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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Cumbrian boys strike gold with 4,000-year-old find

A group of schoolboys have struck gold, unearthing a rare 4,000-year-old ornament.

Alston historic find photo
Archaeologist Paul Frodsham with Joseph Bell and Luca Alderson

The boys were on a dig at Kirkhaugh, north of Alston, when they spotted the treasure, probably worn as a ‘hair tress’.

The tress is being hailed as one of the most significant recent archaeological finds in the UK.

Seven-year-old Joseph Bell, one of the four boys to make the discovery, said: “We were digging carefully in the ground and I saw something shiny, it was gold. Luca and I started dancing with joy.”

His friend, eight-year-old Luca Alderson, added: “When I first saw it I thought it was plastic. When I found out it was gold, I was very happy.”

Luca and Joseph were joined in the search by their 10-year-old brothers Aidan Bell and Sebastian Alderson.

Sebastian said: “Our mums were telling us not to get our hopes up because it was a one-in-a-million chance, but we found the gold. We first found out about this because of the work we had done in school.”

Aidan added: “We had a really good time in school looking at it and that’s why we came. We then found a jet button and my mum was telling me before that not to dig in that area.”

Experts believe the tress may have been worn by a metal worker who could have travelled to Britain in search of gold and copper.

It dates back to about 2,300 BC and was found in a burial mound alongside flint arrowheads and a jet button.

Only 10 such finds have ever been made in Britain, and this one is the partner of a matching one discovered at Kirkhaugh during an excavation lead by Herbert Maryon in 1935.

In an unlikely turn of events, two of the Alston Primary School pupils who found the treasure – Luca and his brother Sebastian – are the great-great grandsons of Joseph William Alderson who was part of the 1935 team.

The boys’ discovery came at a dig arranged by the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership’s Altogether Archaeology project.

Paul Frodsham, who leads the project, said the Randalholme Farm site is exceptional. He added: “It can be regarded as marking the very start of mineral exploitation in the North Pennines, leading in due course to Roman exploitation of lead and silver.”

The team were invited to undertake the dig by site owners William and Joan Raine. A band of about 50 volunteers spent nine days excavating the land under the watchful eye of Professor Andrew Fitzpatrick, assisted by archaeologists from Newcastle.

Prof Fitzpatrick led the famous dig near Stonehenge which unearthed the remains of the man known as the Amesbury Archer.

He said: “These tress rings have only been found at 10 sites in Britain so they must have been precious items. The person buried at Kirkhaugh was clearly of very high status.”

The head tress will now be analysed by various specialists. It is hoped it will be sent to the Great North Museum in Newcastle, to join the tress found in 1935.

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