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Sark Hoard

Sark's main contribution to the annals of the True Mysteries is the Sark hoard, a unique treasure shrouded in mystery. It was discovered by five men in the spring of 1718. They were digging a hedge trench under the direction of mill owner Henry de Carteret on the edge of a field at the highest point on the island when they discovered a clay pot with thirteen round and oblong gilt silver discs and eighteen silver coins. The find was reported to the seneschal, who declared it a treasure trove and therefore belonged to the lord Lord John Carteret, who lived far from Sark in Bedfordshire. It is not known if the treasure was received by Lord John, only seven years later it ended up in the hands of Henige Finch, 5th Earl of Winchelsea (1657-1726), whose niece was married to the liege lord.

No doubt the Earl, who was a noted antiquarian and collector, would have appreciated this treasure, which, though partially damaged, is one of the strangest and most important treasures ever found in the British Isles. The coins themselves, Roman and Gallic, would have been a great find. It was the gilded silver discs, called faleras, that distinguished the treasure, and the "curved mount," the largest and strangest item in the hoard. Faleras is an antique term referring to types of jewelry, usually round embossed metal plates of gold or silver, used to decorate horses or elephants on their heads and flanks. Originating from the Etruscans, they became the distinctive badge of consular rank in the Roman Republic, where they were the insignia of the equestrian order. Roman soldiers were awarded them for their military services. The largest pair of phaleras of the Sarka hoard depicts five and six mythological beasts respectively. Four of these animals have dog heads, donkey ears and lion bodies. Small wings grow out of the uppermost parts of the lions' front paws. Other creatures are hippocampi (a hybrid of horse and fish) with paws instead of hooves, winged griffins, and bulls. Smaller phaleras represent individual animals: some dogs, a lion, a pegasus, a unicorn, a hippocampus, a bull, an elephant, a small lion, and a cat biting a rooster. They are all believed to come from the same school or workshop, probably in first-century Thrace (region of southern Bulgaria, northeastern Greece and European Turkey). These faleras are extremely rare; only a small number of similar examples exist in museums throughout Europe. The curved mount, which depicts two large dolphins and three small fish, is unique. "There is no known object with which it can be directly compared or by which its original use can be determined with certainty," Derek Allen wrote in his expert study for the Society of Antiquaries.