In ancient times, hundreds of years before the dawn of history

From Business Insider:

The origin story of Stonehenge has baffled archaeologists for centuries.

The mysterious monument, erected in two waves of flurried construction 5,000 and 4,500 years ago, on the UK’s Salisbury Plain features two distinct types of stone slabs in half circles.

Researchers traced one stone type, the smaller bluestones, to a site in Wales. But the origin of Stonehenge’s 30-foot (9-meter) sandstone boulders, called sarsens, remained an unsolved puzzle until now. 

According to a study published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, Stonehenge’s builders dragged most of these 50,000-pound (22,700-kilogram) sarsens from a woodland area in Wiltshire.

The area, called West Woods, is more than 15 miles (25 kilometers) from the monument — “which is insane really if you think about it,” David Nash, the lead author of the study, told Business Insider.

He added, “Our results suggest that most of the sarsens at Stonehenge share a common chemistry, which is why we’re saying they come from the same area.”

The findings could help archaeologists figure out how the builders transported the giant stones south.

More at the link.

Clovis Not First Anymore

A recent and significant find, as reported by Tom Metcalfe for NBC News (hat tip: Paul Halsall):

Ancient stone tools suggest first people arrived in America earlier than thought

Three deliberately-shaped pieces of limestone — a pointed stone and two cutting flakes — may be the oldest human tools yet found in the Americas.

Pieces of limestone from a cave in Mexico may be the oldest human tools ever found in the Americas, and suggest people first entered the continent up to 33,000 years ago – much earlier than previously thought.

The findings, published Wednesday in two papers in the journal Nature, which include the discovery of the stone tools, challenge the idea that people first entered North America on a land bridge between Siberia and Alaska and an ice-free corridor to the interior of the continent.

Precise archaeological dating of early human sites throughout North America, including the cave in Mexico, suggests instead that they may have entered along the Pacific coast, according to the research.

Ciprian Ardelean, an archaeologist with the Autonomous University of Zacatecas in Mexico, the lead author of one of the papers, said the finds were the result of years of careful digging at the Chiquihuite Cave in north-central Mexico.

The steeply-inclined cave is high on a mountainside and filled with crumbling layers of gravel: “The deeper you go, the higher the risk for the walls to collapse,” he said.

The excavations paid off with the discovery of three deliberately-shaped pieces of limestone — a pointed stone and two cutting flakes — that may be the oldest human tools yet found in the Americas.

They date from a time when the continent seems to have been occupied by only a few groups of early humans – perhaps “lost migrations” that left little trace on the landscape and in the genetic record, Ardelean said.

More at the link. UPDATE: More at Nature.

Por-Bazhyn

Here is something interesting to see if you’re ever in Tuva. From the Siberian Times:

Mysterious mountain palace, one of the wonders of Siberia, was built in 777 AD

By Anna Liesowska

Breathtaking island complex close to Mongolian border rumoured to have been built for tragic Chinese princess.

New scientific findings have pin-pointed the date of the construction of stunning Por-Bajin in Lake Tere-Khol some 2,300 metres above sea level.

It was designed only for summer living between the magnificent Sayan and Altai ranges but in fact was never occupied.

Its purpose and inspiration have long perplexed experts, and it has amazed almost everyone who has ever ventured here to the very centre point of Eurasia.

As President Vladimir Putin said: ‘I have been to many places, I have seen many things. But I have never seen anything of the kind.’

Now, though, Por-Bajin has given up one key secret.

Research by the University of Groningen using a special carbon-14 dating technique has now established it was built in 777 AD, two decades later than the previous best guesses.

‘In the complex, the scientists found a beam with a spike from the year 775. As they were able to ascertain that the tree was felled two years later, the complex must have been constructed in 777,’ says a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The findings likely undermine the romantic theory that this was a royal summer home, as espoused by local academic Demir Tulush, of Tuva Institute of Humanities and Social and Economic Research.

He had suggested the version that it could be have been a ‘summer palace built for a Kha Khan’s wife’, possibly the spouse or intended partner of Byogyu-kagan, son of Boyan-Chor.

‘It is known that Chinese princesses could become the wives of Uighur and Turk Kha Khans,’ he explained.

‘Probably, one such princess was destined to live in this palace, but something happened to her on the way here, and she never came to the site. It was totally abandoned in 30 or 40 years.’

