Inquest into largest coin hoard from Shropshire

Published: Tuesday 25th October 2011 Author:

Peter with the coin hoardA very large and important find of a hoard of more than 9000 Roman coins has been declared treasure today by Mr. John Ellery, HM Coroner for North Shropshire. The hoard was discovered in August 2009 by a novice metal detector user in the Shrewsbury area. This is one of the largest coin hoards ever discovered in Shropshire and recent work by the British Museum has revealed important new information about the find.

The finder, Mr. Nic. Davies, bought his first metal detector a month before making the find in August 2009. The hoard was discovered close to a public bridleway on land that Mr Davies did not have permission to detect on. The coins were placed in a very large storage jar which had been buried in the ground around 335 AD.

Mr Davies brought the hoard to Peter Reavill, Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) based with Shropshire Museum Service. Hoards such as this are covered by the Treasure Act. By law all finds which represent Treasure must be reported to HM Coroner. With the information provided by Mr Davies, an excavation was undertaken to learn how the coins were placed in the ground. This excavation showed that the pot was buried probably part full and topped up before being sealed with a large stone that acted as both a lid and marker.

Dr. Ghey, specialist in later Roman Coins at the British Museum, stated that in total 9,315 coins were collected from the pot and associated excavation. Further study has revealed that there are two distinct layers or phases within the pot: the coins at the top date from between 333- 335 AD, whereas the coins at the bottom were made at least 10 years earlier.

The lower phases of the pot also contain several fragments of preserved cloth and an iron nail. This is hugely significant, as organic remains normally rot in the ground. The presence of these materials could suggest a nailed up bag, deposited within the hoard. This practice, although rare, is possible evidence of a ritual offering. In the Roman world gifts were given to the gods in anticipation of future results (such as recovery of stolen property, improved health or a good harvest).

The majority of the coins are known as Nummi (which just means coin). These are made of bronze (copper alloy) and have small variable traces of silver within them. Nummi are one of the most commonly found coins in Roman Britain. Estimates as to their buying power vary. It is thought that each Nummus probably had a value broadly equivalent to that of our modern £1 coin. Thus the coins are likely to represent less than one year's pay for a Roman legionary soldier. The sheer number of coins, however, still represents considerable material wealth. This could be either that of an individual or of a community.

Quotes about the Hoard:

Dr Eleanor Ghey (British Museum):

"This is an exceptional find of late Roman coins from Shropshire. It challenges the view that the wealth circulating in the south of Britain at this time had little impact on the areas further north and west. Some of the coins in the hoard were produced in the eastern Mediterranean and travelled a long distance in the short time before they were buried. The fact that the coins were still in their pot when it was excavated has given us a fascinating snapshot of Roman life. Whoever buried these coins kept their location secret for a number of years before adding more to the hoard".

Emma -Kate Lanyon, Curator for Shropshire Museums:

"This is a very exciting find and probably the largest coin hoard, at least in modern times, to be recovered from the County. The Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme is now over 14 years old and has vastly increased our understanding of Shropshire's past by bringing finds like this to the attention of archaeologists".

More information about the hoard, including photos can be found at:

http://finds.org.uk/blogs/themarches/

Notes to Editors:

For more information on the Treasure Act and the work of the Portable Antiquities Scheme visit the website www.finds.org.uk

The PAS is funded by DCMS as a British Museum partnership project. It is supported locally by Shropshire Council and Herefordshire Council

  1. The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) is a voluntary scheme (managed by the British Museum) to record archaeological objects (not necessarily Treasure) found by members of the public in England and Wales. Every year many thousands of objects are discovered, many of these by metal-detector users, but also by people whilst out walking, gardening or going about their daily work. Such discoveries offer an important source for understanding our past. More information can be found on www.finds.org.uk
  2. All finders of gold and silver objects, groups of coins from the same find, over 300 years old, have a legal obligation to report such items under the Treasure Act 1996. Prehistoric base-metal assemblages found after 1 January 2003 also qualify as Treasure. Potential Treasure finds must be reported by law to the local coroner, which is normally done through the finders' local PAS Finds Liaison Officer. If declared Treasure, they may be acquired by a museum at their full market value (normally split 50/50 between finder and landowner), valued by the Treasure Valuation Committee, which is an independent committee of experts. The Treasure Process is administered by the British Museum. More information is available on www.culture.gov.uk or www.finds.org.uk
  3. All images are copyright and used with permission of Portable Antiquities Scheme, or the Trustees of the British Museum unless otherwise stated.

Contact: Peter Reavill 01584 813 641

Comments

There are 1 comments on this story.

  • peter twinn wrote @ 14:56:53 on the 27th October 2011. I think this has to be seen as an act of theft, if any person finding a hoard, or any other artifact or coin for that matter, without the express permission of the landowner then that is theft, no matter how sugar coated you make that look. Such individuals should not receive any reward, if they do then what kind of message does that send to all in-sundry? It will become a free for all out there with anyone with a metal detector being able to lay claim to a reward for something they had no right to in the first place! I do hope the Treasure Valuation Committee take into account this was not found legally, otherwise what sort of moral remit will they have going onto the next one that is found in the same manner. Even if the guy handed it over, that does not make it right. I'm disappointed to even see his name mentioned, what message does this give to all the law abiding detectorist who search land with permission, what next! :-(
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