Information

Ancient Gold Hoards of the Celtic El Dorado


The legendary lost city of gold, El Dorado, has drawn over 500 formal treasure recovery teams to South America over the last 500 years and over 3,000 people have been lost searching for ancient golden goblets and sun disks, and while the jungles of that continent are laden with gold so too are the fields, rivers and ancient landscapes of the northern Celts of modern day Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

Waterford County (right) on the south-west coast of Ireland

Ireland’s Gold Coast

Mountains and rivers holding gold deposits were well known to ancient inhabitants of Ireland around 2500-500 BC and more Bronze Age gold hoards have been found in Ireland than anywhere else in Europe. The county of Waterford, from Dungarvan to Stradbally is known locally as the ‘Gold Coast’ for its high gold values in streams but unfortunately, this knowledge of gold has been lost through thousands of years of immigration and very little gold mining happens in the country today. A rule of thumb, however, is that Irish place names containing the word ‘ór’ probably seemed stemmed from gold ‘ore’.

Gold lunula from Blessington, Co Wicklow (Early Bronze Age, circa 2400 BC – 2000 BC) ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

There have been a number of treasure hoards in Ireland and in 2018 the ‘heaviest ever treasure hoard in the country’s history’ was recovered and is now on display at the National Museum of Ireland. An Irish Times article from July 2018 announced: “Investigations by experts at the museum have confirmed four gold rings which were part of the hoard unearthed in Donegal earlier this year, date to the late Bronze Age.” Weighing over four kilograms (8.8 pounds) and valued at 250,000 euros ($279,735) the gold was discovered in a field in Tullydonnell Lower, near Convoy in East Donegal, in what was called “excellent, near-perfect condition” and was dated to approximately 1200 BC to 800 BC.

The four gold rings recovered from County Donegal, Ireland. Source: Caroline Carr, Donegal County Museum.

These gold overlapping circular rings are often called ‘arm bands’ because of their size, but other specialists think it more likely gold that was shaped in this fashion was a means to store wealth. A spokesperson for the Donegal County Museum told the BBC: “I personally don't think they are bracelets - they wouldn't even fit up my arm,” which led to speculation that the golden rings might be some form of ancient currency.


Yamashita Gold: The Philippine Treasure Caves

You have surely heard the tales of Aztec gold and Incan treasure, but how about the Yamashita gold? General Yamashita of the Imperial Army of Japan is purported to have buried or hidden away tons of gold in the Philippines. Literally, tons of gold, among other precious metals, gems, and artwork. The alleged value of all this treasure? Billions and billions of dollars.

True Life Tale of Yamashita Gold Treasure

© Can Stock Photo Inc. /bashta

Where Did Yamashita Gold Come From?

It is a well-known fact that Japan looted Asia in the years prior to and including World War II. According to legend, they amassed a veritable fortune for themselves. There was even a special team created whose sole purpose was to loot the invaded countries. The team was called “The Golden Lily”.

There was so much of this confiscated booty that it required a full-time effort to transport all of it back to Japan. The Philippines was initially used as a layover spot where the looted treasure would be loaded onto ships for the last leg of the trip.

American forces became a problem for Japan when they started sinking a number of ships on the high seas. Japan’s royal family decided to hide the remaining treasure in the Philippines and that is where General Yamashita comes in.

Yamashita was tasked with organizing and carrying out the plans to dig tunnels and find caves in which to hide all of the gold and other items. Japanese soldiers and prisoners of war were used to dig out tunnels and move the stash into the caves.

Unfortunately for them, once the gold was transferred, the entrances were covered up. Usually, they exploded bombs at the openings, leaving the laborers trapped inside to die.

Yamashita is escorted out of the courtroom immediately after being sentenced to death by hanging, 31 December 1945.

Where is Yamashita’s Treasure Now?

There seem to be many theories about what happened to the Yamashita gold over the years.

One theory has Ferdinand Marcos, ex-president of the Philippines, finding a nice chunk of the treasure and keeping it for his own personal gain. He took strict control over the searching and excavating during his tenure and had to personally approve every expedition.

One such expedition was headed by Rogelio Roxas. Roxas claims he found a large cache of gold in a cave in 1971. He brought a lawsuit against Marcos and his wife. He stated that once his discovery was made known to Marcos, he was beaten and arrested and his gold was taken by Marcos’ men. The state of Hawaii (where the suit was filed) eventually found in favor of Roxas. Stating there was sufficient evidence to show he had indeed found gold which was subsequently taken from him, they awarded him $6 million.

Rogelio Roxas poses for a picture with a golden Buddha he allegedly discovered in a cave. Image credit: http://www.labrujulaverde.com/

Other historians and researchers claim the U.S. was given the location of much of the treasure in exchange for not bringing charges against the royal family for war crimes and other atrocities. It is said the CIA and the OSS received much of that gold which was used to fund those agencies.