More at the link, including lots of images. I reprint the one at Wikipedia:

“Aerial view of site of Por-Bazhyn taken from a microlight plane before start of excavation season 2007.”

Shall These Bones Live?

From The Telegraph (hat tip: Paul Halsall):

Bones hidden in church revealed to be remains of one of England’s earliest saints

The discovery has been hailed as a ‘stunning result of national importance’

Bones hidden away by monks during the Reformation have been confirmed as belonging to one of England’s earliest saints who founded the country’s first nunnery. 

The seventh-century remains of St Eanswythe, a Kentish Royal Saint who was the daughter and granddaughter of Anglo-Saxon kings, have finally been identified by historians.

The relics survived the upheavals of the Dissolution of the Monasteries – in which King Henry VIII aimed to destroy the monastic system – after being squirrelled away in a lead box behind a church wall in Kent.

Her remains were discovered in 1885. However, it is only now – more than 1,300 years after her death and after carbon dating her teeth and bones – that historians believe they have finally identified England’s first abbess and one of the country’s earliest saints.

The remarkable discovery was made by Kent archaeologists and historians, working with Queen’s University in Belfast, who confirmed that human remains kept at the Church of St Mary and St Eanswythe Folkestone are almost certainly those of the saint.

The discovery has been hailed as “a stunning result of national importance” and has drawn comparisons with the exhumation of King Richard III after DNA confirmed that bones found beneath a Leicester car park in 2012 were those of the former king of England.

Read the whole thing, and the Finding Eanswythe website.

The Black Death

From Smithsonian Magazine (hat tip: Dan Franke):

Mass Grave Shows the Black Death’s ‘Catastrophic’ Impact in Rural England

At least 48 individuals were buried in a single grave in Lincolnshire, suggesting the community struggled to deal with an onslaught of plague victims

In the summer of 1348, the Black Death arrived in southwest England. The deadly disease rapidly swept through the country, ultimately killing between one-third and one-half of its population. Now, a team of researchers writing in the journal Antiquity has revealed new details about a mass grave of probable Black Death victims buried in the English countryside. The discovery offers rare insight into the plague’s “catastrophic” impact on rural communities.

The grave, located on the grounds of the historic Thornton Abbey in North Lincolnshire, was first excavated in 2013. Archaeologists unearthed the remains of at least 48 individuals, including 27 children. Differences in levels between the rows of bodies suggest the grave was “filled over the course of several days or weeks,” according to the study’s authors. Radiocarbon dating of two skeletons indicated the victims died sometime between 1295 and 1400, while ceramics and two silver pennies found in the grave helped experts narrow the date range down to the mid-14th century.

Though the researchers acknowledge that any number of factors could have driven the mass fatality in Lincolnshire, they suspect the Black Death is the “most probable cause.” Documentary evidence indicates the bubonic plague had hit Lincolnshire by the spring of 1349. What’s more, centuries-old DNA extracted from the teeth of 16 individuals buried at the site revealed the presence of Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes the disease.

The skeletons’ ages—which ranged from 1 year old to over 45—lend further credence to the theory that something devastating was at play. Hugh Willmott, a senior lecturer in European historical archaeology at the University of Sheffield and leader of the excavation, tells Live Science’s Mindy Weisberger that medieval cemeteries are typically dominated by very young and relatively old individuals, who are particularly susceptible to disease and injury.

“But what we’ve got is not that profile at all,” says Willmott. “We can tell from the proportion of individuals that everyone is being affected, and everyone is dying.”

Read the whole thing

The Original Windsor Castle

Wikipedia.

The oldest extant part of Windsor Castle is the central Round Tower, which dates from the twelfth century, although no visit would be complete without seeing St. George’s Chapel (fifteenth century, in the lower ward to the left) and the State Apartments (nineteenth century, in the upper ward to the right). Windsor is one of the more important royal castles, from which the current dynasty takes its name and derives its heraldic badge.

Wikipedia.

People forget, though, that Windsor was founded as a castle by William I shortly after the conquest – and now a vision of what that castle might have looked like has been produced. From the Independent:

the first Windsor Castle, built in 1071 to deter Anglo-Saxon rebels, is thought to have consisted of a multi-storey wooden keep on top of a large earthen mound flanked to its north and west by a two-and-a-half acre palisaded triangular courtyard (known as a bailey or ward).

