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Top 9 Archaeological Treasures Found on Farms

Updated on November 7, 2017
Jana Louise Smit profile image

Jana is an amateur archaeologist who examined her first rock at the age of 2. She likes to group ancient discoveries together in fun lists.

Most farms potentially sit on valuable history., thanks to the large areas they cover.
Most farms potentially sit on valuable history., thanks to the large areas they cover. | Source

Farm Finds are Rare but Remarkable

Farms are busy places. Almost every corner is known to their owners and workers. Space is money, so fields are cultivated, leaving little on the surface that doesn't have anything to do with farming. That's why farm finds tend to be uniquely subterranean or hidden in strange places. If it weren't for nosy metal detectorists, home renovators or the odd badger digging up a skull, a lot of history would stay buried.

9. Most Complete Wheel

At Must Farm in Cambridgeshire, an ancient village came by its nickname “British Pompeii” quite honestly. The site is uncommonly filled with artifacts that reveal more about the lives of the long-gone inhabitants.

In 2016, archaeologists were clearing the roundhouses when they found the most complete Bronze Age wheel in the United Kingdom. The 3,000-year-old artifact was shaped from an unidentified type of wood and still retains its central hub. Nearby was the spine of a horse, an uncommon animal for the time. This suggested that the wheel belonged to a horse-drawn cart, capable of supporting two passengers.

Boasting a 3 ft-diameter (1m) surface, the wheel is the largest of its kind, as well as the best preserved. The find gives more color to the Bronze Age community's sophisticated transport systems which also included boats. Back then, the location was a wet marshy area with a river. The presence of a wheel indicate that the villagers had no problem traveling with a cart across soggy ground. While this is certainly no rough-terrain vehicle, it throws new light on the technological capabilities of the time.

8. Front Line Coins

Farmer Chris Sardeson didn't expect fireworks when he allowed a metal detectorist to sweep his land. After all, Sardeson had tilled the earth near the village of Ewerby for over 50 years and never found anything before he allowed Steven Ingram to search for booty in 2016.

Then a few silver coins turned up. For days afterwards, the Lincolnshire field produced money. In the end, Ingram retrieved over a thousand silver coins hailing from the reigns of five monarchs.

The cache, the biggest found in the county, dates to the seventeenth Century when England was in the grip of civil war. One of the worst conflict zones stretched from Grantham and Boston, making the fields of Ewerby something of a front line. It will be impossible to identify the person who buried the treasure but one thing is certain. The hoarder's actions reflect the social anxiety that existed while the Parliamentarians and the Royalists battled for supremacy. Perhaps the owner feared the money would be stolen, or perhaps a thief hid it. Whoever it was probably met with a bad end because they never retrieved the valuable loot.

Torcs

Torcs were usually worn around the neck or arm.
Torcs were usually worn around the neck or arm. | Source

7. The Leekfrith Torcs

Two friends in need of a hobby decided to try metal detecting. After a fruitless session in a Staffordshire field, Mark Hambleton and Joe Kania decided that fishing would be a more productive way to spend their time. After throwing lures for 20 years, they recently returned to the same Staffordshire field.

The farmer gave the friends permission to buzz around his property but by the afternoon, they were once again convinced that the hobby really wasn't worth it. Then Kania's detector struck gold. It was a stunning torc from the Iron Age and soon they found three more.

Hambleton kept them overnight before reporting the find to the Birmingham museum. There the torcs were identified as three collars and one smaller piece that was likely a bracelet. Analysis determined that the gold jewelry collection originated in modern-day France or Germany sometime between the 3-4th Century B.C. They likely arrived in Britain being worn by a rich immigrant or as trade goods. Called after the site where they were discovered, the Leekfrith torcs appeared to have been buried in a secluded place on purpose. However, the choice behind the location is a mystery. There are no signs of ancient graves, homes or that it was a ritual site of some kind.

6. The Pregnancy Torc

One torc was so unusual that it hit Britain's top spot of 2016 treasure discoveries. A metal detectorist, who chose to remain anonymous, was drawn to investigate a patch of farm land in Cambridgeshire.

The field had just been ploughed and when the moment came, it was surely a heart-stopping moment. The torc was large enough to be wrapped around a pregnant woman's belly and was forged from 730 grams of high-grade gold. The 3000-year-old adornment came with a clasp and was designed to resemble a twisted cord, which is very characteristic of Celtic fashion.

A Bronze Age expert from the British Museum believes that the solid gold object could have held some symbolic importance for expectant mothers. However, he also agreed that nothing is definite about how the accessory was truly used. As one of the biggest torcs ever to resurface in Britain, it could also have been placed around a sacrificial animal or adjusted over thick layers of winter wear.

5. The Alberta Grave

An organic hemp grower was busy checking his crops when he noticed a human skull protruding from a badger's hole. Fearing a murder, the authorities were alerted.

After a quick visit, the police handed the case over to archaeologists once it became clear that the remains at the Alberta farm were ancient. The skeleton of an adolescent, most likely that of a girl between 13 and 14, was surrounded by rings, buttons, a massive amount of beads, jewelry and even a thimble.

