonged to distinguished people, and over a hundred items, which were buried with their remains, were discovered.       


The overall number of items discovered exceeds 10 thousand, says the head of a group of searchers Pavel Mandryka, who head the archaeology and ethnography laboratory of the Siberian Federal University.


“The significance of the discovery is that this is a complex of graves rather than individual graves that were discovered earlier,” says Pavel Mandryka. “This is an entire cemetery, either clan or patrimonial. It shows how cultural ties and contacts changed,” Pavel Mandryka said.


Archaeologists will determine who those people were only after studying the materials thoroughly. However, one thing is clear. The local people had close contacts with other peoples in the Urals and the Kyrgyz.        


The expedition of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences has been doing excavations at the site in the past three years. This year, over one thousand archaeologists studied three cultural layers belong to the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Middle Age. The artifacts discovered will be taken to Krasnoyarsk and Novosibirsk. They will be stored in a special warehouse.


 Scientists plan to end their research early next year. This will help identifying the ancient people who lived in the Krasnoyarsk region and disclose another secret in Siberia.    



Burial law is threatening archaeological research, say experts

Scientists object to Ministry of Justice rules which force them to rebury bones after just two years

Robin McKie

The Observer,            Sunday 10 October 2010


Severe restrictions on scientists' freedom to study bones and skulls from ancient graves are putting archaeological research in Britain at risk, according to experts.


The growing dispute relates to controversial legislation introduced by the Ministry of Justice in 2008, which decreed that all human remains found during digs in Britain must be reburied within two years.


The decision means that scientists have insufficient time to carry out proper studies of any pieces of ancient skeleton they find. Key information about British history will be lost as a result.


"Suppose one of our palaeontologists found the remains of a million-year-old human," said archaeologist Mike Pitts of the Stonehenge Riverside Project.


"It would be a truly wonderful discovery and would transform our knowledge of our predecessors. But, according to the Ministry of Justice ruling, we would have to take that fossil – when we had only just begun to study it – and put it back in the soil. It is utterly absurd."


Scientists are already facing the prospect of having to rebury a horde of human bone fragments, the remains of more than 50 individuals, that were excavated in 2008 at a site known as Aubrey Hole 7, which is part of the Stonehenge Riverside Project.


Team members, including Pitts, had hoped that they could study these pieces to gain new knowledge about the people who built and used Stonehenge, with a preliminary study of the 50,000 bone fragments being expected to run from 2008 until 2015. Now the team faces the prospect of having to rebury the remains when their research has only just begun.


"We have applied for an extension," added Pitts. "We may get one, but even if we did, it would only be for a couple more years. Then the bones would have be reburied."


The ministry's ruling follows a decision in 2007 to transfer authority for exhumation of human remains from ancient graves from the Home Office to the Ministry of Justice.


Its officials decided that the Burial Act 1857 was the appropriate legislation for controlling archaeological digs at burial grounds. As a result, they dictated that archaeologists could dig up bones and skulls, but insisted that they would have to rebury them within two years "in an accepted place of burial" – a cemetery – while the excavations would have to be screened from the public.


"In fact, that legislation was introduced in the 19th century to deal with the expansion of our cities, which took building development across existing cemeteries," said Pitts.


"Builders were essentially hauling corpses out of the ground in front of living relatives. The Burial Act was introduced to stop that. But it is something completely different from the excavation of prehistoric remains. It is utterly inappropriate to use this law to control archaeology."


In recent years, scientists have developed a number of important tools for interpreting ancient remains.


In one case, a recent project that used high-resolution radiocarbon dating of remains found in the West Kennet barrow – an ancient burial chamber in Wiltshire that was constructed around 3500BC – led to a dramatic re-evaluation of its contents.


"We used to think these ancient barrows were used for many generations to bury their dead," said Dr Duncan Sayer of the University of Central Lancashire. "But these new, highly accurate dating techniques revealed they had been filled up within a single generation."


The discovery is forcing historians to take a completely new look at how humans lived in the period, but it would not have been possible under the Ministry of Justice's rules.


"The bones were dug up at the barrow several decades ago and were kept in museums before researchers redated them," added Sayer.


"But the new rules would have meant that the bones would have had to been reburied long ago and would have been unavailable for research."


The requirement for reburial within two years is not the only issue to vex archaeologists, however. The ministry's requirement that any excavation of human remains must be screened from the public has also caused anger.


"If you dig up old burial grounds and then screen your dig from local people, they become suspicious," added Sayer, who is leading an excavation at a Saxon cemetery at Oakington in Cambridgeshire.


"They think you are doing something sinister. The ironic thing is that the government has insisted on the public being given access to scientific research and for there to be openness between scientists and the public.


"But now they are preventing us from doing that – when we are happy to show people what we are doing and when local folk want to learn about the men and women who used to live in their village or town."




By Thom Kennedy

Last updated at 10:39, Saturday, 09 October 2010


A Cumbrian MP has called for an export ban on a £2 million Roman helmet found in Cumbria, throwing open the possibility that Tullie House could still acquire the artefact.


The museum lost out on the Roman cavalry parade helmet, found in a field near Crosby Garrett south of Appleby in May, in a high-profile auction in London on Thursday.


