|A case of Queen Victoria having the last laugh I suppose.
Treasure is one of those odd things, it is what you think it is. My mum used to say that I was a treasure. Now my friends say it, adding someone should go out and bury me.
Treasure: Precious metals, or gems, anything highly valued.
Well thankyou Mr Dictionary, my thoughts exactly. It does not have to be valuable in any monetary sense.
That said, if you have never dreamed of finding buried treasure, then I suspect you have never dreamed. There is an adventurer tucked away inside every one of us. The bit that says, just imagine...
So congrats to Churchmans for making this very point with the first card of this 50 card set. 'When mammoths roamed London.' The proof of this was discovered in 1892 when remains of an adult and infant mammoth were discovered 22 feet below ground whilst digging a sewer.
It appears that once they got that task out of the way they concentrated on things of more monetary value.
Now, before we go any further let me acknowledge this is not one of the great sets of the world. Produced in 1937 it was a rather run of the mill adventure in cigarette card production but that is not to say it is without any merit. To misquote, Any card, even a bad card, is worth looking at.
This is not a bad set, not in the way that The Sun series of Footballer Swap Cards is a bad set. (Although the latter is worth more than the former, which only goes to show how out of sync with the world I am.) I don't read The Sun and I don't like football which sometimes makes me feel very isolated <g>.
The set seems to have sidestepped the meaning of treasure trove on a number of the cards. Effectively treasure trove belongs to the crown rather than the individual that found it. The crown will give market value for the treasure. Things can be considered treasure trove if they were hidden for the purpose of returning to it at a future date. It would be hard therefore to claim that bones were treasure trove. Valuable hoards will almost always be treasure trove.
Okay, I have skipped a few details concerning treasure trove but it is not a bad working description. By card 4, The Corbridge Hoard Churchmans have remembered the title of the series 'The hoard, now in the British Museum, was claimed for the Crown under the law of Treasure Trove. The card informs us that the hoard was discovered on Sept 14 1911 A small bronze jug was discovered with two bronze coins stuck in the slender neck, stopping the jug. Inside were 160 Roman gold coins.
I might well be simplifying but large hoards of cash etc seem to be found by accident more than professional archeology. I assume this is because hoards were hidden and not meant to be found.
Many of the cards illustrate just such good fortune.
Card 6, The Trewhiddle Hoard, found by tin miners in 1774.
Card 7, The Stoke Prior Treasure, found in a rabbit burrow on Dec 16 1891 [Happy Christmas]
Card 8, The Cheapside Hoard, found by a workman digging in 1912.
Card Nine is fun, 'Searching for treasure in Westminster Abbey.' as it neatly illustrates fates fickle hand waving about.
Card 12 shows how things can get lost. It always amazes me when lost papers of the famous come to light in the national libraries but when you see them it is not surprising. At first you wonder how a book cannot be opened for 100-150 years, or why nobody has been curious about the dusty old papers sitting in the corner of the filing room. Well if you do wonder get along to one of these places, you will wonder how any of those books are opened within 1,000 years.
Anyway card 12 deals with 'The Lost honours of Scotland.' These were Crown, sword, scepter and mace, not small (or cheap) they were used in the coronation of Charles 1 of Scotland, June 18 1633. Smuggled out of the way of the English 18 years later they lay undisturbed and forgotten about in an old oak chest in the Crown room at Edinburgh Castle until 1817. You would really think that was impossible but I must admit even in my cigarette card collection there are darker corners which just have never seen the light of day. Doesn't really compare though.
By card 14 we have left the shores of Britain and gone further afield to find the treasures.
Card 21 shows one of the most fascinating of naval vessels the world has ever seen. Under the direction of Mussolini in 1928 they drained Lake Nemi. Now this was a massive undertaking which revealed two Imperial Roman pleasure galleys which foundered there after a sudden storm. Supposedly built by Emp. Tiberius [AD 14 AD 37] the sank in the reign of Caligula.