It was probably built there for three very specific reasons. Being on a hill it was easier to defend and, because the Thames was unusually narrow at that point, it could be easily bridged. Indeed, it is now thought that the very first Windsor Bridge was probably built by William the Conqueror at the same time that the castle was erected. The third reason was its proximity to an Anglo-Saxon royal palace at Old Windsor – just one-and-a-half miles away.

The reconstruction of that first Windsor Castle (as it would have looked in around 1085) has just been published by the Royal Collection Trust (which manages most public access aspects of Windsor Castle) in a major new book – Windsor Castle: A Thousand Years of a Royal Palace.

Research – carried out by Dr Steven Brindle, co-author of the book and a leading expert on Windsor – has also generated the first ever archaeologically based modern reconstructions of Windsor Castle as it looked in 1216 and in 1272 (as well as in 1085). All three have just been published for the first time in the book.

Read the whole thing, which includes images from the new book. 

Links, Archaeological

• From Yleisradio Oy (Finland’s national broadcaster), news of the genetic origins of the Finns:

Iron Age DNA sheds light on Finns’ genetic origin

A new study suggests that during the Iron Age Finland was home to separate and different populations.

Researchers at Helsinki and Turku universities mapping ancient Finno-Ugric ancestry say modern-day Finns carry genes from diverse populations living in the region of Finland during the Iron Age.

They said they were able to reconstruct 103 complete mitochondrial genomes from archaeological bone samples, allowing them to trace maternal lineage. The samples were collected from burial sites across Finland and the Republic of Karelia, Russia.

Scientists found that genes associated with ancient farmer populations were more common in the east, whereas lineages inherited from hunter-gatherers were more prevalent in the west.

The SUGRIGE Finno-Ugric genome project said its study is the most extensive investigation to date focusing on the ancient DNA of people inhabiting the region of Finland.

• From Archaeology World, news of an interesting find in Yorkshire:

2,500-Year-Old Chariot Found – Complete with Rider And Horses

The managing director of Persimmon Homes in Yorkshire confirmed that an archaeological discovery of significant importance had been made. That discovery is a horse-drawn chariot from the Iron Age.

He went on to say that excavation is ongoing by archaeologists who will date the find along with detailing it.

During the Iron Age, it was common practice to bury chariots. What the archaeologists were not expecting to find was the remains of the rider of the chariot and the horses that pulled it.

The find dated back to 500 BC and at the time it was the only find of the kind in 200 years. To date, there have only been 26 chariots excavated in the UK.

Archaeologists said that it was unusual for horses to be buried along with the chariot and human remains.

• Monica Green in Eidolon:

When Numbers Don’t Count: Changing Perspectives on the Justinianic Plague

The Justinianic Plague, the pandemic that brought waves of plague to western Eurasia between 541 to about 750 CE, has been a feature of narratives about the “decline and fall of the Roman Empire” ever since the eighteenth century, when Edward Gibbon featured Procopius’s vivid description of plague’s assault on Constantinople in 542 during the reign of the Emperor Justinian. For two centuries since Gibbon, the Justinianic Plague (“JP” for short) received a few passing nods in accounts of the period we now call “late antiquity.” But overall, it elicited little attention from historians. Even in my own training as a historian of medicine in the 1970s and ’80s, it was barely a blip on the radar.

Not anymore! The JP has been known for some time as the “First Plague Pandemic” because it was followed by two others: the Black Death in the mid-fourteenth century and the five-hundred-year reign of plague outbreaks it initiated in Eurasia and Africa, and then the Third Pandemic, which spread plague around the globe in the age of steamships at the turn of the twentieth century. (We have plague in Arizona, where I live, thanks to that last proliferation.)

All three pandemics, we know now, were caused by a single bacterium: Yersinia pestis. That finding is not actually surprising news, since Y. pestis’s role had been suspected ever since the bacterium was first discovered in 1894. Why, then, has the JP become a hot new topic, with more than a dozen new publications in the past five years, and more promised soon? For the same reason we often revisit old questions: because new evidence has become available. But some of that new evidence — in this case coming from genetics — is so new that most people don’t know what to make of it.

