Metal detectorist uncovers Roman treasure hoard in England

Metal detectorist uncovers Roman treasure hoard in England


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A person with a metal detector uncovered some beautiful items of a Roman period burial from around 200 AD in a field in England north of London. An archaeologist says the items were likely owned by a wealthy person.

“Discovered late last year by a local metal detectorist in a field in Kelshall, a complete Roman jug was the first thing to be found,” says the North Hertfordshire District Council website . A bronze dish, a larger jug and then a third jug were soon uncovered. Realizing this was an important find it was reported and Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, North Hertfordshire District Council’s (NHDC) Archaeology and Outreach Officer, decided that it would be a good idea to investigate further.

“Once the dig was underway, glass bottles, an iron lamp and wall mounting bracket, two layers of hobnails from a pair of shoes and a box with bronze corner bindings were uncovered. Two shattered, but otherwise complete, mosaic glass dishes stood on top of a decayed wooden box which held two broken clear glass cups and a pair of blue glass handles. The largest glass bottle was hexagonal, and contained cremated bone and a worn bronze coin dating from AD 174-5. A rare octagonal bottle stood next to it. A major find was mosaic glass dishes likely made in Alexandria, Egypt, around AD 200.”

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This mosaic glass dish in the Louvre is similar, though a different color, from the one found recently near London. (Marie Lan-Nguyen/ Wikimedia Commons )

The owner of the field, a farmer, and the metal detectorist own the items now, but the North Hertsfordshire Museum Service would like to buy the items for display in a new museum that will open later in 2015.

"After 1800 years, finds like these still impress us with their workmanship,” said Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, the North Hertfordshire District Council’s Archaeology and Outreach officer. “Working together with the metal detectorist, NHDC’s archaeologist and the Finds Liaison Officer, were able to uncover the past and find out and understand so much more about the lives of people in Roman North Herts.”

The Romans invaded the British Isles in 43 AD on order of Emperor Claudius. There was resistance to their occupation, particularly by Celtic Druids in Wales, says the website Historic UK . Other resistance came from the British chieftain Caractacus of the Catuvallauni tribe. He fled to Wales and rallied the locals but was captured in 51 AD. He was taken to Rome and appeared in a triumphal procession of Claudius. The Romans later released him in light of his courage, and he died in Rome.

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For 10 years there was peace. Then Prasutagus of the Iceni tribe died and his wife, Queen Boudica, rebelled . Her two daughters had been raped and her lands taken by Romans. Allying with the Trinovantes tribes, she rebelled and burned Londinium (London), Camulodunum (Colchester) and Verulamium (St. Albans). The Romans wiped out her army on their way back from trying to quell the Druids in Anglesey.

Boudica leads the rebellion against the Romans in 61 AD. (Joseph Martin Kronheim painting/ Wikimedia Commons )

The Romans conquered all the way to northeast Scotland. Then in 122 AD Emperor Hadrian ordered a wall built separating what are now England and Scotland. Another Roman wall was later built farther north, but eventually the boundary again became Hadrian’s Wall.

A part of Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland (Jamesflomonosoff/ Wikimedia Commons )

“The Romans never did succeed in subduing all of Britain,” says Historic UK. “They always had to maintain a significant military presence to control the threat from the unconquered tribes. But most people in southern Britain settled down to Roman order and discipline. Towns appeared for the first time across the country, including York, Chester, St. Albans, Bath, Lincoln, Gloucester and Colchester. All of these major centres are still linked today by the system of Roman military roads radiating from the great port of London such as Ermine Street, Watling Street and the Fosse Way. … [The] aristocracy may have increased status by adopting Roman ways and practices such as regular bathing. The vast majority of the populace would remain relatively untouched by Roman civilisation, living off the land and eking out a living.”

Featured image: The treasure-hunters. Working with a metal detector. Credit: Lamzin Vladimir / Dreamstime.

By Mark Miller


First-time metal detectorist finds a trove of Roman and Viking treasures – wrapped in a supermarket plastic bag

A first-time metal detectorist unearthed trove of stolen Roman and Viking treasures wrapped in an supermarket plastic bag.

Englishman Charles Cartwright was searching through a field in Polfields Coppice, Doddenham on May 7 when he discovered nearly 300 historic items, including jewelry, medieval and Bronze age pieces, and Egyptian relics.

