Archaeologists working in Israel made a golden discovery when they unearthed a cache of jewelry at Tel Megiddo.
Tel Megiddo is a very ancient city – thousands of years old – and an important archaeological site. In fact, the city has been destroyed and rebuilt so many times that it has at least 11 distinct levels of archeological strata that have been studied to piece together the history of the area. As such, finding artifacts at Tel Megiddo is not normally a big deal. This golden jewelry, however, is another matter.
The jewelry was found inside a jug that was unearthed back in 2010. But, the jewelry itself was not found until the jug was cleaned earlier this year (again, there are a lot of artifacts from Tel Megiddo). Judging from the strata where the jug was found, the jewelry is estimated to be more than 3,000 years old.
Evidence suggests that the jug was not the typical storage vessel for the jewelry, so archaeologists theorize that the jewelry was hidden there during one of Tel Megiddo’s razing periods. The cache contains many gold pieces that are of styles and designs which were typical of the time. However, archeologists are buzzing about one particular gold earring that is unlike any others from the area.
The design features molded ibexes (a type of wild goat) and a bright yellow color, suggesting that it may be pure gold. The design suggests that the piece may be all the way from Egypt, but an assay will make the final determination. Ancient Egypt had an abundance of gold, but not many other metals. This made mixed alloys rare; so many pieces of jewelry were pure gold. If other metals are found in the earring, it will indicate that the earring was made by local (and very talented) jewelers.
Metal detector stories run the gamut in terms of luck and size of the find – almost like fishing stories. Both hobbies require time and patience for success, sometimes a lot of it. However, the most extreme case of beginner’s luck we’ve ever heard of goes to amateur metal detectorist, David Booth.
Booth’s story happened back in September 2009 in Stirlingshire, Scotland. Excited to try out his metal detector for the first time, Booth parked his car in a field. From there, he picked a searching direction, took seven steps (a lucky number), and his metal detector went off.
Now – most people find junk, scraps, or bottle caps when they first use a metal detector. They often find those same things the second, third, or even one-hundredth time they use a metal detector. Booth, however, found four golden neck-torcs dating all the way back to the Iron Age. It was gold treasure that had been lost for thousands of years – found in just seven lucky steps.
The find went down as one of the most important rediscoveries in Scottish history. The torcs, valued at about £1 million at the time of the find, are now on display in the National Museum of Scotland.
Experienced numismatists are probably familiar with cob coins – even if they don’t have any in their collection. At first glance, cob coins don’t look like much. One might say they can barely be called coins – their radically irregular shape is nothing like the uniformly circle coins we know today. In fact, no two cob coins are exactly the same. Even an organized collection of cob coins looks like a mishmash of dingy, haphazardly stamped gold and silver scraps.
In reality, cob coins are the original “treasure coins.” Doubloons, reales, and pieces o’ eight are all cob coins – traded by pirates, lost at sea, and dense with precious metal content. Silver cob coins are about .930 fine, while gold ones are about .920 fine (22 kt). Historical value aside – they are worth a lot according to today’s precious metal prices.
Cob coins arose in the 16th century when Spain wanted a way to quickly turn the precious metals mined in its colonies into currency. Rather than refining the precious metals into sheets to be stamped into coins, bars were chopped and then manually hammer-struck into coins. That’s why cob coins are all misshaped with off-center pattern strikes.
The results were crude, but effective. Using such a quick method allowed the colonies to ship out coins at an incredible pace, with many coins minted right at the mines. The Spanish called the coins “cabo de barra” – from the “end of the bar.” Hence, the anglicized term, “cob” coin. Their fast mode of production and inherent precious metal value gave cob coins a wide circulation – nearly all over the world!