Published: 10 years ago Author: Peter Reavill
A 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.
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:
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
There are 2 comments on this story.
He clearly thought he was allowed to be there he left all coins intact in pot and reported his find straight away it was unfortunate more information was not available to him on purchasing his detector also finding the hoard on his first hunt. To not give a reward would have sent out a far worse message and he was rightly paid out. He is a good friend of mine and has since gone on to join a club and found and recorded many more finds. I can only imagine your comments are born from jealousy.