By Sedem Ama
UK - A man walking his dog on a beach found a stone believed to be valuable sperm whale vomit, or ambergris, this week.He has been told it could be worth anything from £40,000 to £100,000 because it is such a vital and rare perfume ingredient. But Ken Wilman's find (more below) is only the latest of unusual and highly valuable discoveries made by walkers.
We have compiled five of the most surprising "treasure in disguise" finds.
1. 1992 – Hoxne Hoard
Although it is typical for findings to consist of gold artifacts, the circumstances in which the Hoxne Hoard was acquired were very unlikely. Found in Suffolk, the Hoxne Hoard was discovered when two men went in search of a lost hammer.
Eric Lawes immediately reported the discovery in November 1992 and after a full excavation over 15,000 gold and silver Roman coins were identified, accompanied with gold jewelry and various small items of silver tableware. It is thought were buried in the fifth century AD.
Mr. Lawes received a finder's fee of £1.75m, which was shared equally with his friend who was with him when the hoard was found. It is said that this is the largest payment ever granted to a treasure hunter.
2. 2001- The Ringlemere cup
A rare gold chalice was found by metal detector hobbyist Cliff Bradshaw in a field near Ringlemere, East Kent. Later identified as the Ringlemere cup, it is a product of immaculate craftsmanship from the Bronze Age, dating from 1700-1500 BC.
"That is how most items are found, by chance, by a chap going around," Mr. Bradshaw told the BBC.
Upon finding the chalice, Mr Bradshaw found that it had already been significantly damaged.
"I didn't do any more searching or digging - I would have been destroying the context," he said.
Even though the cup was discovered in a crumpled condition, it was eventually purchased by the British Museum for £250,000, which was divided by Mr. Bradshaw and the landowner.
3. 2013 – Ambergris
Ken Wilman, with the aid of his dog, has uncovered an unlikely treasure on Morecambe beach, Lancashire, which could be worth up to £100,000. The 50-year-old explained how his dog Madge found the rare piece of whale vomit, a substance which presents itself in the form of a stone.
Ambergris, the technical term for whale vomit, is extremely valuable and often used in perfume because of its compelling scent. Also known as "floating gold", the vomit is released into the sea by sperm whales and floats around for a lengthy period of time before it hardens and acquires a peculiar odor.
"I didn't actually realize what it was at first," he said.
Oblivious to its worth, Mr. Wilman discarded the piece because it smelled "horrible", but after researching it on the internet, he returned to the beach to retrieve his discovery.
"It was like walking on the beach and finding a bag of £50,000 in cash," Mr. Wilman said.
If the news that the vomit from a sperm whale could amount to a substantial amount of money has come as a shock, consider the surprise of schoolboy Charlie Naysmith, who also found a large piece of ambergris on a beach in August last year.
The eight-year-old boy from Christchurch discovered the 600g portion curtained by seaweed at Hengistbury beach in Bournemouth. It is believed that the yellowish piece was worth around £40,000, reiterating the amount of value a rock of vomit can wield.
4. 2003 – Staffordshire Moorlands Pan
Kevin Blackburn had been roaming a field in Staffordshire with friends when his metal detector picked up the signal. The 56-year-old was the fortunate finder of the pan, which had a missing handle and base.
The treasure is a Roman souvenir of Hadrian's Wall from the second century AD. Made of copper alloy, there are several inscriptions on the body of the pan. It is possible that the creator may have been a soldier in memory of his military service on the Wall.
In 2005, the pan was purchased for £100,000 in a joint acquisition by the British Museum, the Potteries Museum, a Stoke-on-Trent Art Gallery and Tullie House Museum. Mr. Blackburn managed to obtain £50,000 after the landowners of the field near Utoxeter received their share.
5. 2009 – Antique railway signs
Two grandparents learned that the makeshift floor boards in their attic were in fact antique wooden railway signs.
Ian and Lynda Spires from Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire uncovered the "treasure troves" when they were clearing their attic to perform a roof insulation.
The floorboards actually comprised of 49 destinations, one of which displayed "LONDON-GLASGOW".
"They were used a lot in the 1950s and 1960s to tell commuters where the trains were heading to but they are quite rare now and some of them are very valuable indeed," Ms. Spires told the Daily Mail.
The couple has made more than £2,000 just from the sale of eight signs, many of which were purchased by music producer Pete Waterman.
How do you know you have found a treasure?
According to the Treasure Act 1996, treasure is officially defined as any object which is a least 300 years of age at the time it is found. The statute mentions this constitutes an item which is not a coin but weighs at least 10pc of precious metal, for instance, gold or silver.
If the object in question is at least 200 years old, it may be identified as an item of outstanding historical, archaeological or cultural importance subject to an order imposed following the consideration of the Secretary of State. However, the legal definition of treasure does not include "unworked natural objects or minerals as extracted from a natural deposit".
Hannah Bolton, head of press at the British Museum, explained that if an object is found, the first step is to visit finds.org.uk, where it can be reported to a liaison officer to be assessed. If the item is of significant value, further evaluation will be made by a coroner, and then the assessment will be continued by the (independent) Treasure Valuation Committee. Estimation is then made and payment for the treasure is divided between the finder and landowner.
"There is a lot of archaeological material to be found; for example big hoards," said Ms. Bolton. "Since the Treasure Act was revised, there have been some real notable cases such as the Staffordshire Hoard. It's not uncommon."
The British Museum, located in West London, is home to an iconic world art collection and artifacts; with its oldest object- the Olduvai stone chopping tool from Tanzania scientifically dates back almost two million years.
Although the probability of finding a valuable piece appears extremely farfetched, it is possible and you never know when one strange item of what at first glance appears to be scrap may just earn you enough to foot your credit card bill, purchase a new car or pay off your mortgage.
Courtesy The Telegraph
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