Skeptics Are Doubtful

Even with Roxas’ vindication and books like Gold Warriors, there are many skeptics who doubt the existence of the Yamashita treasure or at least dispute the amounts alleged to exist. They argue that if there is as much gold hidden as history claims, there would be many more stories of discovery. There is little to no proof of any gold being found despite several claims by treasure hunters and Filipino natives to the contrary. Documentation and pictures should surely exist. But there is no such proof of any of these claims. Roxas’ story is probably the closest we will ever come to having the story substantiated. As such, Yamashita’s treasure has taken on legendary proportions, like the lost Incan city of gold called El Dorado, or the Oak Island Money Pit, the now-famous location of Captain Kidd’s buried treasure.

There are still treasure hunters out there who dedicate their lives to finding Yamashita’s gold treasure. They’re hoping to stumble upon just a small portion of the loot that was hidden so long ago. Perhaps most of it has already been found and helped to fund intelligence agencies and the vast collection of shoes of Imelda Marcos (it was truly impressive!). When we wonder, we search. And just maybe…the rest of Yamashita’s treasure will be found.


Locating Ancient Coins with a Metal Detector

Ancient coins present a unique way in which to look at history. Many are stamped with images of rulers of the time, warriors, temple facades, and even images of daily life like men ploughing the fields. As we look at the coins in our pocket, in archaeological terms, like ancient coins, the visual details shown on these coins gives us insight into the culture the currency belongs to. Without these pieces of history, much of this information might not otherwise have been conveyed to future generations. As you are exploring the hobby of locating ancient coins, be sure to read our related article entitled "What are the Best Metal Detectors for Finding Coins?"

You see, unlike many other objects created throughout history, coins were made of metal. This gives them a much higher likelihood of both lasting through time as well as being located today. Ancient coins made of bronze, gold, silver, and other metals that can be found today with the aid of a metal detector. These modern machines can help hobbyists and researchers alike search through layers of earth in order to locate these precious, historically significant objects. Not only that, when ancient coins are located in an area, generally, the entire area can then be carefully excavated by archaeologists and many other historical finds can be recovered as a result.

Given the types of societies coins were used in throughout history, one of the best areas to find ancient coin caches has been in Europe. Recently, two metal detector hobbyists found a major haul of over 50,000 bronze coins dating back to 50 BC (the late Iron Age) on the Channel Island of Jersey in northern Europe. These Celtic coins were found only as a massive pile in a large block of soil after the men found about 60 silver coins and one gold coin in the area a few months earlier. If they had not located these ancient coins, these pieces of the past may have been lost to future generations forever. Be sure to read our related blog post entitled "Finding Ancient Coins with a Metal Detector."

Locating ancient coins isn’t easy though, even with a coin detector the men mentioned above searched the same area for 30 years before finding this cache of ancient coins! Having the best metal detector for coins will help though. Because ancient coins are sometimes located in treasure caches or hoards deeply underground, two box metal detectors can prove useful in locating these larger treasures. You’ll want to look at a few factors that will help determine which is in fact the best overall machine for you. If you are looking to locate a large treasure cache of ancient coins with a metal detector, be sure to read our article entitled "What are the Best Two Box and Deep Metal Detectors?"

Metal Detector Design and Weight:
If your coin detector is too heavy or uncomfortable to hold, you won’t have any fun locating ancient coins, or anything else for that matter! Luckily, new materials are making lighter weight machines even easier to produce, so no matter what your physical fitness level, there’s likely a deep seeking metal detector that will be a weight you can manage with ease and comfort. If you are just getting started be sure to read our article entitled "What are the Best Beginners Metal Detectors?"

Ease of Use and Physical Configuration:
The configuration of the coin detector you choose is an important consideration as well. Generally, coin detectors are pole mounted or pole and hip mounted. Having the option to put some of the machine’s weight onto your hip is another way to make it lighter and thereby easier to use for some individuals. If you are looking for help picking out the best model, be sure to read our article entitled "How To Select A Metal Detector."

Target Identification:
Currently, some coin and deep seeking metal detectors offer a visual and or an audio target identification option. The visual display will show the probable identification of the target the machine is detecting. The audio identification option will provide various tones to alert you to the type of target sensed.

Ground Balance:
If you’re metal detecting ancient coins in an area with heavy ground mineralization, a metal detector that features a ground balance control is recommended. Ground minerals can create false chatter and this feature helps to reduce the effects of these minerals so that your machine can locate the intended targets.

Search Coil Size:
Because ancient coins are so old, they’re also typically found in deeper ground. Having a large search coil or a two box metal detector enables you to search farther down into the earth. This is important when searching for ancient coins. For the deepest treasure caches, you will want to select a metal detector with a very large coil or a two box coil option.

