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‘Fairy-tale’ treasure buried 650 years ago unearthed in Austrian’s backyard

Associated Press / April 23, 2011

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VIENNA — A man turning dirt in his backyard stumbled onto buried treasure — hundreds of pieces of centuries-old jewelry and other precious objects that Austrian authorities described yesterday as a fairy-tale find.

Austria’s department in charge of national antiquities said the trove consists of more than 200 rings, brooches, ornate belt buckles, gold-plated silver plates, and other pieces or fragments, many encrusted with pearls, fossilized coral, and other ornaments. It says the objects are about 650 years old and are being evaluated for their provenance and worth.

While not assigning a monetary value to the buried treasure, the enthusiastic language from the normally staid Federal Office for Memorials reflected the significance it attached to the discovery. “Fairy tales still exist!’’ said its statement. “Private individual finds sensational treasure in garden.’’

The statement gave no details, and an automated telephone message yesterday said the office had closed early for Good Friday. But the Austria Press Agency cited memorials office employee Karin Derler as saying the man came across the “breathtaking’’ objects years ago while digging in his back yard to expand a small pond.

The weekly Profil magazine identified the man as Andreas K. from Wiener Neustadt, south of Vienna, and said he asked not to be named. Although he found the ornaments in 2007, the man did not report it to the memorials office until after rediscovering the dirt-encrusted objects in a basement box while packing up after selling his house two years ago, said Profil.

The soil had dried and some had fallen off, revealing precious metal and jewels. He posted photos on the Internet, where collectors alerted him to the potential value of the pieces, leading him to pack them up and lug them to the memorials office, the magazine said.

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