A very large and important find of a hoard of Roman coins was recently discovered by a novice metal detector user in the Shrewsbury area. This is probably one of the largest coin hoards ever discovered in Shropshire. The finder, Mr Nic. Davies, bought his first metal detector a month ago and this is his first find made with it. The hoard was discovered close to a public bridleway on land that Mr Davies did not have permission to detect on. All land is owned by someone and it is important that permission to search is obtained in advance. The coins were placed in a very large storage jar which had been buried in the ground around 1700 years ago. They had lain undisturbed since then waiting for someone to find them again.
Mr Davies, excavated the hoard and brought all his finds to Peter Reavill, Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme based with Shropshire Council Museum Service. Hoard’s such as this are covered by the Treasure Act, being more than 10 coins of less than 10% precious metal which have been deliberately hidden. By law all finds which represent Treasure must be reported to HM Coroner. The hoard of coins will be taken to the British Museum for detailed conservation and full identification, a report will be sent to the Coroner and it is hoped that the museum service will acquire them to be displayed in the New Museum planned for the Music Hall, in Shrewsbury.
From a brief look at the hoard there seems to be a minimum of 10,000 coins; the majority of which are corroded together in the pot. The finder did not touch the coins from within the pot and this will mean that staff at the British Museum will be able to excavate the coins carefully. This will enable them to know whether the coins were placed in the pot all at the same time, or were added to piecemeal over time. The coins are all bronze (copper alloy), and some of them have been silver washed. They are known as nummi (which just means coin) and were common during the 4th century AD. From the coins which have been provisionally identified they seem to date from the period 320 – 340 AD, late in the reign of Constantine I and the House of Constantine. Amongst the coins are issues celebrating the anniversary of the founding of Rome and Constantinople. In total the coins and the pot weigh in excess of 70 lbs. The pottery vessel is very large and probably used in the domestic part of a farmhouse as a large storage jar. It does not seem to be locally made. It is very fine being extraordinarily thin.
The finder marked the findspot and subsequently took Peter Reavill and archaeologists from Shropshire Council to the findspot. A small excavation was undertaken with the hope of understanding how the coins were placed in the ground. This was a success and it seems most likely that the pot was buried in the ground probably part full and was subsequently topped up before a large stone was placed on top acting as a marker. The top of the pot had been broken in the ground and a large number of the coins spread in the area. All of these were recovered during the excavation with the help of a metal detector. This added at least another 300 coins to the total. We now know that there are no more coins (or another hoard) in the area. The coins within the hoard represent some of the most commonly found coins from Roman Britain; most metal detectorists will have one or two in their collection. The importance of this find is the sheer number, or material wealth they represent. It is likely that the hoard represents a person or communities wealth, possibly as a payment for a harvest. Why it was not collected by the owner is a mystery – but one that we can share and enjoy 1700 years after the fact.
“This is a very exciting find and probably the largest coin hoard, at least in modern times, to be recovered from the County.” says Emma-Kate Lanyon, Curator for Shropshire Council Museum Service.
“The Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme is now nearly 12 years old and has vastly increased our understanding of Shropshire’s past by bringing finds like this to the attention of archaeologists. It has also provided the museums with the opportunity to acquire these artefacts for future research and display. The Museum Service will acquire the hoard with the intention to display it in the new Shrewsbury Museum planned for the Music Hall site in Shrewsbury. ”
The coins will be taken to London for detailed study, a report will then be sent to the Coroner and the find will be valued by a Government panel. Thanks are extended to the Coroners Service, Shropshire Council, English Heritage and the British Museum all of who have contributed to this exciting find. For more information on the Treasure Act and the work of the Portable Antiquities Scheme either visit the website www.finds.org.uk, contact Peter Reavill on 01584 813641 or visit one of his regular finds days. If anyone has found Roman coins, or other finds I would be happy to see them – I have a finds day at the Guildhall, Newport (Shropshire) on Saturday 12th September between 11-2pm organised by Newport History Society.