The hoard, which was inside an Aldi bag, had been stolen in a burglary from a home in Ludlow, Shropshire, in 2017.

Cartwright reported the find to the landowner and coroners' office, who then traced it back to its rightful owners. Police said it was worth in excess of £5,500 ($7,750).

"I put my spade in about a quarter of a foot and I heard it tinkle on something metal," Cartwright said, according to the BBC.

"I moved it to [one] side and I saw a large silver jug, so I uncovered that, lifted it it out and it weighed a hell of a lot because it was full of water.

"Inside the jug was an Aldi plastic bag and inside that was the other 271 items."

Cartwright said the find was "exhilarating" but seeing the plastic bag raised suspicions, so he decided to contact the police.

"You always hear stories like this, but you never get to be a part of one. So it is exciting to be part of such a happy conclusion," he added.

The owner of the items, a lifelong antique collector, said he was thrilled to have the collection back.

"We had resigned ourselves that we wouldn't get them back as they had been gone that long, you just don't even think about them being returned anymore," he said.

The owner said he had attempted to offer Cartwright a reward for his troubles, which he declined, but said he hoped to meet him and "buy him a pint or two" in the future.


Mysteries of Mercia

It is no longer politically correct to refer to the period as the dark ages – but Anglo-Saxon England remains a shadowy place, with contradictory and confusing sources and archaeology. Yet out of it came much that is familiar in modern Britain, including its laws, its parish boundaries, a language that came to dominate the world, as well as metalwork and manuscript illumination of dazzling intricacy and beauty.

Mercia was one of Britain's largest and most aggressive kingdoms, stretching from the Humber to London, its kings and chieftains mounting short but ferocious wars against all their neighbours, and against one another: primogeniture had to wait for the Normans, so it was rare for a king to reign unchallenged and die in his bed.

They were nominally Christian by the date of the Staffordshire hoard, but sources including the Venerable Bede suggest that their faith was based more on opportune alliances than fervour.

In south Staffordshire, at the heart of the kingdom, Tamworth was becoming the administrative capital and Lichfield the religious centre as the cult grew around the shrine of Saint Chad. There were few other towns, and most villages were still small settlements of a few dozen thatched buildings. Travel, if essential, would have been easier by boat: archaeology suggests that much of the Roman road network was decaying, and in many places scrub and forest was taking back land which had been farmed for centuries.

The metalwork in the hoards came from a world very remote from the lives of most people, in mud and wattle huts under thatched roofs, living by farming, hunting, fishing, almost self-sufficient with their own weavers, potters and leather workers, needing to produce only enough surplus to pay dues to the land owner. A failing harvest would have been a far greater disaster than a battle lost or the death of one king and the rise of another.

The world of their nobles is vividly evoked in poems like Beowulf, probably transcribed long after they became familiar as fireside recitations, of summer warfare and winter feasting in the beer hall, where generous gift giving was as important as wealth.

Rich and poor lived in the incomprehensible shadow of a vanished civilisation, the broken cement and stone teeth of Roman ruins studding the countryside, often regarded with dread and explained as the work of giants or sorcerers. One poem in Old English evokes the eerie ruins of a bathing place, possibly Bath itself: "death took all the brave men away, their places of war became deserted places, the city decayed."


Real-life detectorists: The metal hunters who are digging up a treasure trove of British history

A quarter of a century ago, the biggest Roman hoard of coins and artefacts ever discovered in Britain was uncovered by an amateur metal detectorist. David Barnett goes inside in the world of the treasure-hunting hobbyist

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The first question I ask Steve Critchley is whether he watches The Detectorists, and what he thinks about it.

The third season of this gentle comedy, written by and starring Mackenzie Crook with Toby Jones as an odd couple united by their passion for metal detecting, has just started on BBC4, and has focused the spotlight on this very British activity. What could be more quintessentially of these isles, than the silhouette of a lone figure sweeping a metal detector back and forth in contemplative solitude in some remote English field?

“I do chuckle,” admits Critchley. He’s been metal detecting for 40 years, and served for 16 of those as the chairman of the National Council for Metal Detecting. Now he acts as policy adviser to the body. He’s pretty impressed with the way the sitcom portrays metal detecting, and the nuances of the hobby it touches upon. He adds: “I’ve a lot of experience of metal detecting clubs, and a lot of what they show is very true to life. It does raise a smile.”