But if its buyer wants to take the piece abroad, the government could impose an export ban, potentially giving the Carlisle museum another route to buying it.


Now, Penrith and the Border MP Rory Stewart has demanded an export ban is introduced, and said: “Cumbrians have shown both their immense generosity and sincere appreciation of this exceptional antiquity, and I know that this is a blow to their hopes to see the helmet installed in Tullie House’s new Roman Frontiers gallery.


“But we must not be downcast, and look to the bodies that exist to protect finds such as these from leaving the country never to be seen again.


“We must lobby hard to retain it here, where it has lain undisturbed for 2,000 years, and find time to try and match the price. If anything, today’s result has spurred me on to make this happen, and I will actively work for as long as it takes to secure its future here in the UK.”


Tullie House had put together a seven figure bid for the artefact, including a £1m contribution from the Heritage Lottery Fund, in the hope of keeping it in Carlisle.


Other contributions included £5,000 from Cumbria County Council, £50,000 from an anonymous benefactor, an original work by a contemporary Belgian artist, and a substantial pledge from another Cumbrian museum’s Trust.


It was hoped the piece could have a ‘Mona Lisa effect’ on the area’s fortunes, generating millions through tourism.


But on Thursday, a crowd of staff in the museum’s lecture theatre gasped and groaned as a live web feed from the auction at Christie’s in London showed the price of the artefact spiral. It was eventually bought by an anonymous bidder for £2 million.


But Mike Mitchelson, leader of Carlisle City Council which runs Tullie House, says hopes remain high that the helmet will stay in Cumbria.


He said: “If it was a foreign bidder and there is an export ban, and if the opportunity came to match the final price, I would be quite confident that with enough time we would be in a position to match it.


“On two occasions during the auction the bidding eased off and we thought, ‘we are going to be in there, we have got this’.


“The final price was more than I anticipated it would go for, and I thought we would be in a position to secure the helmet.”


The farmer on whose land the helmet said he would have liked it to stay in Cumbria, but Eric Robinson remained tight lipped over whether he will receive any of the money raised from Thursday’s auction.


“It’s quite amazing [that it was worth so much],” he said. “I would have liked it to be kept in Cumbria but I can’t do anything about it.”


Mr Robinson said the man who found it had been coming to his farm for seven years and ‘hit the jackpot’ with this find.


He added: “I saw it when he found it. It looked very special, like it was pretty important.”


First published at 09:09, Saturday, 09 October 2010




Rare treasure find ignited Cumbrian appeal fund

By Caroline Henderson

BBC News

7 October 2010


The Crosby Garrett Helmet is believed to be one of only three found in Britain

It was found in a Cumbrian field and ended up in a London auction house.


But along the way, this bronze helmet sparked a passionate fight from a small Carlisle museum to keep it in the county.


Uncovered in the hamlet of Crosby Garrett, near Kirkby Stephen, in May, the helmet - complete with mask - is more than a mere slice of Roman history.


It sold at auction for £2m on Thursday but the buyer has not yet been revealed.


For the owner of the field and an anonymous metal detector enthusiast, it was the find of a lifetime.


But for Hilary Wade, director of the Tullie House Museum in Carlisle, it is "a jewel in the Cumbrian crown," and she was desperate to keep it in the county.


Experts believe the Crosby Garrett Helmet dates back to the late 1st Century and was probably worn by athletes during sporting events.


Christie's auction house in London described the helmet as "an extraordinary example of Roman metalwork at its zenith".


Fundraisers like Ms Wade were battling to save the artefact from falling into private hands.


Their fight would have been a great deal easier had the helmet been made from silver or gold, or if it had been found as part of a hoard of bronze.


It would have automatically become the property of the Crown under the Treasure Act of 1996 which protects pieces of "national treasure".


But the Crosby Garrett is exempt, being made from bronze and found on its own, although Ms Wade was determined it should remain in Cumbria.


Aside from a banner displayed outside of the museum with the message: "Keep it in Cumbria, pledge your support!", Ms Wade and her team co-ordinated a media campaign, urging people to donate to the cause.


Had Tullie House successfully won the bid at auction, the helmet would have been on display in their Roman exhibition, due to open next summer.


"It really is phenomenal. It's the jewel in the Cumbrian crown," she said.


"We've had a wonderful response from other museums across the region, they've been really supportive in our fundraising campaign with the public - it's united us all.


"It seems to have brought people together, shouting: This has to stay in Cumbria."


Once worn by Roman athletes demonstrating their excellence in horsemanship, the rare treasure even captured the interest of an anonymous bidder who wanted to do his part for the cause.


The benefactor pledged £50,000 of his own money on the condition that public donations matched the sum pound for pound.


But for Ms Wade and her team of campaigners, it was the fear the helmet could be bought by an international bidder that motivated the cause.


She said: "It's just absolutely essential it stays here."


There is no indication yet of who the anonymous bidder was or where they were based.


But there could be a glimmer of hope even if it was an overseas bidder.


The government could temporarily stop it leaving the country, giving Tullie House time to gather funds to match the bid.


Following the auction, the museum said it had not given up its campaign to bring the helmet to the city.