This might seem a debate of interest only to specialists in the history of medicine or demography and economics (who are concerned about assessing the pandemic’s effects on population levels), but for one urgent factor. The JP has now been linked to a pronounced change in climate that occurred in the sixth century. Indeed, such claims have been made for the Black Death, too. Does this mean that we should be looking at the events of the sixth century with new fearful eyes, scrutinizing the evidence for signs of disasters that might befall us, too? Perhaps not. The climate change that happened in the sixth century was global cooling, not warming. And viral diseases are a more likely threat to us than a bacterium like Y. pestis.

• From the BBC, some sad news:

Detectorists stole Viking hoard that ‘rewrites history’

Two metal detectorists stole a £3m Viking hoard that experts say has the potential to “rewrite history”.

George Powell and Layton Davies dug up about 300 coins in a field in Eye, near Leominster, Herefordshire, in 2015.

They did not declare the 1,100-year-old find, said to be one of the biggest to date, and instead sold it to dealers.

They were convicted of theft and concealing their find. Coin sellers Simon Wicks and Paul Wells were also convicted on the concealment charge.

The hoard included a 9th Century gold ring, a dragon’s head bracelet, a silver ingot and a crystal rock pendant. Just 31 coins – worth between £10,000 and £50,000 – and some pieces of jewellery have been recovered, but the majority is still missing.

During their trial at Worcester Crown Court, Powell, 38, of Newport, and Davies, 51, of Pontypridd, had denied deliberately ignoring the Treasure Act, which demands significant finds be declared.

Experts say the coins, which are Saxon and believed to have been hidden by a Viking, provide fresh information about the unification of England and show there was an alliance previously not thought to exist between the kings of Mercia and Wessex.

“These coins enable us to re-interpret our history at a key moment in the creation of England as a single kingdom,” according to Gareth Williams, curator of early medieval coins at the British Museum.

When Powell and Davies made their discovery in June 2015, they did not inform the farmer who owned the field and instead contacted dealers to find out the worth of the items.

A month later, they contacted the National Museum of Wales but only declared one coin each and three items of jewellery.

Both men claimed talk of a 300-coin hoard had been a rumour, but suspicions were aroused and police began to investigate. They recovered deleted photos on Davies’s phone which showed the hoard intact in a freshly dug hole.

• From the Norsk institutt for kulturminneforskning:

New ship burial found in Norway

A high-resolution georadar has detected traces of a ship burial and a settlement that probably dates to the Merovingian or Viking Period at Edøy in Møre and Romsdal County in Norway.

The discoveries were made by archaeologists from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU)

The archaeological prospection approach using large-scale high-resolution georadar measurements was developed by the LBI ArchPro research institute and its partners, including NIKU, using technology from Guideline Geo.

“This is incredibly exciting. And again, it’s the technology that helps us find yet another ship. As the technology is making leaps forward, we are learning more and more about our past,” says Dr. Knut Paasche, Head of the Department of Digital Archaeology at NIKU, and an expert on Viking ships.

“We only know of three well-preserved Viking ship burials in Norway, and these were excavated a long time ago. This new ship will certainly be of great historical significance and it will add to our knowledge as it can be investigated with modern means of archaeology,” says Paasche.

From Smithsonian Magazine:

Authorities Recover 10,000 Artifacts Stolen by International Antiquities Trafficking Ring

The organized crime group had connections across Italy, Britain, Germany, France and Serbia

On Monday, authorities busted an international archaeological crime scheme in a sting dubbed “Operation Achei.” Per a press release, more than 350 police officers across five countries worked together to recover 10,000 ancient Greek and Roman artifacts stolen from archaeological sites in the Calabria region of southern Italy.

The Italian Carabinieri Department for the Protection of Cultural Heritage led the investigation with support from the European Union’s law enforcement agency, Europol. The Carabinieri’s “culture commandos” have the skills of “archaeologists, paleontologists, art historians and combat-trained shock troops,” wrote National Geographic’s Frank Viviano in 2015.

Operation Achei began in 2017 with a focus on Calabria, the “toe” of Italy’s boot-shaped peninsula. The artifact traffickers allegedly used a backhoe-like excavator to dig up sections of known archaeological sites near the Hera Lacinia, according to the Associated Press. They then sifted through the disturbed areas with sophisticated metal detectors, Italian police officials told the Guardians Lorenzo TondoThe illicit excavators wore ski masks to hide their identities, but during one heist, the license plate of a parked car showed up on the police’s drone video surveillance.