Originally from Yorkshire, Critchley now ploughs his metal-detecting furrows in Cambridgeshire, where he’s lived since 1985 – “I came down to work for two years, and never left” – and at least a couple of weekends a month he’ll be out with his kit, seeing what he can see.

Perhaps he’s looking for the next Hoxne Hoard. This is the gold standard of metal detecting: the holy grail of the hobby, and it came to light 25 years ago today. On 16 November 1992, metal detectorist Eric Lawes went out in his home village of Hoxne (in Suffolk) at the request of local farmer Peter Whatling, who had lost a prized hammer on one of his fields and thought Lawes might help turn it up.

Lawes didn’t find the hammer, but he did discover something else: spoons, coins and silver and gold jewellery. Lawes and Whatling immediately notified Suffolk County Council, who owned the field on which Whatling was a tenant farmer, and a team of professional archaeologists descended on the site.

They discovered the rest of what became known as the Hoxne Hoard: the largest find of late-Roman artefacts ever made in Britain. Because the hoard was contained in a large box, it was designated Treasure Trove – in other words, something that had been hidden with the intent to retrieve it, rather than just lost or abandoned.

Proper, actual buried treasure. It was valued at £1.75m, and money to that value was paid from the Crown to Lawes, as per the rules at the time.

Lawes shared his reward with Whatling, and the Hoxne Hoard was taken to the British Museum, where it can be seen still today. A couple of years later in 1996, the Treasure Act was passed, which altered the regulations on Treasure Trove finds – meaning that rewards were shared between finders, tenants and landowners, ending the ages-old rule of “finders keepers”.

But Steve Critchley doesn’t go out most weekends expecting to find another Hoxne Hoard. Some newcomers to the activity do, though. Critchley says: “There are those who think it’s a way to make some easy money. I tell them they’re better off putting a pound on the lottery – the odds are much better than expecting to find something valuable while metal detecting.”

Critchley’s high point could be said to be a small hoard of 49 Roman coins he turned up a few years ago, but for him and the thousands of other detectorists who turn out every weekend, it’s not about finding something of monetary value it’s more about the thrill of the chase.

Although “thrill” might be the wrong word to use. Metal detecting is an often solitary, slow pastime, which more often than not turns up little more than a few buttons or a sewing needle. But wait, for in such innocuous items buried in the soil, there’s a picture of an England lost to time.

Buttons, hairclips, loose change – that’s what detectorists like Critchley call “casual losses”. Things not buried deliberately, but just accidentally discarded. And through such finds, stories can be told across the chasm of years.

“Imagine finding a bit of loose change, then some more further along, and some more,” says Critchley. “Then it emerges that there was probably a path across this field at some point in the past. Or say you find some buttons. You can imagine men working the field on a hot day, taking off their waistcoat, a button pinging off. A little further away you’ll perhaps find a needle, lost by one of the farm-worker’s wives who sat at the edge of the field, sewing, while the men worked.”

These are visions of a time long gone that will never be turned up by professional archaeological digs, which mainly take place at sites where there is some hard evidence of a major find, or at the behest of commercial developers who are requested to carry out a historical survey before commencing work on a new housing estate.

Minor they might seem, but all the same, the army of detectorists – especially those who, like Critchley, log and extrapolate their data – are uncovering and preserving our very history. And not just recent history, says Critchley under those farmers’ fields lie other, older agricultural systems, sometimes going back as far as the Bronze Age.

So if your curiosity for history – or hunger for a million pound trove – has been whetted, what should you do? The answer is not to rush out and buy a metal detector.

“I get so many inquiries from people saying they’ve bought a detector and now want to know where they can go,” he says. “That’s what you should be finding out first before you spend any money.”

The kit for metal detecting can cost anything from a couple of hundred pounds, to a couple of thousand. Buying the gear isn’t the problem finding somewhere to use it might be. What you can’t just do is head off into the countryside and start swinging your detector around. All land is owned by someone, and to detect on it you need permission.