Explore Your Budget:
When trying to make your final decision on the best metal detectors for coins, let your budget be the deciding factor. There are great machines at every price point and keeping your budget in mind will make the entire hobby more fun and enjoyable since you’re not overextended.

To locate these hidden treasures, you will want to be sure to get yourself some quality digging tools. Be sure to read our article entitled "What are the Best Digging Trowels and Shovels for Metal Detecting?"

Remember, coins aren’t always at the surface like some treasure you might find. You may need to search deep, and dig deep in order to recover these precious pieces. Also, before you head out, be sure to take the time to conduct all the necessary research in order to find the right site to begin your search, as well as to gain permission from property owners that might be necessary.

In the end, locating ancient coins isn’t just exciting for you. The historical implications can impact your entire community and even the whole world! So, keep searching with your deep seeking metal detector and someday you too may find some rare and ancient coins that will provide a window into the past for all of us. If you enjoy locating ancient coins be sure to explore the related hobby of antique bottle digging in our article entitled "What are the Best Metal Detectors for finding Antique Bottles?"

© 2013 Detector Electronics Corp.

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      Industry Reviews

      White's Electronics is looking forward to working with Michael, Daniel and the MetalDetector.com team. Their experience in the metal detecting industry is unmatched.

      I have enjoyed working with Michael, Daniel and their team at Detector Electroics Corp. They have done a fine job representing the Detector Pro line since it was first introduced in 1996. One of the things I see them do is go the extra mile for their customers. It is always nice to see a family run business endure and we wish them many years of continued success.

      We appreciate the partnership from Michael and Daniel at MetalDetector.com. As a family owned business, we choose our partners carefully. We have found that their team has done a fine job of representing our line. With thirty years of success under their belt, we expect that they will be a partner for many years to come.

      We at Treasure Products, manufacturer of the Vibra-Probe and Vibra-Tector, want to congratulate Daniel and Michael on the admirable milestone of being in business for over three decades. The dedication and product knowledge that your staff exhibits has been a great benefit to us. We offer our best wishes for your continued success.

      I have found that the team at MetalDetector.com has done a fine of job representing the entire JW Fishers line. They have partnered with us in helping to bring our products to both individuals, larger corporate and governmental organizations. Michael and Daniel have established a knowledgeable team that has done the job of getting the correct product in to the hands of each consumer. I wish them continued success as they represent our products in the years to come.

      I have been impressed by the professional approach and the experience of Daniel, Michael and the entire team at Detector Electronics Corp. Three decades of superior customer care has been the key to their success and large sales volume.

      We have enjoyed working with Michael, Daniel and their esteemed team at Detector Electronics Corp. We feel that they have been the best choice for representing the good reputation of the Makro Detectors in the region. They have been working towards 100% customer satisfaction ever since they started their cooperation with us as our exclusive Distributor in the USA and Canada. We are pleased to see both their business and the sales in their region continue to grow. It is nice to see both our family business and theirs growing together. We see our companies moving forward together for many years to come.

      Garrett has a longstanding quality relationship with Detector Electronics Corp since the 1980s. I have seen them grow from a regional dealer to one of the largest internet dealers yet they have maintained that special care for the customer for over three decades. Their team of knowledgeable, helpful and friendly staff and family make their dealership a first choice for the treasure hunter.

      MetalDetector.com has been a valuable business partner to Fisher Research Labs for many years. They continue to grow while still offering the best in customer service and after sale support, which is very important to FRL. We wish to congratulate them on 3 decades of business and stellar service to our mutual customers. Having known Michael and Daniel along with their parents for 2 of the 3 decades they have been in business, I have seen their company grow year in and year out without sacrificing what’s important to all of us …customer service before, during and after the sale. Their entire staffs knowledge of our product helps to ensure the customer gets the right detector for their needs regardless of what they might be. We look forward to our future relationship and continued success of MetalDetector.com and their entire staff.

      I recently had the pleasure of meeting with the team at MetalDetector.com at their newly expanded facility in Southborough, MA. I have to say that I was impressed with their operation and knowledge of the Teknetics product line. When the Teknetics product line was recently re-launched, MetalDetector.com was one of the first partners we contacted. They have had a long standing relationship with the brand as one of the original Teknetics dealers in the country. We value long standing relationships and are excited to have them as a member of our team.

      It's been an honor and privilege working with the fine folks at Detector Electronics for over 25 years. Having a family owned and run business ourselves, we know the "attention to detail" it takes to keep a business running smoothly with an emphasis on customer service. It's no surprise that Sondra and David's fine sons, Michael and Daniel have continued in their parents tradition of being exemplary businesspeople who take the time and care enough to really know their clientele. It's always been a pleasure working with you!