Card 26, 27 & 28 deals with the most exciting find of all, The Tomb of Tut-ankh-amen. See Egyptian Cards
Although we left the British shores sometime ago in terms of the treasures being found there, that does not mean they did not end up here. Card 32 explains thus, 'When the British military expedition to Abyssinia,...entered Magdala on April 13th 1868, several of the Emperor Theodore's treasures fell into Sir Robert's hands.' Quite.
Card 33 illustrates, 'a girls best friend' This is the big-daddy of them all though, The Cullinan found in the Premier Diamond Mine in South Africa on 26 Jan 1905 and presented to Edward VII in 1907. In the uncut state it weighed 3,025 carats which made nine large diamonds and 96 small brilliants. These are now in the Crown jewels, the largest of the cut diamonds being in the Sceptre. Larger low grade diamonds do exist.
Card 38 is another diamond, The Koh-I-Noor (Mountain of light) After the Indian Mutiny it was presented to Queen Victoria.
Card 39 depicts 'Tippoo's Tiger' a most excellent joke. Constructed by order of Tippoo Sahib (1753-1799) it is an organ representing an Officer of the East India Company being mauled by an Indian Tiger. The actual mechanism is probably French.
Tippoo was frequently fighting the British and the 'Tiger' was found when his palace was stormed in 1799 by British Troops. The card ends by saying the Tiger now lives in the Victoria and Albert Museum. A case of Queen Victoria having the last laugh I suppose.
Many of the world's treasures have disappeared with the passage of time, some lost, many forgotten and too many others destroyed. This was very nearly the fate of The Mount Sinai Bible Manuscripts, bought from Russia by the British Museum in 1933 for £100,000. It had originally cost the Russian Tsar 9,000 roubles and certain Russian decorations for the monks it was purchased from in 1869. However if it had been me I might have been tempted not to decorate the monks. The story of the discovery is summarised on card 34. Constantine Tischemdorf, a great German scholar, visited the monastery of St Catherine on Mount Sinai in May 1844. There he discovered the manuscript, being 129 leaves of the famous Codex Sinaiticus, one of the most important authorities for the text of the bible. [This manuscript is considered one of the greatest treasures of the British Library along with The Magna Carta and the only known copy of Beowulf, it's that important. Then again a 4th Century manuscript would me]. So there it was, safely under lock and key, passed down century after forgotten centuries by the guardians of the old learning in the monastery.
Err...not quite. Constantine found it in a waste paper-basket waiting to be burnt. The card says, 'the precious script, already depleted...' Well would you have decorated the monks. I think I would have decorated with them.
I have been gently poking the finger at the British ability to 'acquire' other countries national treasures but do not fear there are plenty of other countries out there who have national treasures that, strictly speaking, are not exactly their national treasure.
Card 46 is a case in point, 'The Inca's Ransom.'
In 1532 Atahuallpa, the native King of Peru, was captured by Pizarro, a Spanish soldier. Now the Spanish had seen large quantities of gold but nothing quite to the scale Atahuallpa claimed he could give for his freedom. He promised to fill a room with the stuff and then fill another room, twice over with silver.
The offer was accepted and the goldsmiths worked day and night melting the stuff down. Just imagine the heathen treasures that were being melted down the Catholic Spanish. Civilisation can be such an uplifting experience. [In 1847 it had an estimated value of £3.5 million, sterling of scrapped priceless objects.]
Atahuallpa having honoured his part of the bargain refused to convert to Christianity so Pizarro had him publicly strangled. Ironic really as the fair-haired Spanish had marched in unopposed because the Inca's had thought them returning demigods.
So despite the fact that this might not be the most expensive set in the world what it depicts are some of the most precious, and priceless, treasures the world has to offer.
Before you move on though spare a thought for card 49, Coco Island. It is believed to be the resting place of a good deal of pirate gold. Many people have searched for it but nobody has found it.