“There’s only one way to do that, and that’s go knocking on doors and asking,” says Critchley. But even then, it’s not so simple. That farmer’s field might already be the turf of one or more detectorists they’re unlikely to want the competition, and the farmer won’t want more people than he’s happy with turning up on to his land at the weekends.

Detectorists such as Critchley build up a relationship with the owners of the land on which they detect. Sometimes a gentleman’s agreement is shaken upon other times, contracts will be drawn up. For finds that are not classed as Treasure Trove, the ownership falls to the landowner, no matter who finds it.

It might be possible to agree to share everything 50-50, or to give the landowner first refusal on whether any items are kept. Most of the time, as with buttons or scatterings of coins, the farmer will be happy for the detectorist to keep them – but it’s something that needs thrashing out beforehand.

Detectorists and landowners, especially farmers, can develop a relationship of mutual trust and respect. Critchley will be popping in to see many of his farmers for a sociable Christmas drink. They know who he is, when he comes to the fields. He can keep an eye out for illegal practices on the fields: people hanging about farm buildings who shouldn’t be there, hare-coursers or poachers.

Sometimes farmers might charge a fee for detectorists to use their land, a practice Critchley doesn’t agree with. Sometimes they might allow practically free access, which can lead to mild competitiveness. Critchley says: “Sometimes when that happens, one group or individual will try to out-gun the other, maybe taking the day off on Friday to detect on a site when they know the other people can only go at the weekends.”

But largely, it’s a civilised, agreeable activity. And for those who can’t obtain access to fields themselves, there’s a growing number of detecting rallies across the country, where detectorists are charged an admission fee to access a site in relatively large numbers.

Metal detecting has grown in popularity even Mackenzie Crook, since starting writing and acting in The Detectorists, has taken up the hobby. Critchley says: “The high point was probably the 1980s, and then it dropped off a bit in the 1990s. The last four or five years, though, it’s absolutely shot up.”

Perhaps that’s to do with The Detectorists perhaps it’s the interest in archaeology from shows like Time Team (now an artefact of television history) and its successors perhaps it’s the deep-seated desire to turn up a hoard like Eric Lawes discovered at Hoxne.

Or perhaps, for thousands of those who spend their weekends in a muddy field like Steve Critchley, it’s because being a detectorist offers the chance to get down and dirty with real-life history.

For more information, contact the National Council for Metal Detecting at ncmd.co.uk


First-time metal detectorist uncovers hoard of stolen Roman and Viking treasure

A metal detectorist who was using his gadget for the first time was stunned when he stumbled across a hoard of stolen Roman and Viking treasure.

Charles Cartwright, 43, was using his new detector in a field earlier this month when it suddenly started buzzing.

He started digging and was amazed to find a stash of Roman and Viking jewellery, Egyptian statues and Bronze age treasures just a few inches under the dirt and stuffed inside a plastic Aldi shopping bag.

Charles contacted the landowner and coroner’s office and discovered the items were worth £5,500 had been stolen from a home in Ludlow, Shropshire in March 2017.

Police believe the thieves buried the valuable haul 30 miles away in a field in Polfields Coppice, Doddenham, on the border between Worcestershire and Herefordshire.

West Mercia Police have now reunited the owner with over 270 items of treasure.

Mr Cartwright, an ecological projects manager from Bromyard, Herefordshire, said: "It was my very first time out metal detecting and I had been trying for a couple of hours in the morning when I decided to try in an area of woodland and I picked up a signal of a mixture of iron and gold.

“I put in my spade about a quarter of a foot deep and quickly heard the sound of metal then cleared the dirt with my hands.

“I found the jug with the bag stuffed inside containing the rest of the items.

“At first when I received the signal I thought I’d got a false reading but I was amazed when I picked the jug up and it was shining a very bright silver colour.

“There was an Aldi plastic bag inside so I immediately thought they had been stolen and hidden and were not ancient.

“I don’t think the Romans had Aldi but they might’ve had Waitrose.

“I marked the location and immediately went to speak to the farmer who owned the land and rang the police who told me to take them home.

“I’m not an expert but I recognised some things were early Iron Age and Roman.

“In total there were 271 items of jewellery in the jug including trinkets, rings and bracelets.

“I’m told they are worth £5,500 and they are ancient but not high-value items.

“It was just amazing to find something so ancient on my first go and my priority was to get them back to the police as soon as I could.”