      DRS Electronics, GmbH is proud to have Detector Electronics Corp. represent our products. I have known Michael and Daniel for over a decade. Their team is genuine and knowledgeable. They provide exceptional support and service to our customers. They are a recognized leader in the industry. Internationally their business is known for excellent customer support. Their presence is a great confidence for treasure hunters.

      MetalDetector.com has been a great business partner for many years and the best choice for representing Makro Detectors in the USA! With the addition of Nokta products to their product portfolio in 2018, we are confident that our businesses will continue to grow together for many years to come!

      Gary Micheau
      CEO White's Electronics

      Gary Storm
      Owner
      Detectorpro

      Ingrid Hawk
      Partner
      Lesche Products

      Michael Bernstein
      Owner
      Treasure Products, Inc.

      Jack Fisher
      President
      JW Fishers

      Alain Loubert
      Founder
      XP Metal Detectors

      Veysel Bayar
      Former Sales & Marketing Manager
      Makro Metal Detectors

      Vaughan Garrett
      VP
      Garrett Metal Detectors

      Mike Scott
      Director of Hobby Sales
      Fisher Research Labs

      Tim Mallory
      VP of Sales & Marketing
      Teknetics

      Steve & Rosemary Anderson
      People's Publishing Co., Inc.
      Western & Eastern Treasures Magazine

      Ilkay Ucar
      General manager
      DRS Electronics, GmbH

      Dilek Gönülay
      International Sales & Marketing Manager
      Nokta & Makro Detectors

      Customer Reviews

      Dear Sondra, . in addition to being the first metal detector company I found (after contacting several) which actually seemed to care about my order and which treated me like a valued customer, you also really worked hard from your end to make sure the purchase went through and the detector arrived at its destination on time. By the end I felt I was dealing with a friend rather than a faceless company on the net. Well done!

      And, by the way, my 7 year old son Juanito found a nickel yesterday when he took his detector out for the first time! If things keep going this way the detector will have paid for itself within a few short decades! But seriously, he is really enjoying it and hoping to find his long-dreamed-of buried treasure some day.

      Hello Folks,

      Ordered 2 Garrett ACE 250's on 09-14-09 at noon… Received 09-15-09 at noon… You folks should be proud that you hold true to all you say, do and promise. It's very refreshing to work with a company that keeps the “old-world” values going, not too many people / companies out there that can even come close to what you provide.

      Happy to do business with you,

      Hello Dan,

      Remember me? I bought my Tesoro Tiger Shark from you. It came just when you said it would, and works just as you told me it would.

      Thanks for your help in sorting through the maze of detectors.

      Dear Sondra,

      1160 GRAM Meteorite! found 3 " underground. Don't ask where. One of many! As far as being excited I all most had a stroke. Here's a photo of one Meteorite I found on the surface, over 800 grams and a 447 gram one! The one in the middle is my first. The bar magnet has some small Iron meteorites on it.

      Dear Detector Electronics,

      I received the Tesoro Sand Shark today. and want to thank you. Tried it, love it, looking forward to many enjoyable hours with it. Knowing that it is a "rare" domestically made item gives me double pleasure! Also. doing business with pro's (such as yourselves) was also a pleasure I will tell others about! Forwarded a "glowing review" to you. Thanks again.

      Dear Customer Service,

      Just wanted to thank all involved in a recent shipment to me that was a gift for my grandkids. I ordered 2 detectors but for some reason only one was shipped. After calling your company you bent over backwards to get the second detector to me on time for giving to my grandchildren. I explained that we exchange gifts a week early so my children and their families can be in their homes Christmas morning since some travel distances are involved. The second detector arrived last Friday in time for our celebration last Saturday. --THANKYOU. I order quite a few things online and have experienced some terrible companies but you are the best.

      Best regards and have a wonderful Holiday Season

      Hi Guys,

      I have just come in after spending an hour or at my local beach with my son, which is only a 5 minute walk from my home called Deception Bay. This is the first time i have ever used detector. The very first thing it detected in less than a minute was a two dollar coin, boy we were so excited! Not by the amount, but by the fact that on its maiden voyage it detected a coin. We then detected a ten cent piece. We can't wait to take it to a popular beach and I will practice more with the settings.

      I would like to thank you for your prompt service. My detector arrived at my door In Brisbane Australia in less than a week. This is the first time I have used any service like this outside of Australia, but with this kind of service and ease of buying and your range of goods this will be the first of many transactions.

      I just wanted to say thank you to Scott who made my recent purchase so pleasent! I am enjoying my Tesoro's and have found lots of cool stuff so far. Just waiting for that first gold find! Thanks agian for all the help that was provided in making my decision!

