Friday Five … Rediscoveries


We’ve all done it before – whether on a night out, down the side of the sofa or hiding in our handbags all along – the things most important to us are the things we seem to lose the most often (one man more than most!) Then there’s the sigh of relief when you finally remember that ‘safe’ place…

We think this week’s Friday Five will have caused a sigh of relief or two, along with a couple of sighs of disbelief and at least one of pure glee!


1. Skeleton in the Basement


We dread to think what’s lurking in our basement, but with the discovery this summer of this 6,500 year old skeleton from the Royal Cemetery of Ur lurking in the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Museum, we’re tempted to have a rummage. Apparently staff did know it was there but not much attention had been paid to it as all documentation had been lost. A rediscovery of his papers identified the skeleton, nicknamed “Noah” by the Museum researchers, as a 50 year old, 5 foot 10 inch male excavated by Sir Leonard Woolley’s team in about 1930.

2. The Hunt for Jamestown


This rediscovery story is slightly different because it was very much a planned event. The Jamestown settlement in Virginia was the first permanent British settlement in the Americas, dubbed as the first colony of the British Empire. It was founded in 1607 and served as the capital of the colony from 1616 to 1699. When the capital moved to Williamsburg, Jamestown was abandoned and slowly began to deteriorate, disappearing from view and leaving its location a mystery to future generations. In 1994 the Jamestown Rediscovery Archaeological Project was launched to locate and document the site. The project was a success and within three seasons enough evidence was collected to confirm the suspected location. Finds include armour, medical instruments, ceramics, tools, coins, musical instruments, games and food remains. Job well done!

3. Ur, whoops!

Bristol Uni Cupboard Skeleton

Nobody claims archaeologists are generally the cleanest and tidiest of people, but this does worry us a little bit. A routine cupboard clear out earlier this year at the University of Bristol Archaeology and Anthropology department revealed forgotten 4,500 year old food offerings from the Royal Tombs of Ur! The box contained pottery fragments, seeds and animal bones, and was from the same 1930s season as the aforementioned Penn Museum skeleton. This find was even more of a shock as neither the dig nor any post excavation research had any connection to the University, and thus no one even knows why it’s in Bristol in the first place!

4. The Golden Egg

Faberge Golden Egg

Three words – Luckiest. Guy. Ever.  This rediscovery was a life changing moment for one American scrap metal dealer when he bought a shiny gold, bejewelled egg for $14,000 (c. £8,000). At first he was disappointed when prospective buyers declined, claiming it was overpriced, but the dealer then decided to do a bit of research only to discover he was the owner of a $20 million egg designed by Carl Fabergé for the Russian Royal Family. After the Russian Revolution the eggs were seized by the Bolsheviks, most were sold to the West but eight of them remained missing  – this is one of only three of those that are believed to have survived the revolution. What an epic day at the office!

5. The Treasure of Nimrud


War is a terrible thing for archaeology, and the Iraq Museum really gave the world a scare when it declared 12,000 items had been looted during conflicts in 2003. A big worry on everyone’s minds was the famed Nimrud Treasure, a collection of 613 pieces of ancient gold jewellery and precious stones. Various confused versions of events suggested that the Treasure had been stolen when the museum was looted, leading to public outcry from those who had appealed for better guarding of them in the first place. They finally turned up safe and sound hidden in a flooded vault under the Iraqi National Bank. Phew!

And on that note, we think top of next week’s tasks had better be to give the office a tidy – who knows what treasure we might find!

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Written by Aisling Serrant

An all round museum educator and enthusiast, Aisling's the Family Festival Coordinator at the Museum of London Docklands.

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