The dad-of-three said two police officers came to his house the following morning to collect the treasure and take a statement.

He also reported it to the coroner and finds officer for Worcestershire.

Mr Cartwright added: “I’m not getting a reward but I was delighted to reunite them with the gentleman.

“It was a real privilege to have something so old and historic in my hands if only for a few hours.

“They might’ve laid there for a thousand years if I hadn’t gone past with the metal detector, it was an incredible bit of luck.

“It was exhilarating, exciting and I was chuffed to return the items to the gentleman.

“He is a private collector who bought them at auction and his house was ransacked in March 2017.

“The auction slip for some of the items was still in the plastic bag.

“That was only a fraction of what was taken and the rest has not been found.

“The items were on their way to the British Museum until police realised who they belonged to.

“The collector has thanked me for returning them and has invited me to his house so I can have a better look at the treasure and learn more about them."

The owner, who did not want to be named, added: “I really don’t know what to say.

“I am so pleased to get these items back, we had resided ourselves that we wouldn’t get them back as they had been gone that long, you just don’t even think about them being returned anymore.”

Detective Constable Tom Court said: "The metal detecting community have helped to reunite the rightful owners with the Roman and Viking jewellery and other treasure items.

“We will continue to investigate who took these items and buried them.

"We are exceptionally pleased to be able to return the items to the rightful owner and once again thank Charles for finding and reporting them promptly.”


The Seaton Down Hoard: Amateur metal detector uncovers 22,000 Roman coins

An East Devon metal detector enthusiast has stumbled upon one of the largest hoards of Roman coins ever found in Britain, prompting a local museum to launch a campaign to buy the “remarkable” collection for the nation.

The British Museum announced the discovery of the Seaton Down Hoard today. Comprising of about 22,000 coins dating back more than 1,700 years, it is the fifth largest find of Roman coins in Britain.

Laurence Egerton, 51, a semi-retired builder from East Devon, discovered two ancient coins “the size of a thumbnail” buried near the surface of a field with his metal detector in November last year.

After digging deeper, his shovel came up full of the copper-alloy coins. “They just spilled out all over the field,” he said. “It was an exciting moment. I had found one or two Roman coins before but never so many together.”

The metal detectorist called in the experts and watched amazed as archaeologists discovered thousands more coins buried about a foot deep. To ensure the site was not tampered with Mr Egerton slept in his car nearby “for three cold nights” until the dig was finished.

“It’s by far the biggest find I’ve ever had. It really doesn’t get any better. It is so important to record all of these finds properly because it is so easy to lose important insights into our history,” Mr Egerton said. He found the coins near the Honeyditches site in Devon where a Roman villa had previously been excavated.

Bill Horner, county archaeologist at Devon County Council, said: “We realised the significance and mobilised a team as fast as we could.” He continued: “The coins were in remarkably good condition. Coming out of the ground you could see the portrait faces a family tree of the House of Constantine.”

Over the past 10 months the coins have been lightly cleaned, identified and catalogued at the British Museum, although there is still more work to do. They range from late AD 260 to almost AD 350. Mr Horner said the coins bore a range of portraits, describing it as a “family tree of the House of Constantine”.

The British Museum called the scale of the find “remarkable", adding that it was "one of the largest hoards ever found within the whole Roman Empire”. The largest find in Britain was the Cunetio Hoard of almost 55,000 coins discovered near Mildenhall, Wiltshire in 1978

The coins would not have been particularly valuable at the time with experts estimated they would then have been worth about four gold coins, equivalent to a worker’s pay for two years.

The Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery in Exeter hopes to raise money to buy the collection and appealed to the public to donate.

The hoard is yet to be fully valued, but one expert said it would be worth less than £100,000. The proceeds will be split between Mr Egerton and the landowner, Clinton Devon Estates.

One of the coins is particularly special. It marks the one millionth find of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, set up in 1997 to provide a record of all the finds brought in by members of the public.

The scheme is managed by the British Museum and funded by the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport’s grant-in-aid to the institution.

Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum said: “You know what it’s like you sit waiting for the millionth object to come along and 22,000 come along at once.”

The special coin, called a nummus, was struck by Constantine the Great to celebrate the inauguration of the new city of Constantinople, now Istanbul.