      Hi Scott,

      I was amazed at how fast I received my BOUNTY HUNTER. The order arrived in perfect condition, and in only three days after I placed the on line order. The four part series about selecting the right product was also appreciated and helped me to make the right decision for my purchase. You are truly a company that takes care of business and most importantly your customers. It is a pleasure doing business with you and I will gladly recommend you to anyone that wants to buy a metal detector. Thanks for the GREAT SERVICE.

      Dear Customer Service,

      I am a very happy camper. Yesterday I took my Garrett Ace 250 out for the first time to some local parks. My total find was about 150 coins. The detector works so well and so easily. It only took me about a half an hour before I new what every button did. I am also very salified with the support I got from Dan & Sondra.

      PS I plan on buying my next detector from you.

      Dear Sondra,

      I purchased an Ace 250 from your site for my 7 year old son and now I am hooked! This is our first metal detector and the Ace does every thing it says it will. Thanks for the fast delivery and introducing my son and I to a great new hobby.

      Coin shooting in Pensacola, Fl

      Sondra,

      I got the detector-my husband was thrilled. Thank you so much. You and Daniel have been so helpful. I am a first time buyer and am feeling very lucky to have found your website. Daniel helped me to locate a really great detector and you have been extremely courteous and prompt in seeing my order through. I look forward using my new metal detector. Hope you have a wonderful holiday season. overall my experience ordering off of your website was convenient and customer service was great. Thanks again.

      Dear Metaldetector.com

      I just want to thank Sondra and the rest of the gang for my Minelab Explorer SE. It was a pleasure doing business with you and I will recommend your fine business to my other detecting buddies.

      Anita S. and Juan G., United Kingdom

      Mike T., Rockport, MA

      John B., San Diego, CA

      Dana, Mystic, CT

      Nick V., Churchville, PA

      Duane B., Springville, NY

      David and Josh

      Lori G., Bessemer, AL

      Jason R, Massachusetts

      Our No-Haggle, Best-Price Guarantee on Metal Detectors

      The same low pricing for everyone! Whether you’re a metal-detecting expert or novice, we keep it simple. We offer the lowest advertised pricing allowed by contract with each manufacturer. The personalized service you receive from our experienced team is our added bonus. That's what we are all about. Rest assured, you will not find a better value online.

      Dear Sondra. in addition to being the first metal detector company I found (after contacting several) which actually seemed to care about my order and which treated me like a valued customer, you also really worked hard from your end to . Read full quote »

      Anita S. and Juan G., United Kingdom

      Hello Folks, Ordered 2 Garrett ACE 250's on 09-14-09 at noon… Received 09-15-09 at noon… You folks should be proud that you hold true to all you say, do and promise. It's very refreshing to work with a company that keeps the "old-world" . Read full quote »

      Mike T., Rockport, MA

      Hello Dan, Remember me? I bought my Tesoro Tiger Shark from you. It came just when you said it would, and works just as you told me it would. Thanks for your help in sorting through the maze of detectors. . Read full quote »

      John B., San Diego, CA

      Dear Sondra, 1160 GRAM Meteorite! Found 3 " underground. Don't ask where. One of many! As far as being excited I all most had a stroke. Here's a photo of one Meteorite I found on the surface, over 800 grams and a 447 gram one! The one in . Read full quote »

      Dear Detector Electronics, I received the Tesoro Sand Shark today. and want to thank you. Tried it, love it, looking forward to many enjoyable hours with it. Knowing that it is a "rare" domestically made item gives me double pleasure! . Read full quote »

      Dana, Mystic, CT

      HERE IS A CONVERSATION FROM OUR WEB SITE INSTANT MESSENGER Visitor: Hi there Dan+Sondra, thank you for all your help with my order Dan: You have it? Visitor: I received the parcel today. Dan: Great! It came right to your home? Visitor: No . Read full quote »

      Dear Customer Service, Just wanted to thank all involved in a recent shipment to me that was a gift for my grandkids. I ordered 2 detectors but for some reason only one was shipped. After calling your company you bent over backwards to . Read full quote »

      Dick H.

      Hi Guys, I have just come in after spending an hour or at my local beach with my son, which is only a 5 minute walk from my home called Deception Bay. This is the first time i have ever used detector. The very first thing it detected in . Read full quote »

      Steve M.

      I just wanted to say thank you to Scott who made my recent purchase so pleasant! I am enjoying my Tesoro's and have found lots of cool stuff so far. Just waiting for that first gold find! Thanks agian for all the help that was provided in . Read full quote »

      Nick V., Churchville, PA

      Hi Scott, I was amazed at how fast I received my BOUNTY HUNTER. The order arrived in perfect condition, and in only three days after I placed the on line order. The four part series about selecting the right product was also appreciated and . Read full quote »

      Duane B., Springville, NY

      Dear Customer Service, I am a very happy camper. Yesterday I took my Garrett Ace 250 out for the first time to some local parks. My total find was about 150 coins. The detector works so well and so easily. It only took me about a half an . Read full quote »

      Bill B.

