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10 Archaeological Discoveries & Famous Treasure Troves

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Everyone wants to become rich in thier lifetime.  Many people scour thrift
stores in hopes of finding a fortune, while others take the archeologist’s
approach and search underground sites and the oceans.  Occasionally, a rare
and valuable artifact will be discovered.  Discovering ancient treasure or
valuables can be thrilling, especially if you profit from the find.  The amount of
buried treasure on earth is abundant, but much of it lies on desolate land and
in the deep sea.  This list will be examining some of the most infamous and
interesting treasure stories, documenting surprise discoveries and treasure
troves.            


10. Original Copy of the American
Declaration of Independence

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In 1989, Donald Scheer, a Philadelphia financial analyst, purchased a painting
in an Adamstown, PA flea market.  He didn’t particularly like the painting, but
bought the item for the old frame.  It cost him $4.  When taking the painting out
of the frame it subsequently fell apart, but he noticed a peace of paper lurking
within.  It was an old copy of the United States Declaration of Independence.
He had it appraised and to his surprise it was an original copy of the
Declaration of Independence that was printed by John Dunlap.
 
Before this find only 24 original copies of this document were in existence, only
three of them privately owned.  In 1991, Scheer sold the rare print at an
auction and fetched $2.42 million dollars, making him an instant millionaire.
The invention of the internet helped expand the consumer market on this rare
item and in 2000 the same print sold for $8.14 million dollars in an online
auction.  The print tends to increase in value by around $1 million dollars
every year.
  
 

On a separate, but interesting note on July 2, 2009, British researchers
announced that they had discovered another original Dunlap Broadside print of
America’s Declaration of Independence.  It was found at the British National
Archives.  Strangely, two of these prints were discovered in the span of 20
years, but another discovery like this will probably never occur.

9. Fishpool Hoard

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On March 22, 1966, an unusual hoard of treasure was found by construction
workers on a building site in the village of Fishpool, near present day
Cambourne Gardens, which is located near Ravenshead, which is a village
and civil parish in the Gedling district of Nottinghamshire, England.  It borders
Papplewick, Newstead Abbey and Blidworth, and is part of Nottinghamshires
Hidden Valleys area.  The treasure was comprised of 1,237 coins, four rings,
four pieces of jewelry, and two lengths of chain. The hoard was unusual
because it contained both coins and jewelry made entirely of gold, which made
it easier for historians to date.
 
It was probably deposited sometime between the winter of 1463 and summer
of 1464, during a rebellion against the Yorkist king Edward IV in the first
decade of the Wars of the Roses. Most of the coins were English notables,
ranging from 1327-1464, but 223 international coins were also included. It was
an extremely large treasure, as hoards in this area usually consist of only a
few objects. Historians claim that it must have been deposited in a very
unusual, emergency situation. Today, the treasure is valued at £300,000
euros. It is housed at the British Museum. Upon discovery, it was collected by
the state and the finders were not compensated.

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8. Nuestra Señora de Atocha

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Beginning in 1561 and continuing until 1748, Spanish trade with the colonies
followed a well-established system
. Two fleets a year were sent to the New
World. The ships brought supplies to the colonists and were
then filled with
silver, gold, and agricultural products for the return voyage back to Spain. In
1622, a fleet of these ships was struck by a devastating storm and many
ships sunk off the coast of the Florida Keys. The most famous was the
Nuestra Señora de Atocha. When the ship went down it had vast amounts of
copper, silver, gold, tobacco, gems, jewels, jewelry, and indigo.

The Spaniards conducted salvage operations for several years and recovered
around half the treasure,
but it was difficult because many ships sank in deep
water. They never located the Atocha. In 1985, American treasure hunter Mel
Fisher discovered the sunken vessel. It was salvaged and the mother load of
gold, silver, and emeralds is valued at $450 million dollars. It included over 40
tons of gold and silver and Columbian emeralds. After the discovery, the
United States government claimed title to the wreck and the State of Florida
seized many of the items Fisher had retrieved from his earliest salvage
expeditions. After eight years of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in
favor of Fisher. He has become extremely wealthy from the discovery. 

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7. Jackson Pollock Painting?