The scheme was set up to keep track of all the finds by metal detectorists and enthusiasts and provide a resource for scholars to study historical objects. Since 1997 a total of 500 Roman coin hoards have been discovered across the country.

Major finds since the PAS scheme was set up include the Staffordshire Hoard, dating to the 7th century, the largest Anglo-Saxon hoard of gold and silver ever found. There have also been significant Viking and Bronze Age finds.

The British Museum said recording the finds has helped revolutionise the understanding of battlefields including Naseby in 1645 and the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. There, the find of a silver-gilt boar badge helped pinpoint where Richard III met his death.

Successful metallers

The Staffordshire Hoard

Terry Herbert found the largest ever Anglo-Saxon hoard of gold and silver with his metal detector in 2009. It consisted of over 3,500 items, almost exclusively “war-gear”.

The Frome Hoard

A collection of 52,500 silver and copper alloy coins were discovered in a round clay pot by hospital chef Dave Crisp in 2010. They dated to the reign of Carausius

The Vale of York Hoard

David Whelan and his son Andrew used metal detectors to discover the treasure in 2007 in an empty field. The 10th century Viking hoard included 617 silver coins and other items.

Boughton Malherbe Hoard

One of the largest Bronze Age hoards was discovered in Kent in 2011. The 346 artefacts, which date to 800BC were discovered by friends Wayne Coomber and Nick Hales.


Metal detectorist finds Viking treasure in Britain

LONDON (Reuters) - A hoard of Viking coins, silver and jewelry could shine new light on the history of how the Kingdom of England came to exist, after it was discovered by a British amateur metal detectorist.

The 186 coins, seven pieces of jewelry and 15 silver ingots were buried around the end of the 870s AD as Anglo-Saxon kings, in what is today England, began to fight back against Viking expansion across Britain.

“The hoard comes from a key moment in English history,” said Gareth Williams, curator of Early Medieval Coinage at the British Museum.

Detectorist James Mather found the hoard, described as “nationally significant” by archaeologists, in October in Watlington, Oxfordshire and his discovery was announced on Thursday at the British Museum in London.

Vikings had been attacking Anglo-Saxon positions in today’s Britain since the late 8th century but at the end of the 9th century, King Alfred of Wessex, Alfred the Great, defeated Viking forces at the battle of Edington, in southwest England.

It was a turning point that eventually caused Anglo-Saxon power to be unified as the Kingdom of England in the 10th century.

The find includes rare coins from Alfred’s Wessex and from King Ceolwulf II’s Kingdom of Mercia. It also contains Viking arm-rings and silver ingots.

“This hoard has the potential to provide important new information on relations between Mercia and Wessex,” Williams said.

The hoard will now be assessed by an inquest at which a coroner will decide whether it can be officially regarded as treasure. If it is, Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum has expressed interest in helping put it on display.

The find is one of many made by members of the public every year. These finds are recorded by Britain’s Portable Antiquities Scheme which can be viewed online.

Over 100,000 archaeological finds were reported to the scheme in 2014 and 1,008 finds were declared as treasure. Ninety percent of this treasure was found by people with metal detectors.


Suffolk metal detectorist finds coin hoard in field behind pub

Luke Mahoney, 40, discovered more than 1,000 silver coins on land belonging to The Lindsey Rose pub in Lindsey, Suffolk.

The hoard is thought to be worth at least £100,000.

Mr Mahoney said: "That feeling of scraping the dirt away and seeing the coins is indescribable."

The father of three, who runs his own metal detector shop, had been out in the 15-acre (6.1 hectares) field on 26 July when he made the discovery.

He said he had found a gold coin and a sixpence in the morning, before retiring to the pub for Sunday lunch.

On his return, he "almost immediately hit this signal and I pulled out this Charles I coin. Then I hit another signal, and another".

He added: "They were everywhere. It was pandemonium."

Charles Buckle, 26, who runs the pub, said: "Luke gets quite excited about everything he finds so I was like 'yeah OK,' but he kept ringing and told me I had to come down and see what he had found."

Mr Mahoney unearthed 1,061 silver coins dating back to the 15th to 17th Centuries.

He said the most popular theory from experts and historians was the coins were buried by a wealthy landowner who had gone off to fight in the Civil War.

