This might look like a lot of old coins, but they come from
a trove 35 times smaller than the most recent find.
Uncovering ancient buried treasure doesn’t require the skills to interpret a secret map or navigate a booby-trapped cave. All it took to turn up the largest hoard of Iron Age coins ever found in Europe were two metal detectors…and a lot of patience. After 30 years of searching, Reg Mead and Richard Miles discovered a cache of 30,000 to 50,000 gold and silver Celtic coins worth up to $15 million.
About three decades ago, Mead and Miles heard that a farmer had discovered some silver coins in a field on Jersey, a self-governing island in the English Channel. Although most people would dismiss the rumor, the two men were so intrigued that they started investigating with their metal detectors, a practice they continued through February of this year, when their long quest turned up 60 silver coins and one gold one. Still not satisfied, the men kept looking.
In a muddy pit near the town of York in northern England, archaeologists have found a skull holding what they believe is the preserved remains of an “Iron Age brain.” Here’s how the noggin was first noticed: York Archaeological Trust dig team member Rachel Cubitt reached in [to the ditch] and, while she cleaned the soil-covered skull’s outer surface, “she felt something move inside the cranium. Peering through the base of the skull, she spotted an unusual yellow substance” [LiveScience]. Scans later showed that the yellow mass was in the shape of a shrunken brain, according to a press release from the University of York.
The skull was discovered in an area of extensive prehistoric farming landscape of fields, trackways and buildings dating back to at least 300 BC. The archaeologists believe the skull, which was found on its own in a muddy pit, may have been a ritual offering [BBC News]. Researchers declared it the oldest brain ever found in Britain, although it can’t touch the record for the oldest brain ever discovered: That honor belongs to the roughly 8,000-year-old scraps of brain tissue that were found in skeletons buried in a Florida peat bog. In the Florida case, the absence of bacteria in the acidic peat bogs allowed the organic tissue to be preserved; researchers still aren’t sure how the York brain was preserved or whether the yellow substance has any organic matter in it.