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Award-winning journalist Michael Buerk and leading historian and broadcaster Bettany Hughes return to ITV for a brand new series of Britain’s Secret Treasures. Following its success last year, Michael, Bettany and a host of guest presenters uncover a fresh hoard of extraordinary objects found by ordinary people that have changed our understanding of British history.
Continuing its successful partnership with the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme, which is responsible for all finds in England and Wales, the new series of Britain’s Secret Treasures also joins forces with Treasure Trove Scotland and the Ulster Museum to include stories of outstanding artefacts discovered by members of the public in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Each and every artefact included in the new eight-part series has been selected due to its national importance, beauty and cultural or historic significance. All are artefacts, objects or treasures that have been left, lost or discarded by our ancestors, which reveal the remarkable story of how we once lived.
Once again Michael and Bettany are joined by a host of guest presenters including Kevin Whateley, Mariella Frostrup, Katherine Jenkins and Vic Reeves, to find out more about the stories behind each item and to meet many of the members of the public who discovered them.
In episode two, we find out more about some erotic Roman figures, a banking crisis from the ancient world and a lost medal is returned to its rightful owners.
Comedian Vic Reeves says: “Don’t tell anyone, but I’m an absolute history geek. I keep a metal detector in the back of my car at all times. Happiness is snuffling around in a muddy field. Only I have never ever found anything exciting.”
Vic investigates an intriguing bronze helmet dug up near his home in Kent in 2012, discovered by retired plumber Trevor Baker and dating back to the first century AD.
The helmet and a brooch are believed to be from a Late Iron Age cremation burial from near Canterbury. Although it was quite common in Kent at that time to bury cremated material in a cloth pinned with a brooch, it is highly unusual to find a helmet acting as a vessel for the ashes.
The helmet is believed to be of a type that could have been used by Caesar’s troops, or their indigenous allies and enemies.
Historian Tom Holland finds about more about a discovery made in 2007 by local man Barry Sieger, who was treasure-hunting in fields close to Hadrian's Wall when he made an amazing discovery of eight Roman copper coins. The value of the coins lies in the story they have to tell, as they are evidence that the Romans ran a single European Currency 1600 years before the Euro we know today.
Tom says: “This coin may not look much but I think there is something really rather chilling about it. This is actually what a real financial crisis looks like…What we are talking about is the end of currency in Britain full stop.”
Also this week, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson is on the trail of a World War Medal found in Cardiff.
Tanni says: “This First World War medal evokes many mixed emotions in me. My Grandfather fought in the First War, was badly injured and it was something he never spoke about.”
In 2011, a Welsh council worker was sent to unblock a drain and much to his surprise discovered a First World War victory medal, engraved with the name of the recipient, A P Brown.
It belonged not to a Welsh soldier, but to one from the North East of England. Tanni sets out to discover how the medal found its way to Wales and then to return the medal to Private Brown’s descendants.
And Michael Buerk finds out more about a shocking bronze knifehandle from a late Roman period in Britain, which depicts three individuals in sexual activity, with one of the women holding a severed head!