Nigel Mills, from international coin specialists Dix Noonan Webb, said the coins would fetch at least £100,000 at auction.

He said the earliest coin in the find was an Elizabeth I era shilling dating back to 1573-78, while it also contained a number of Charles I half crowns from 1641-43.


Roman treasures found by metal detectorists sell for £185k

A 2,000-year-old hoard of Roman treasures discovered by two metal detectorists has sold for £185,000 at auction.

The incredible collection of "nationally important" artefacts were found by James Spark, 40, and Mark Didlick, 44, in a field in Ryedale, North Yorkshire, in May last year.

The Ryedale Ritual Bronzes include a perfectly preserved bust of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, which would likely have been mounted on the head of a priest’s sceptre.

As well as the bust, the hoard contains an equestrian statuette of the god Mars, a horse head knife handle and a large bronze pendulum.

The collection – believed to have been buried as part of a Roman religious ceremony in around AD160 – was expected to fetch between £70,000 to £90,000.

But today, Thursday 20 May, it smashed its estimate to sell for the six-figure sum when it went under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers in Derbyshire.

The ancient relics were sold to an anonymous London phone bidder after they fought off competition from two other bidders.

Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons, said: “It was an extraordinary result for an extraordinary lot.

"It was honour to auction these fascinating historical items – antiquities which had not seen been for 1,800 years.

"This was a lot like no other. It provided a tantalising insight into Roman life centuries ago.”

Hansons&apos historica expert, Adam Staples, said: “I’m thrilled for the finders and landowner who watched the auction. It was a fantastic result.

“This hoard of artefacts was probably buried as a religious offering which marked the closure of a rural shrine or the death of a priest.

"The artefacts would have formed a suite of ritual implements to be utilised when performing religious ceremonies and for predicting the future.

“The hoard was taken to York Museum and recorded through the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme.”

Marcus Aurelius became emperor in March of AD 161 and his 19-year reign was one of relative peace and prosperity for Rome.

However, in AD 165 troops returning from Mesopotamia brought with them a virus that swept across the entire Empire – the Antonine Plague.

Now believed to be an outbreak of smallpox, this ancient pandemic devastated the Roman citizens, with an estimated 10% of the population losing their lives.

An accomplished scholar, author and philosopher, Aurelius faced the challenge of the pandemic with his own stoic attitude.

In his book Meditations he wrote: ‘How unlucky I am that this should happen to me.

&aposBut not at all. Perhaps I should say how lucky I am that I am not broken by what has happened’.


The Frome Hoard is one of the largest ever found in Britain- consisting of 52,503 Roman coins,

The Frome Hoard is a hoard of 52,503 Roman coins found in April 2010 by metal detectorist Dave Crisp near Frome in Somerset, England. The hoard is one of the largest ever found in Britain, and is also important as it contains the largest group ever found of coins issued during the reign of Carausius, who ruled Britain independently from 286 to 293 and was the first Roman emperor to strike coins in Britain.

Aggregate of coins in sticky mud and corrosion from the Frome Hoard.Source

The hoard was discovered on 11 April 2010 while Crisp was metal detecting in a field near Frome where he had previously found late Roman silver coins.The late Roman coins, eventually totalling 62, were probably the remnants of a scattered hoard, 111 of which had been found on the same farm in 1867. Whilst searching for more coins from the scattered hoard he received what he called a “funny signal” and on digging down about 35 cm (14 in) he found a small radiate coin, and the top of the pot.Realising that this must be an intact coin hoard he stopped digging and filled in the hole he had made.

Base silver radiate of Valerian I 253-60 (11 2) 2 coins Added from Flickr stream. Source

On 15 April, Crisp notified Katie Hinds, the Portable Antiquities Scheme Finds Liaison Officer for Wiltshire, that he had found the hoard of coins. On 22 April Hinds, together with Anna Booth (Finds Liaison Officer for Somerset) and Alan Graham—an independent archaeologist contracted by Somerset County Council—visited the site to carry out an emergency excavation.The excavation, led by Graham and assisted by Hinds, Booth, Crisp and members of the landowner’s family, was performed over three days, from 23 to 25 April.

