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Old Gold Comes In From The Cold

The world of archeology has been enriched by two extraordinary discoveries:

  • In Greece, a gold ring long held in folklore to have belonged to the legendary King Minos but dismissed by experts as a fake has been found to be a real 3,500-year-old artifact.
  • And in Britain, an amateur treasure hunter has found an extremely rare gold cup from the Bronze Age - only the second such discovery in Britain.

    Greek Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos told Greek television Thursday that the engraved "Minos Ring" was worth about $350,000 on the antiquities market and would now be displayed in a museum.

    "This (barely) reflects its historical and scientific value," he said.

    The thick gold seal ring depicts a boat at sea between two ports where Minoan women sit among houses and plants. It was discovered in 1928 by locals in the ruins of the city of Knossos on Crete and declared by authorities to be a fake.

    Legend, however, quickly embellished the finding. Local lore said King Minos himself hurled his ring into the Aegean Sea only for it to be found by Theseus, the hero who killed the Minotaur in the Knossos labyrinth.

    A local priest held on to it for decades despite its dubious origin. A descendant found it after the priest's death and promptly delivered it to Greece's archeological authorities, who this time declared it a rare and precious masterpiece.

    Venizelos said the honest citizen who turned in the ring would be rewarded and the artifact displayed at Crete's Heraklion Museum along with most other Knossos finds.

    In Britain, meanwhile, an embossed 4½-inch-high gold cup was spotted in a prehistoric burial mound in a field in Kent, southern England by a member of the public using a metal detector, English Heritage said.

    Dating back to 1700-1500 B.C., the ceremonial vessel beaten from a single lump of gold is roughly the same age as the famous prehistoric stone circle at Stonehenge and is one of the oldest treasures ever discovered in Britain.

    A similar treasure, the Rillaton cup, was found buried with a human skeleton in Cornwall, southern England in 1837 and is now in the British Museum.

    The chief archaeologist for English Heritage, David Miles, said the recent find was "outstanding and internationally important."

    He said further exploration of the mound had unearthed bone fragments that may be human, as well as Mesolithic and late Neolithic flint tools and pottery.

    The cup is being held in the British Museum, which hopes to buy it, while its value is determined by a body of independent specialists appointed by the government.

    English Heritage would not speculate on the cup's possible value, but said the finder and landowner had agreed to split the proceeds of any sale evenly between them.

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