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In 1992, Teri Horton purchased a painting in a San Bernardino, California thrift
shop. It was a very large work and she purchased it for only $5.  Horton put
the item out at a garage sail and a local art teacher suggested that the
painting was extremely similar to Jackson Pollock’s action painting technique.
Jackson Pollock is one of the most influential and important American artists
of the 20th century. Horton took the painting to numerous art connoisseurs
and the response was mixed. Some felt it was an original Pollock painting and
others were not convinced. The authenticity is difficult to establish because
the painting was purchased at a thrift store, is unsigned, and is without
provenance, the documentation of a painting’s history.
 
Forensic specialists have inspected the art and matched a partial fingerprint on
the canvas to a fingerprint on one of Pollock’s paint cans and two other
authenticated Jackson Pollack works.  An original Pollock is worth anywhere
from $50 million dollars to hundreds of millions. 
One of his paintings, called
"Number 5," recently sold for a record $140 million.  Horton proclaims that her
painting is worth around $50 million dollars.  In recent interviews she claims to
have turned town an offer of $9 million dollars for the art.  To date she has yet
to sell the item.

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6. Hoxne Hoard

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Hoxne is a village in the Mid Suffolk district of Suffolk, England, about five miles
southeast of Diss, Norfolk.  On November 16, 1992, Eric Lawes was patrolling
a field in Hoxne with a metal detector looking for a local farmer’s hammer.  The
machine started going crazy and Lawes realized that something large was
buried underground. He called the Suffolk Archaeological Unit and the Hoxne
treasure was discovered. It included a cache of approximately 15,000 late 4th
and early 5th century Roman gold and silver coins and around 200 items of
silver tableware and jewelry. They had been buried in a wooden chest. It is the
largest hoard of Roman silver and gold ever discovered.

The treasure was probably hidden during the political turmoil of the time, when
the Roman Empire started to break apart in Britain.
The gold coins all are
solidi and are 99% percent pure. Most were struck between AD 394 and 405,
when Honorius ruled the western empire and his brother Arcadius the eastern.
They come from thirteen different mints and represent eight different emperors.
The entire hoard was considered a treasure trove, which means that
 it is old
enough to be presumed that the true owner is dead and the heirs
undiscoverable. It was purchased by the British Museum and today many
items are on display to the public. Lawes and the tenant farmer received
£1.75 million for the find, which they divided equally. It was the largest
payment ever given out since the Treasure Act was introduced.

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5. Środa Treasure

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Środa Śląska is a town in Lower Silesian Voivodeship, in south-western
Poland.  On June 8, 1985, construction workers discovered gold and silver
coins during demolition of an old building. The authorities secured the original
find of 3,000 Prague groschen. Three years later during a demolition in the
vicinity of the first discovery, an even bigger find was reported.  Most of the
treasure was looted and disappeared before it could be taken by the
authorities, although many important and valuable historic artifacts were
found
.  T
he treasure most likely belonged to the Emperor Charles IV of the
House of Luxemburg.  Around 1348, needing funds to support his claim to the
Emperorship, Charles pawned various items to the Jewish banker Muscho in
Środa.  Soon afterwards, the black plague visited
Środa Śląska and historical
records come to an abrupt end.

The Środa Treasure is incredibly valuable and is one of the most important
archeological finds in 20th century. The treasure is mostly kept in the Regional
Museum in Środa Śląska
.  Some highlights include a
gold woman's crown,
which probably belonged to Blanche of Valois, one of the wives of the emperor
Charles IV.  Four gold pendants, a medieval gold clasp decorated with
precious stones, a ring with heads of dragons, a ring with sapphire, a ring with
moon and star, 39 gold coins, and thousands of silver coins. 

4. Nanhai No. 1

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In 1987, divers off the coast of Guangdong, which is located on the southern
coast of People's Republic of China, accidently discovered a massive
shipwreck.  Investigators found the vessel to be the
25-meter-long and 3,800
ton Nanhai No. 1.  The Nanhai No. 1 is believed to be a merchant vessel that
operated between the southern Chinese region and the rest of the world.  It
was the first ancient vessel discovered on the "Marine Silk Road" of the South
China Sea. 
The treasure on board is truly amazing and impossible to value.
Initial excavations have revealed beautiful green glazed porcelain plates, blue
porcelain and tin pots, as well as chinaware specially designed for foreign
markets.  There could be up to 70,000 relics on the ship. 
Archaeologists
believe the ship dates back to the second period of the Song Dynasty (1127-
1279).  It is well preserved, lying upright on the seabed with its hull hard
and intact.
 