Broken base silver coin Added from Flickr stream. Source

Graham initially excavated a 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) trench around the small hole that Crisp had dug, and identified the pit in which the pot had been deposited. A small black-burnished ware bowl had been inverted over the mouth of the larger pot, to form a lid. First he excavated the pit fill around the exterior of the pot, identifying organic matter which might represent packing material to protect it, and determined that the pot had been broken in situ long before its discovery in 2010. He then excavated the pot itself. Due to the weight of the contents, the need for speedy excavation due to security concerns and the difficulty in lifting the broken pot with the contents still inside—which would be the preferred archaeological method, so that the contents could be excavated in controlled, laboratory conditions—the decision was taken to excavate the coins in the field. The coins were removed in 12 layers , by which method it was hoped to determine if there was any chronological pattern in the deposition of the coins that is, whether the earliest coins were at the bottom and latest coins at the top.The coins were collected in 66 labelled bags, and in total weighed approximately 160 kg (350 lb). Graham excavated and recorded the finds, and the others bagged the coins as Graham lifted them out.

Bronze radiate of Gallienus 260-8 Rome showing Pegasus (11 2) 2 coins Added from Flickr stream.Source

On 26 April, Sam Moorhead, Finds Advisor for Iron Age and Roman coins at the British Museum, and Roger Bland, Head of the Department of Portable Antiquities and Treasure at the British Museum, drove to Frome to collect the excavated coins, and drove them back to the British Museum in London.Over the next six weeks Metals Conservator Pippa Pearce washed and dried all the coins in order to stabilise them, but did not perform a full conservation, which would have cost an additional £35,000.

Carausius 286-93 Expectate Veni (11 2) Reverse Added from Flickr stream. Source

The coins comprise 67 separate types, and date from the period 253 to 305. The vast majority of coins are made from bronze, but five are made from solid silver.

Of the 52,503 coins found, 44,245 have been identified, and the remainder are classified provisionally as “illegible” until cleaning and conservation has been completed.Of the identifiable coins, 14,788 were minted under the central Roman Empire, 28,377 were minted under the breakaway Gallic Empire, and 766 were minted under the Britannic Empire of Carausius, as shown in the table below.About 5% of the coins identified so far are from the period of Carausius, who ruled Britain from 286 to 293,and the hoard includes five silver denarii issued by Carausius, which were the only type of silver coin to be struck anywhere in the Roman Empire at that time.

Carausius obverse before and after cleaning Added from Flickr stream. Source

Most Roman coin hoards are traditionally believed to have been buried by their owners for safe-keeping, with the intention of being eventually recovered,but Sam Moorhead of the Portable Antiquities Scheme suggests that in this case the pot was so large and fragile that it could not have been easily recovered without breaking it, and so the hoard may represent communal votive offerings to the gods.

Close up of the coin hoard.Source

A coroner’s treasure inquest was held on 22 July 2010 to determine the status of the hoard. The inquest declared that the coins were treasure, and therefore became property of the Crown.However, under the terms of the 1996 Treasure Act, a museum may purchase the hoard at an officially valued price, with the purchase price being given jointly to the finder and landowner as a reward. Somerset County Council Heritage Service indicated that it wished to acquire the hoard, and put the coins on display in the new Museum of Somerset in Taunton when it re-opened in 2011.

Pile of coins from the Frome Hoard on display at the British Museum.Source

In October 2010, the hoard was valued by the Treasure Valuation Committee at £320,250, and a public appeal was launched by the Art Fund to raise this amount of money so that the hoard can be purchased by the Museum of Somerset. If the museum succeeded in raising the required money by the deadline of 1 February 2011, it would be shared equally between the finder, Dave Crisp, and the landowners, Geoff and Anne Sheppard, as a reward.

The Art Fund gave an initial £40,250 to the appeal fund. The British Museum donated 50p for each copy sold of the book about the hoard, by Moorhead et al., which was published by the museum.

The Frome Hoard at the Museum of Somerset.. Source

A selection of the coins were put on display at the British Museum on 8 July 2010 for a press photocall, and the entire hoard was subsequently displayed in Gallery 68 of the British Museum between 15 July and 31 August 2010.Some of the coins from the hoard were exhibited at Frome Library on 22 July 2010. and again on 23 October 2010The Museum of Somerset in Taunton, using a grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF), has acquired the hoard, officially valued at £320,250


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