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Top 9 Ancient Treasures Found on Farms

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.

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A farm is a busy place. Almost every corner is known to its owner 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 metal detectorists, home renovators or the odd badger digging up a skull, a good slice of history would stay buried.

9. The Most Complete Wheel

In Cambridgeshire, there is an ancient village located at Must Farm. This old settlement is often called the "British Pompei" since it contains an unusual amount of artefacts.

n 2016, archaeologists were clearing the roundhouses when they found the most complete Bronze Age wheel in the United Kingdom. The 3,000-year-old artefact was crafted from an unidentified type of wood and still had its central hub. Near the wheel was the spine of a horse which was an uncommon animal for the time. Finding the two together suggested that the wheel belonged to a horse-drawn cart.

The 3 ft-diameter (1m) wheel is the largest of its kind, as well as the best preserved. But it also revealed an interesting fact about the village. Back then, the location was a wet marshy area with a river. The wheel indicates that the villagers had no problem travelling with a cart across the soggy ground. While this is certainly no rough-terrain vehicle, it throws new light on the technological capabilities of the time.

Excavation site at Must Farm.

Excavation site at Must Farm.

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. But even so, in 2016, he gave Steven Ingram permission to search for booty.

At first, Ingram found a few silver coins. Then things went wild. For days, the Lincolnshire field produced money. When things settled down, Ingram had retrieved over a thousand silver coins from the reigns of five monarchs.

The cache was the biggest found in the county and 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. The person who buried the treasure remains unknown. But their 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 were usually worn around the neck or arm.

Torcs were usually worn around the neck or arm.

7. The Leekfrith Torcs

Mark Hambleton and Joe Kania decided to try their hand at metal detecting and chose a field in Staffordshire called Leekfrith. The farmer gave the friends permission to buzz around his property and Kania's detector struck gold. Literally. All told, they unearthed four torcs.

Hambleton reported the find to the Birmingham museum. There, the torcs were identified as three collars and one smaller piece was possibly a bracelet. The jewellery originated in 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.

The Leekfrith torcs appeared to have been buried in a secluded area on purpose. However, the choice behind the location is a mystery. There are no signs of ancient graves, homes or that Leekfrith was a ritual site.

6. The Pregnancy Torc

One torc was so unusual that Britain named it as one of the top treasure discoveries of 2016. A metal detectorist (who chose to remain anonymous) made the find on farmland in Cambridgeshire.

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, a 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 found in Britain, it could also have been placed around a sacrificial animal or over thick layers of winter wear.

5. The Alberta Grave

A farmer in Alberta was checking his crops when he noticed a human skull protruding from a badger's hole. Fearing a murder, he notified the authorities. The police realized that the remains were ancient and handed the case over to archaeologists.

The skeleton appeared to belong to a girl aged 13 or 14. She was surrounded by rings, buttons, a massive amount of beads, jewelry and even a thimble. Oddly, everything suggested that the girl had high status but the grave was shallow and nowhere near any known aboriginal community. When she died in the early 19th century, there were no European settlers nearby either. That makes the buttons very mysterious. They were made of brass and had bits of fabric. Both traits 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.

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.

4. Celtic Graveyard

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

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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 and a treasure of amber, bronze and gold. Furs, textiles, stone bracelets, carvings and a horse's bell chest ornament also filled the box. Bizarrely, the coffin also included another woman who was 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 jewellery. Both resembled similar items from cultures south of the Alps. It's unlikely that the women belonged to any of these cultures. Instead, when they were buried near the Danube River in 583 B.C., the Heuneberg people seemed to have already embraced influences from as far as Italy, Greece, Sicily and Cyprus.

The prehistoric hillfort of Heuneburg.

The prehistoric hillfort of Heuneburg.

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 lived 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 drums and flutes. One of the Spaniards was also 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 through his family's generations. 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 own 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. The Poolside Mosaic

In 2002, a university professor went for a walk on a farm in Turkey. At some point, he found mosaic tiles and alerted the local museum in Alanya. 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 mosaic, the enormous size blew them away. The artwork once graced the floor in front of an open-air pool. The bath itself 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.

Caynton Caves

Inside the mysterious (and litter filled) Caynton Caves.

Inside the mysterious (and litter filled) Caynton Caves.

1. Caynton Caves

According to a local legend, the Knights Templar hung around in Caynton Caves in Shropshire.

It's not clear when Caynton Caves were found but the entrance is invisible unless you know what to look for. The entrance, which resembles a rabbit's den, 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 that it 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

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Jana Louise Smit

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