      Dear Sondra, I purchased an Ace 250 from your site for my 7 year old son and now I am hooked! This is our first metal detector and the Ace does everything it says it will. Thanks for the fast delivery and introducing my son and I to a . Read full quote »

      David and Josh

      Sondra, I got the detector-my husband was thrilled. Thank you so much. You and Daniel have been so helpful. I am a first time buyer and am feeling very lucky to have found your website. Daniel helped me to locate a really great detector . Read full quote »

      Lori G., Bessemer, AL

      Dear Metaldetector.com I just want to thank Sondra and the rest of the gang for my Minelab Explorer SE. It was a pleasure doing business with you and I will recommend your fine business to my other detecting buddies. . Read full quote »

      Jason R, Massachusetts

      Our team has put together a free informational guide series by e-mail, including:


      Notes

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      Bronze Age Ireland: the country&rsquos golden era

      Chemical investigations suggest that raw material for Ireland’s prehistoric gold hoard may have been sourced from near neighbours. An alternative explanation is that there are forgotten Irish deposits rich in gold. Visit the National Museum on Kildare Street, Dublin, and you will be struck by the sheer number of gold objects. The desire for this precious metal was strong in prehistoric, pagan Ireland. The array of gold ornaments includes collars, torcs and bracelets, mostly from the Bronze Age, 2,200 to 800 BC.

      “It is highly significant in European terms and disproportionately large given the size of the country,” says Mary Cahill, curator of the museum’s Bronze Age collection. Yet Ireland is not renowned for its gold deposits, so where this gold came from has puzzled archaeologists.

      Rob Chapman has spent hours standing in ice-cold streams and rivers across Ireland panning for gold. A geologist at Leeds University, he got the gold bug working in a South African mine. He helped collect natural gold grains from across Ireland to compare to the museum gold.

      Natural gold is usually found as a mixture, with silver often the main alloying metal. Chapman cross-checked silver content in natural gold with artefacts from the early Bronze Age, 2,200 to 1,800 BC. The gold is consistent and seems to come from one area, possibly from river gravels. The artefacts themselves are mostly crescent-shaped collars (lanulae) and sun disks, decorative objects possibly for clothing or for embellishing wood or stones.

      “Jewellery is not an appropriate term for these things,” says Cahill. They were regalia, in the sense a modern king or queen might wear, or tied to religious ceremonies. Goldsmiths confined themselves to producing particular objects, presumably for an elite class, and certain motifs recur which archaeologists believe concern the power of the sun and fertility.

      Chemical analysis revealed silver at 10 per cent, which, combined with trace amounts of tin and copper, indicated the Mourne Mountains as the most likely source of these objects. “Nothing else seemed to fit this early Bronze Age stuff,” Chapman explains.

      But advances in geochemistry recently allowed Chris Standish, an archaeology PhD student in Bristol University, to characterise Irish native gold and museum gold using variations in the four natural types of lead atoms, or lead isotopes. The quantities of lead are tiny, around 0.002 per cent, and were measured using a mass spectrometer.

      “We couldn’t find a match between any of the Irish gold deposits,” Standish says, having examined likely areas, including the Mournes and Croagh Patrick. The lead isotope signature of the museum gold was closest to the gold deposits of Counties Wicklow, Wexford and Waterford.

      “Looking purely at the lead isotopes, gold in the artefacts is most consistent with gold from the southeast,” says Standish. But there is too little silver and trace metal for it to be a proper match.

      Standish suggests there may be gold he has yet to analyse, but another, controversial, explanation is gold imports. According to Chapman, “The lead signature he [Standish] gained from the early Bronze Age artefacts corresponded to the granite rocks in Cornwall,” which he says has irritated some archaeologists.

      Cahill is waiting for further detail to emerge, but says there is no supporting archaeological evidence for extensive gold imports to Ireland at this time. “We know that Irish copper and bronze objects turn up in Britain,” but there are no signs of gold coming in. And clues pointing to southern Britain as a source for Irish gold are not conclusive.

      “Natural gold does occur in Cornwall, but it is difficult to find and we cannot say categorically whether the gold content is compatible or not,” says Chapman. Since the early Bronze Age, the land has changed so much that you cannot visit the same sites available to the Bronze Age people some lie underwater.

      One other explanation is a deposit of gold which has eluded modern prospectors but was used by Bronze Age people. Given extensive gold exploration in Ireland since the 1980s, a hidden source is somewhat unlikely, say geologists, dimming hopes of a Celtic El Dorado. But it’s a possibility.