After collecting the artifacts, the group conveyed the items to people who could carry them abroad, “where they were put up for auction in important international auction houses and sold at very high figures,” the investigators said at a press conference reported by the Guardian.

Police from France, Britain, Germany and Serbia assisted Italian authorities with the operation. Eighty home searches yielded artifacts from as early as the 4th century B.C. The recovered items include ancient jars, plates and jewelry worth millions of euros.

“The damage caused to the Italian cultural heritage by this criminal group is very significant as … the criminals were looting archaeological sites for many years,” Europol says in the statement.

Two alleged leaders of the illegal archaeology scheme have been jailed, and 21 other suspects remain under house arrest in Italy.

Illegitimate archaeological digs are regular occurrences in Italy, but the Carabinieri are specifically trained to catch perpetrators. Officers must study art history, archaeology and international legal conventions at the University of Rome, as well as “demonstrate exceptional investigative skills,” Captain Lanfranco Disibio, leader of the squad for Tuscany and Umbria, told National Geographic’s Viviano in 2015In 2014 alone, Viviano notes, the officers recovered around 130,000 artifacts worth more than $500 million.

There is still plenty of work left to do: As the Guardian reports, more than one million Italian artifacts remain missing today.

Articles

Some excerpts of recent articles I enjoyed.

• From the Guardian:

History as a giant data set: how analysing the past could help save the future

Calculating the patterns and cycles of the past could lead us to a better understanding of history. Could it also help us prevent a looming crisis? 

In its first issue of 2010, the scientific journal Nature looked forward to a dazzling decade of progress. By 2020, experimental devices connected to the internet would deduce our search queries by directly monitoring our brain signals. Crops would exist that doubled their biomass in three hours. Humanity would be well on the way to ending its dependency on fossil fuels.

A few weeks later, a letter in the same journal cast a shadow over this bright future. It warned that all these advances could be derailed by mounting political instability, which was due to peak in the US and western Europe around 2020. Human societies go through predictable periods of growth, the letter explained, during which the population increases and prosperity rises. Then come equally predictable periods of decline. These “secular cycles” last two or three centuries and culminate in widespread unrest – from worker uprisings to revolution.

In recent decades, the letter went on, a number of worrying social indicators – such as wealth inequality and public debt – had started to climb in western nations, indicating that these societies were approaching a period of upheaval. The letter-writer would go on to predict that the turmoil in the US in 2020 would be less severe than the American civil war, but worse than the violence of the late 1960s and early 70s, when the murder rate spiked, civil rights and anti-Vietnam war protests intensified and domestic terrorists carried out thousands of bombings across the country.

The author of this stark warning was not a historian, but a biologist. For the first few decades of his career, Peter Turchin had used sophisticated maths to show how the interactions of predators and prey produce oscillations in animal populations in the wild. He had published in the journals Nature and Science and become respected in his field, but by the late 1990s he had answered all the ecological questions that interested him. He found himself drawn to history instead: could the rise and fall of human societies also be captured by a handful of variables and some differential equations?

• Also from the Guardian

Climate change may be behind fall of ancient empire, say researchers

Dramatic shift from wet to dry climate could have caused crop failure in Neo-Assyrian empire

The Neo-Assyrian empire was a mighty superpower that dominated the near east for 300 years before its dramatic collapse. Now researchers say they have a novel theory for what was behind its rise and fall: climate change.

The empire emerged in about 912BC and grew to stretch from the Mediterranean down to Egypt and out to the Persian Gulf.

But shortly after the death of the king Ashurbanipal around 630BC, the empire began to crumble, with the grand city of Nineveh sacked in 612BC. By the end of the seventh century BC, the empire’s fall was complete.

Now scientists say the reversal in the empire’s fortunes appears to coincide with a dramatic shift in its climate from wet to dry – a potentially crucial change in an empire reliant on crops.

“Nearly two centuries of high precipitation and high agrarian outputs encouraged high-density urbanisation and imperial expansion that was not sustainable when climate shifted to megadrought conditions during the seventh century BC,” the authors write.