At the end of 2007 the ship was
hoisted from a depth of 30 meters below the
South China Sea and has been soaking in a sealed pool in the "Crystal
Palace" at the Marine Silk Road Museum in Yangjiang.  In the last couple
months Chinese archaeologists won permission to start an excavation into the
cabins of the 800-year-old shipwreck. Archaeologists have already recovered
more than 4,000 artifacts including gold, silver, and porcelain, as well as about
6,000 copper coins from the Song Dynasty (960-1279).  Many of the
porcelain artifacts are rare handcrafted pieces of art.  Officials hope that the
vessel might confirm the existence of an ancient maritime trade route linking
China and the West.

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3. Pereshchepina Treasure

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In 1912, a small boy was exploring the village of Mala Pereshchepina, which is
13 km from Poltava, Ukraine, when he fell into the grave of Kuvrat, the founder
of Great Bulgaria and father of Asparuh, the first Bulgarian Emperor.  The boy
discovered a vast treasure containing more than 800 items.  Renowned
archaeologist Count Aleksey Bobrinsky extracted the hoard. There were 19
silver vessels and 16 gold vessels, including a striking rhyton.  Probably the
most fascinating artifacts are a staff with gold facing and a well-preserved iron
sword with an end in the form of a ring and gold facing.
 
The treasure also consists of gold jewellery, an earring, seven bracelets,
golden plaques, and seven rings with inlays of precious stones.  Some of the
most historically significant items are a necklace of gold Byzantine coins,
dating from the reign of Emperor Maurice (582–602).  There is also a
Sassanian dish bearing an image of Shapur the Great (309–379), and a
Byzantine dish with an inscription of the early 6th-century bishop of Tomis.
The total weight in gold exceeds 25 kilograms.

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2. Vindolanda Tablets

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Vindolanda was one of the main military posts on the northern frontier of Britain
befo
re the building of the Hadrian wall.  In the early 1970’s the area was being
excavated and Robin Birley
discovered
fragments of wooden leaf-tablets with
writing in ink containing messages to and from members of the garrison of
Vindolanda Roman fort.  The tablets had been preserved in waterlogged
conditions in rubbish deposits in and around the commanding officer’s
residence.  Since the original discovery hundreds of other fragments have
surfaced, they are the oldest surviving handwritten documents in Britain.
 
Archaeologists have dated the writings to 100 AD.  The tablets have given
remarkable insight into the working and private lives of the Roman garrison.
Historians have learned much from the discovery, including information about
specific writing styles and mediums.  It was confirmed that the Romans had a
nickname for the Britons, which was
Brittunculi.  Other tablets confirmed that
the Romans soldiers wore underpants and it also testifies to the high degree
of literacy in the Roman army.  Birley didn’t personally receive monetary gain,
but his original discovery gave major insights into our history.  Today, the
tablets are held at the British Museum.

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1. Panagyurishte Treasure

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Panagyurishte is a town in Pazardzhik Province, western Bulgaria.  On the
morning of December 8, 1949,
three brothers, Pavel, Petko, and Michail
Deikovi, were working together at the region of “Merul” tile factory near
Panagyurishte.  They were processing a new layer of clay, when the brothers
noticed shiny and glossy objects in the ground.  They immediately reported
the discovery to city authorities and the Panagyurishte treasure was found.
 
The
Panagyurishte treasure consists of nine solid gold utensils, all with rich
decoration of
scenes and Thracian myths.  The items discovered include a
phial, an amphora, and seven rhytons, with a total weight of 6,164 kg of
23-karat gold.  The hoard was dated from the 3rd to 4th centuries BC, and is
thought to have been used as a royal ceremonial set by the Thracian king
Seuthes III.  The hoard contains some of the most impressive surviving
artifacts of Thracian culture.  The treasure has been displayed in museums all
over the world and is the centerpiece of the Thracian art collection of the
Plovdiv Archaeological Museum.  It has an undetermined value.

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Comments:
 

Rob - September 7, 2009 at 7:39 AM
Fishpool is nowhere near Bury or Manchester, it is now called Ravenshed
and is situated near Nottingham (Newstead Abby).

Bryan - September 7, 2009 at 12:44 PM
Thanks for the information.  I have made updates to the list.

Michael Stone - January 30, 2010
How can King Tut's discovery not be included. I'ts more valuable than any of the
ten you have listed.

Radu - April 29, 2010
Great Outline!



Copyright The List Blog Top 10, All Rights Reserved, Posted July 30, 2009