      British Museum blog

      Ian Jenkins, curator, British Museum

      Sir William Hamilton (1730-1803), if remembered at all, is primarily known as the person who shared his second wife Emma with Admiral Lord Nelson in the late eighteenth century. Their ménage a trois was a notorious target for British satirists of the time. It ended with the death of Sir William in 1803, and two years later in 1805 the tragic death of Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar.

      Jasper ware portrait plaque of Sir William Hamilton, by Josiah Wedgwood I and Thomas Bentley, Etruria factory, Staffordshire, England, AD 1779

      Hamilton is celebrated in the British Museum for his collection of Greek and Roman artefacts, which acquired by the Museum in 1772, changed its course from its origins as a rather old-fashioned cabinet of curiosities to starting it on the way to becoming the great collection of world cultures it is today. The founding collection of Sir Hans Sloane had very few ancient objects of merit, but Sir William’s vision for the Museum would change that and for this reason he has his own showcase in the Enlightenment Gallery.

      The story of the wreck of the HMS Colossus and the loss of its cargo occurred in the dramatic last years of Sir William’s life. He had been British Ambassador to the court of the king of Naples and Sicily for 34 years. However, when Napoleon’s army occupied Rome in 1796, Sir William was forced to evacuate Naples and return home with Emma to Britain.

      One of his last acts was to oversee the packing of his vase collection. But back in England, Sir William not only had to suffer the wrench of his sudden departure from his beloved Italy, but also had the appalling news that his vase collection was lost at sea. It had been packed in an unfit vessel, which grounded off the Scilly Isles where it broke up, and the packing cases washed overboard.

      Red-figured wine bowl (volute-krater), attributed to the Baltimore Painter, Greek, around 325 BC

      But fortune smiled on the old knight as by accident his finest vases were not on the HMS Colossus. When another vessel arrived laden with Sir William’s property, he discovered the collection he thought he’d lost, and he delighted in preparing them for sale.

      Sir William died in 1803 with Emma and Nelson at his bedside.

      If you would like to leave a comment click on the title

      Britain’s Secret Treasures is broadcast on ITV 1 Thursdays at 20.30, 17 October – 5 December 2013


      British Museum blog

      When the Museum receives new acquisitions to its collection of prints and drawings, either through gifts or purchased through special funds, it is of the upmost importance that they are cared for appropriately for future generations to enjoy. This is why my role as a conservation mounter is so vital. I’m one of three British Museum conservation mounters who specialise in western art on paper. Mounting enables prints and drawings to be handled safely by staff, and visitors to the Prints and Drawings Study Room, without risk of damage to the objects. It also facilitates the option to frame if another institution requests to borrow an object as part of our on-going exhibition programme. All the mounts are made of the highest museum-quality mount board and all the materials we use are tested by our department’s scientists to ensure they won’t damage the artwork over time. In order to maximise space for storing this huge collection of prints and drawings, standard size mounts are used which are then stored in Solander boxes in the Study Room.

      Over the years I’ve seen and mounted some of the most interesting and outstanding works of art in our collection, from Leonardo da Vinci to Tracey Emin, and this year is no exception. Over the last few months I’ve been very privileged to have been part of the team involved in the mounting of Picasso’s 347 Suite, aptly named because there are 347 prints. This important collection was funded by generous donor Hamish Parker, and in the autumn 2015 edition of the British Museum Magazine, Stephen Coppel, Curator of the Modern Collection, explained the fascinating story of how they were produced.

      With so many prints requiring mounting, the new studios in the World Conservation and Exhibition Centre (WCEC) have come into their own. It makes my job so much easier using the specially designed space and new equipment we now have. Initially Stephen Coppel and I discussed the mounting of the Picasso prints. Once we agreed on a plan it was full steam ahead for the team. After the prints were measured the mount board was cut to the standard sizes on the board chopper.

      Every print’s platemark was measured carefully as they all varied in size in preparation for cutting the mount’s apertures on our new computerised electronic mount cutter, before the mounts were assembled together.

      The prints were now ready to be secured into their mounts using handmade Japanese paper, which we use for its longevity and fibre strength, and a fine layer of water soluble adhesive that can be easily removed by conservators if necessary in the future.

      To give the prints added protection whilst inside their Solander boxes, a sheet of polyester was hinged inside the mount which covers the front of the print.

      Finally to give the mounts their unique British Museum touch, Picasso’s name and the print’s identifying number were stamped on the front of each mount using our handheld typeset tools and etching ink which have been standard practice at the museum since the 19th century.

      After several months the project is now complete. I will miss the prints as they have been a talking point with our numerous visitors and museum professionals who come to the studio to see the work we do. The prints are safely stored in their Solander boxes in the Study Room waiting for researchers to view them, and to mark the completion of this successful team effort, from both curators and conservation staff, we all had a celebratory drink to honour the occasion.