In other words, while civil war, overexpansion and military defeat played a role in the empire’s collapse, the underlying driver could have been crop failures that led to economic collapse, exacerbating political unrest and conflict.

• From History Collection:

Archaeologists Find New Evidence of a Skull Cult in the World’s Oldest Temple

Göbekli Tepe is an archaeological site that dates back over 11,000 years. It is believed by some to be the first evidence of a hunter-gatherer civilization building a massive temple. Located in modern-day Turkey, the site was discovered in 1963 and in 1994 efforts to excavate the site began. Now more than 20 years into the excavation and preservation of the site, new discoveries have archaeologists questioning what they once believed to be the site’s purpose. It is now thought that the people who created Göbekli Tepe were part of an ancient skull cult.

Göbekli Tepe is a series of circular and oval-shaped structures on the top of a hill that dates back to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A Period which ranges from 9600 – 7300 BCE. At the site are 20 different installations which come together to form what is believed to be the oldest temple in the world. The site features intricate carvings, evidence of rituals being performed, and evidence that efforts were taken to preserve the site after it was abandoned. It is thought that the site was abandoned about 9,000 years ago and was largely untouched by humans until its rediscovery in 1963….

Skull cults is a term that is used by archaeologists to describe prehistoric people who venerated the skulls of the dead to the point of worshiping them. Most skull cults are recognized from the modified skulls that have been found at other archaeological sites. At other sites, there is evidence that the bodies of the dead were buried whole. However, later the bodies would be dug back up and then the skulls would be removed and the rest of the body reburied.

Neanderthals

From Phys.org (hat tip: Tom MacMaster):

Scientists link Neanderthal extinction to human diseases

Growing up in Israel, Gili Greenbaum would give tours of local caves once inhabited by Neanderthals and wonder along with others why our distant cousins abruptly disappeared about 40,000 years ago. Now a scientist at Stanford, Greenbaum thinks he has an answer.

In a new study published in the journal Nature Communications, Greenbaum and his colleagues propose that complex  transmission patterns can explain not only how  were able to wipe out Neanderthals in Europe and Asia in just a few thousand years but also, perhaps more puzzling, why the end didn’t come sooner.

“Our research suggests that diseases may have played a more important role in the extinction of the Neanderthals than previously thought. They may even be the main reason why modern humans are now the only human group left on the planet,” said Greenbaum, who is the first author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher in Stanford’s Department of Biology.

Read the whole thing.

The Copper Pot

From the Charlotte Observer (hat tip: Judi Irvine):

19th-century shipwreck is suddenly turning up gold coins off South Carolina coast

A 180-year-old shipwreck popular with scuba divers is proving to be a trove of rare coins and artifacts for a salvage project launched 20 miles off the South Carolina coast.

Known to divers as “The Copper Pot,” the wreck is actually the Steamship North Carolina, which collided with another boat in 1840 with hundreds of gold coins stuffed in passengers’ steamer trunks.

The first of the newly found coins — “several” $5 gold pieces dating from the mid-1830s — were brought up in late September, along with 19th Century dinnerware and marble, according to Blue Water Ventures International based in Florida.

“I can’t believe what we’re finding,” Keith Webb, president of Blue Water Ventures, told McClatchy news group. “The coins look almost as if they were just minted and it’s blowing our minds. It’s because they were hidden by a large piece of copper and were not moved around in the sand by the current.”

Blue Water Ventures and its partner Endurance Exploration Group issued a report that contends “the aggregate loss in money was large” when the ship went down, and would today be valued in the tens of millions of dollars — mostly in gold coins. This includes one passenger who claimed he lost $15,000 in the incident.

However, Webb’s research suggests these won’t be the usual gold coins found on 19th Century shipwrecks. Many of the passengers were likely carrying coins from the newly commissioned U.S. Mint in Dahlonega, Georgia, which operated only 24 years.

Coins from the Dahlonega mint are rare and coveted by collectors and historians.

“Regardless of denomination, any high grade Dahlonega gold coin with a good strike… is a real treasure and based on past history has been a blue chip coin investment,” according to the DahlonegaGold.com.

The S.S. North Carolina was previously searched for treasure by an outfit called MAREX, which salvaged $700,000 worth of coins in the late 1990s. MAREX ceased working the site in part because the coins were difficult to salvage.

More at the link.