The Watlington Hoard, recently unveiled at British Museum, brings a forgotten monarch back into public consciousness.
The hoard was pulled from the clay soil of Watlington, a market town in Southeast England. Containing silver bands, ingots, and 186 coins, the hoard originated during 9th century rule of Britain’s Alfred the Great, the king who united England while fending off Scandinavian invaders.
Alfred The Great often receives most of the credit for the victories, but we must remember that he did not work alone. Sharing coin real-estate with Alfred the Great is King Ceolwulf II, the monarch who worked in conjunction with the king to repel the Viking invaders.
"Poor Ceolwulf gets a very bad press in Anglo Saxon history," said museum coins curator Gareth Williams.
The information that is available about Ceolwulf was written by the Alfred’s court, an entity which did not have Ceolwulf’s best interest in mind. According to Williams, the contributions of Ceolwulf II were swept under the rug, and he was maligned in the Anglo-Saxon canon as a “puppet of the Vikings.”
"Here is a more complex political picture in the 870s which is deliberately misrepresented in the 890s," Williams said.
One delighted museum conservator, Pippa Pearce had this to say about the Waltington hoard:
"I've worked at the British Museum for 42 years and sometimes it's a shame to take the pay," said Pearce. "This was a joy of a hoard to work on."
Sixty-year-old James Mather stumbled upon the treasure back in October. Under the provisions set forth by the Portable Antiquities Scheme, a government-funded project that solicits the public’s help in making archaeological finds, the treasure may belong to the government.
Mather, however, will not go home empty-handed: he and the landowner will split a monetary reward equivalent to the market value of the hoard.
Another Exciting Discovery
During an archaeological dig at the ruins of Adulam Park, Israeli high schoolers happened upon three coins from the Hasmonean dynasty—what a find!
"The students' excitement was contagious," said Dr. Eitan Klein, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority which organized the dig.
"It's very nice to see their enthusiasm as they connect with the past and with the fascinating world of archaeology for the first time."
The coins were originally minted from 103 BCE to 76 BCE, during the reign of King Alexander Jannaeus. The coins remained in circulation long after the death of the king. Enjoying a two hundred year lifespan, the circulation of the coins finally ended with the demise of Jerusalem in 70 CE.
Chances are high that these coins will end up in an Israeli museum because they are such treasured artifacts.