      British Museum blog

      Matthew Hahn, playwright

      I first heard about a copy of the complete works of William Shakespeare known as the ‘Robben Island Bible’ when a good friend was reading Anthony Sampson’s wonderful biography on Nelson Mandela in 2002. I was fascinated by the story and found online the subsequent article that Sampson wrote ‘O, what men dare do’ in the Observer from 2001.

      The works of Shakespeare, annotated by inmates at Robben Island Prison, South Africa. By permission of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

      The book’s owner, South African Sonny Venkatrathnam, was a political prisoner on Robben Island from 1972 to 1978. He asked his wife to send him a book of Shakespeare’s complete works during a time when the prisoners were briefly allowed to have one book, other than a religious text, with them. The book’s ‘fame’ resides in the fact that Venkatrathnam passed the book to a number of his fellow political prisoners in the single cells. Each of them marked his favourite passage in the book and signed it with the date. It contains thirty-two signatures, including those of Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada and Mac Maharaj, all luminaries in the struggle for a democratic South Africa.

      These men signed passages within the text which they found particularly moving, meaningful and profound. The selection of text provides fascinating insight into the minds, thinking and soul of those political prisoners who fought for the transformation of South Africa. It also speaks to the power of Shakespeare’s resonance with the human spirit regardless of place or time. But, as he explains it, he just wanted a ‘souvenir’ of his time in the Leadership Section of Robben Island.

      After hearing this fantastic tale, I determined to write a play based on interviews with as many of the former political prisoners I could find intertwined with the chosen Shakespearian texts. I first encountered Sonny’s ‘Bible’ in 2006 when it left South Africa for the first time to be a part of the Complete Works Exhibition hosted by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon. In 2008, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet and interview Sonny and seven other signatories of the ‘Bible’ to form the foundation of the play. I returned to South Africa in 2010 for further interviews and to workshop the research with the Market Theatre Laboratory.

      It is an honour to have had the opportunity to spend time with these most gentle of men – each one a lion in the fight against apartheid. Many opened their homes to me, a complete stranger, for a couple of hours, shared with me a cup of tea and what their lives were like under an oppressive regime. As Ahmed Kathrada said, ‘After being locked up for all of these years, when I get a chance to speak to someone who is interested in my story, I find it hard to keep quiet.’

      I was, and continue to be, fascinated by the resonance of the chosen texts and the men’s biographies – how life imitates art and how great art, like holy books, seems to give strength to the oppressed.

      Read more about this post and Matthew Hahn’s work on his blog .

      Shakespeare: staging the world is open from 19 July to 25 November 2012.

      The exhibition is supported by BP.
      Part of the World Shakespeare Festival and London 2012 Festival.

      Tweet using #ShakespeareExhibition and @britishmuseum

      If you would like to leave a comment click on the title


      British Museum blog

      Neil MacGregor, Director, British Museum

      This extraordinary painted steel sculpture was made in London by British/Nigerian artist Sokari Douglas Camp, CBE. It depicts a man of the Kalabari people of southern Nigeria in an Otobo or hippopotamus masquerade costume masquerade is a composite phenomenon in which song, movement, music and the different elements of the dancer’s costume are all integral parts of the performance.

      The Otobo masquerade has been danced by Kalabari men for at least 200 years, yet here is a version made by a woman working in metal, a traditionally male medium of expression in Africa. Masquerade in Africa is an art of transformation, harnessing the powers of the natural and spirit worlds for the benefit of humankind, so Sokari’s innovative re-interpretation of a long-standing tradition would seem entirely appropriate.

      Sokari was born in 1958 in Buguma, Nigeria, the cultural capital of the Kalabari people who live on 23 islands in the Niger Delta. She moved to Britain as a child and now lives and works near the Elephant and Castle in London. “My work is about what’s going on in London” she says, though part of that is a celebration of her own Kalabari culture, a theme which occurs in different ways in her work. “I live the reality of being both Nigerian and British, but feeling outside both cultures”.

      The UK’s largest Nigerian population is found in the capital, in Lambeth and Southwark, but in particular, Peckham. Census figures show Peckham – one of the most diverse areas of the country – with the most Nigerian-born people in Britain.

      Sokari’s version of an Otobo masquerader is displayed in the African Galleries next to three examples of carved wooden Otobo masks, one of which (collected by Sokari herself) was made in the late twentieth century, over a century after the other two, though stylistically they are almost identical.

      However, avant-garde European artists of the early twentieth century would almost certainly have assumed these masks to be examples of spontaneous creativity, unfettered by the artistic conventions of Western tradition, rather than representing slowly changing, highly conservative artistic traditions – the very things European artists were trying to escape.

      The African Galleries – with the help of artists such as Sokari – seek to overturn this approach, showing the strength and diversity of art from across the continent from the earliest times to the best of contemporary art from Africa.

      If you would like to leave a comment click on the title