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Small Gold Bible Discovered by UK Metal Detectorist - Amazing Medieval Treasure May Be Tied to King Richard III

An 1803 engraving of Richard III of England. (Image credit: A portrait from the Welsh Portrait Collection at the National Library of Wales/Public Domain {P.D.-1996})

While metal detecting a farm field in the United Kingdom, a woman found a small gold Bible which historians believe may have been worn by early English royalty. 

The Daily Mail reports Buffy Bailey, an NHS nurse from Lancaster, was swinging her detector near Sheriff Hutton Castle in North Yorkshire with her husband Ian when her machine picked up a strong signal close to a footpath. 

Northern Yorkshire is located about 208 miles north of London and about 60 miles northeast of Manchester. 

Expecting to find an old pull tab off of a soda can or an animal tag, she dug down a few inches and unearthed a small, solid gold Bible, which she first thought was an old charm from a bracelet.  But after she took a photo of the artifact with her phone, she realized it was solid gold.   

The small object is just a little more than half an inch long, weighs around 5 grams or .18 of an ounce, and is either 22-carat or 24-carat gold. It dates back to the 15th century and is believed to have belonged to a relative of King Richard III, the Mail reported. 

The small golden Bible is currently being studied by the Yorkshire Museum which has described the find as "internationally important," according to the newspaper. 

"They told us the engravings were definitely St. Leonard and St. Margaret - who were both patron saints of childbirth," Bailey told the Mail. "In the 1400s around 40 to 60 percent of women died in childbirth, so the owner may have prayed with this object as a kind of protection - it may have been part of a birthing girdle or a bookmark for the Bible."

"Whoever had it commissioned must have been incredibly wealthy - there's nothing else like it in the world. It could be worth £100,000 ($134,935) or more," she said. 

According to the Mail, experts have likened and connected it to the 'Middleham Jewel,' a gold pendant that was discovered by a metal detectorist 40 miles away near Middleham Castle, the childhood home of Richard III. 

The pendant sold at auction for more than $3.3 million in 1992. 

Julian Evan-Hart, an expert in rare treasure and the editor of Treasure Hunting magazine, described the small gold Bible to CBN News as an "extremely high-status artifact."

"Once again the hobby of metal detecting is responsible for a find that enriches our knowledge concerning our history and heritage,” Evan-Hart said in an email.

“Buffy found a delightful medieval gold, what I assume is a Bible being the major respected religious literary work of the time.  Its precise function at present evades us but it would seem to be some sort of decorative item in association with perhaps a leather thonged bookmark - perhaps for a Bible. The great and important aspect about this is its "unique" category which allows everyone the opportunity to get involved and have their own opinions and ideas as to what its purpose might be,” he noted.

“The style of iconographic artwork is characteristic of the medieval period, say late 13th to early 15th century, and similar styles have been found on a wide variety of silver and gold rings as well as copper-alloy vessels of the period. It has been suggested that there may be some linkage to the famous Middleham Jewel perhaps in it originating from an apprentice at the same jewelry workshop,” Evan-Hart explained.

“Whatever, it is an extremely high-status artifact and one can only ponder and marvel at just who it was that once owned it,” he told CBN News. “Does history record any significant individuals visiting the area? Well, that's the stuff of research that will be stimulated by the unearthing of such a find. A fantastic artifact and one that without Buffy and her detector would undoubtedly have remained in that pasture field, possibly for another 700 years or so or potentially forever.”

Matt Lewis, a specialist at the Richard III Society has examined the Bible. He told the Mail the artifact is very similar to the Middleham Jewel and even the engravings look alike. 

The newspaper reported the museum will finish its examination of the gold Bible and then decide whether to buy it based on an auctioneer's estimate. 

According to the U.K. treasure laws, the money will then be divided between Bailey and the landowner. 

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