Even though the girl appeared to have been a high status individual, her grave was shallow and alone in an area where no known aboriginal communities existed. At the time she died, sometime during the early 19th Century, there were no European settlers nearby either. That is what makes the buttons so mysterious. They were made of brass and the bits of fabric stuck to them showed that the native teenager wore what appeared to be a European military coat. Researchers are not sure how she ended up in the area. There is a chance that she succumbed while traveling with her people to the settler trading posts around 150 kilometers away from the grave site, hinting at a relationship between the two groups not fully understood before.

Ancient Chanfron

The chanfron was armor that protected a horse's face. Here is a 16th century example from Turkey.
The chanfron was armor that protected a horse's face. Here is a 16th century example from Turkey. | Source

4. Celtic Graveyard

In another plowed field, this time in Germany, an archaeologist picked up a golden brooch. It was no accident that the researchers were combing the area. The Celtic fort Heuneburg once existed there, prompting excavations since 1950. But it wasn't until the brooch was found in 2010, that the wealth and connections of this Iron Age group became clear.

The piece led to the discovery of a toddler aged 2-4. Her grave, in turn, was next to the best find to rise from what is now known as the Bettelbühl necropolis - an elite woman in a large timber chamber. The 88-ton compartment held her skeleton surrounded by treasures of amber, bronze and gold. Furs, textiles, stone bracelets, carvings and a horse's bell chest ornament filled the box. It also included another woman, sparsely decorated and at her feet was an artifact that could possibly be a chanfron, a bronze headband worn by horses. If identified as such, it will be a first for Heuneberg.

To find out more about the deceased, investigators received some help from the chanfron and the tomb jewelry. Both resembled those from cultures south of the Alps. It's unlikely that the women belonged to any of them. Rather, when they were buried near the Danube River in 583 B.C., the Heuneberg people appeared to have already embraced influences from as far as Italy, Greece, Sicily and Cyprus.

3. The Conquest Dance Mural

When farmer Lucas Ramirez decided to renovate the walls of his home, he discovered a national treasure. In 2005, Ramirez, who lives in rural Guatemala, removed the kitchen's plaster and was stunned to find Mayan murals underneath.

The 300-year-old images showed three Europeans playing musical instruments such as drums and flutes. One of the Spaniards was depicted in the throes of a dance while wearing the ceremonial garb of the Maya.

Historians believe that the Mayan ancestors of Ramirez painted the priceless friezes. The one-room house dates back to colonial times and was handed down the generations of his family. He's also part of the Ixil Maya community in Chajul, a group that can trace their roots back to the people who fled from the Spanish settlers.

Once the news got out, other families in town took new interest in their walls and soon four more homes produced Mayan murals. One showed fireballs falling from the sky, signaling the rage of the gods. The scene in the Ramirez kitchen is the so-named "conquest dance." Historians linked it to the 1650s when the Spaniards found the community and forced them to build a church, a building that still stands today.

2. Poolside Mosaic

In 2002, a university professor took a walk on a farm in Turkey when he noticed mosaic tiles in a field. The find piqued the interest of the local museum in Alanya. Sadly, at the time the museum's funds were limited and they could only excavate a small part of what turned out to be a Roman mosaic.

In 2011, they tried again. By the time the team cleared an estimated 40 percent of the art, they were blown away by the enormous size of it. The mosaic once decorated the floor in front of an open-air pool. The bath measured around 25-feet (7m) but the mosaic commanded an incredible 1,600 square feet (149 sq m). This makes it the largest ever found in southern Turkey. Divided into squares, every section boasted a unique pattern of geometric designs.

Apart from the mosaic and adding to the site's grandeur were a couple of porticos. These and the marble pool were constructed during the 3-4th Centuries and in its heyday would have been near the ancient city of Antiochia ad Cragum. The city was previously thought to be only slightly influenced by Roman culture but the sheer effort that went into the bath complex begs to differ.

Caynton Caves

Inside the mysterious (and litter filled) Caynton Caves.
Inside the mysterious (and litter filled) Caynton Caves. | Source

1. Caynton Caves

According to local legend, the Knights Templar hung around in some pretty awesome caves in Shropshire.

It's not clear when the Caynton Caves were found but the entrance is invisible unless a person knows what to look for. Resembling a rabbit's den, the hole is located on a farm near Shifnal. One inside and a meter underground, the view is astonishing. A tunnel opens into a system of paths, chambers, arches and there is even a font. Everything inside was carved from the sandstone caves themselves. The place lends a distinct air of mystery and monastic seclusion, making it easy to see why some believe it is a secret Templar temple.

The religious order originated in the 12th Century to guard pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem. Shropshire lore places the knights in Caynton Caves during the 17th Century. Sadly, the beautiful sanctuary won't officially be recognized as Templar territory any time soon. Historic England believes the site is too young and was created late in the 18th or early 19th Century. By then, the military monks had already vanished for hundreds of years.

References

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-35598578

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-lincolnshire-38003071

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/feb/28/detectorists-strike-iron-age-gold-staffordshire-field

http://www.news.com.au/technology/science/archaeology/celtic-golden-torc-found-in-farmers-field-heads-list-of-2016-british-treasure-finds/news-story/731493b56f1b80486d842e30936c8df4

http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/edmonton/ancient-burial-site-viking-alberta-1.3368518

http://www.livescience.com/57637-treasures-found-in-iron-age-grave.html

http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSLNE89B00R20121012

http://www.livescience.com/23250-enormous-roman-mosaic-found-farmer-field.html

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-39193347

© 2017 Jana Louise Smit

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