If there is such a thing as “beginner’s luck,” then surely 3-year-old James Hyatt has it. The little boy went metal detecting for the first time and found a buried treasure worth $4 million dollars.
It’s every kid’s dream to find buried treasure, and that’s exactly what happened to little James Hyatt one afternoon when his father took him metal detecting for the first time. However, it wasn’t the first time for James’ granddad who had been searching for 15 years.
“James got a buzz after just five minutes,” said Jason Hyatt, who is the father of the little boy. “We saw a glint eight inches down and gently pulled the object out. Dad was blown away. He’d never found anything like it in 15 years doing his hobby. James was so excited to find treasure, though he’s too young to realize its significance.”
“It went beep beep beep,” little James recalled the event. His father started to dig. When he had dug to about 6 to 8 inches, he struck gold, literally. “Then we dug into the mud. There was gold there. We didn’t have a map – only pirates have treasure maps,” 3-year-old James explained to the media.
According to The Guardian, James discovered a 500-year-old gold reliquary, beautifully engraved with the names of the Magi and images of Christ and Saint Helena. It would once have been brilliantly colored, with enamel work filling in the letters and decoration, and may once have contained a relic of the cross. It probably dropped from the neck of some wealthy and pious person and lay undiscovered in the field for half a millennium.
The little locket was jammed shut when found. After conservation work by Marilyn Hockey at the British Museum, the back panel slid open again for the first time in centuries – but there was nothing inside except some fibers of flax, probably once grown locally. A coroner’s inquest declared the find a treasure, and it has a permanent place in the British Museum’s medieval gallery.
According to CBS, while the estimated worth of the pendant was $4 million, the family received only £70,000 for their find. The money was paid with grants from the Art Fund charity and the Friends of the Museum. The money was to be shared between the Hyatts and the landowner.
Given the imagery on the pendant, the contents were probably originally thought to be a piece of the True Cross which Saint Helena found on her trip to the Holy Land from 326 to 328 A.D, according to legend. Helena is often depicted holding the cross. On the back side is a veritable shower of blood droplets falling out of and over four incisions and a cut heart symbolizing the five wounds of Christ.
On three sides of the pendant are inscribed the names of the Three Wise Men — Iaspar (Caspar), Melcior (Melchiore), Baltasar (Balthazar) — in a lovely Lombardic script. The fourth side has a floral tendril similar to the ones on either side of Helena.
The pendant is 1 inch wide and 1.3 inches long which makes its rich decoration even more unusual and difficult to produce. Experts believe the engravings were likely enameled when the piece was new. That would have given the object a rich combination of colors on top of the precious metal, a popular style in late Medieval jewelry. Only a very wealthy person could have afforded to buy such an expensive symbol of their pious dedication to the blood and wounds of Christ.
The legend of Saint Helena is widely accepted by archeologists and historians. Even though little James’ discovery did not hold a piece of the True Cross, the pendant was designed for a noblewoman to hold such a relic. In 327 AD, Helena’s son, Constantine, the first Christian emperor of Rome, wrote to Macarius, the bishop of Jerusalem, ordering him to tear down the Temple of Venus that stood on the site of Calvary and the Holy Sepulcher and build a basilica.
According to historians, Helena traveled to the site to begin excavating, which led to the recovery of three different crosses. However, with nothing to distinguish the cross of Jesus from the crosses of the two thieves who were crucified with him, Helena had a dying woman carried to the site so she could touch each cross in turn.
After touching one of the crosses, the sick woman was instantly healed, which was taken as a sign that it was the cross upon which Our Lord had died. For the Hyatt family to have discovered this pendant, which was designed to hold such a relic and is only one of four known, is indeed a rare find.