Metal-detectorist finds largest pot of Roman coins from Britain

July 8th, 2010 by Anna Booth

Tony Williams, Coroner for Somerset, will hold an inquest on Thursday 22nd July on one of the largest Roman coin hoards ever found in Britain, the Portable Antiquities Scheme funded by the Museums, Libraries and Archive Council and Somerset County Council has reported.

Dave Crisp, found the hoard of some 52,500 coins dating to the 3rd century AD, while metal-detecting near Frome, and reported the find to his local Finds Liaison Officer. Initially Mr Crisp found 21 coins, but when he came across a pot filled with more knew he needed archaeological help to excavate them.

Plan of the pot in situ.Coin hoard closeup - silver denarius of Carausius and coins of ProbusA section of the removed rim
Images can be downloaded from our flickr account at www.flickr.com/finds/

Anna Booth, Somerset County Council’s Finds Liaison Officer, said:

Because Mr Crisp resisted the temptation to dig up the coins it has allowed archaeologists from Somerset County Council to carefully excavate the pot and its contents, ensuring important evidence about the circumstances of its burial was preserved”.

Mr Crisp added :

I knew the find was important and I needed archaeological help, so I contacted my local Finds Liaison Officer. I have made many finds over the years, but this is my first coin hoard and it was a fascinating experience to take part in the excavation of it.”

Archaeologists believe the hoard, which sheds light on the economic crisis and coalition government in the 3rd century, will rewrite the history books. One of the most important aspects of the hoard is that it contains a large group of coins of Carausius, who ruled Britain independently from AD 286 to AD 293 and was the first Roman emperor to strike coins in Britain. The hoard contains over 760 of his coins, making it the largest group of his coins ever found. Amongst these coins are five rare examples of his silver denarii, the only coins of their type being struck anywhere in the Roman Empire at the time.

The coins span 40 years from AD 253 to 293 and the great majority are of the denomination known as ‘radiates’, made of debased silver or bronze.

The hoard is probably the equivalent of about four years’ pay for a legionary soldier.

Roger Bland, Head of Portable Antiquities and Treasure at the British Museum said:

This hoard, which is one of the largest ever found in Britain, has a huge amount to tell about the coinage and history of the period as we study over the next two years. The late 3rd century AD was a time when Britain suffered barbarian invasions, economic crises and civil wars. Roman rule was finally stabilised when the Emperor Diocletian formed a coalition with the Emperor Maximian, which lasted 20 years. This defeated the separatist régime which had been established in Britain by Carausius. This find presents us with an opportunity to put Carausius on the map. School children across the country have been studying Roman Britain for decades, but are never taught about Carausius – our lost British emperor”.

If the hoard is declared Treasure by the coroner, it is hoped it will be acquired by Somerset County Council’s Heritage Service. Stephen Minnitt, Head of Museums at Somerset County Council, said:

This is a find of great national importance and we are determined to raise the sum to acquire the hoard for public benefit. Hopefully it will be able to go on display in the new Museum of Somerset when it re-opens in 2011”.

Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said:

Once again this demonstrates how important the Treasure Act and the Portable Antiquities Scheme are in helping to preserve our heritage. I congratulate Mr Crisp on his prompt reporting of his find and especially in allowing archaeologists to excavate the hoard. If the hoard is declared Treasure, Somerset County Council Heritage Service will have the opportunity to acquire it at its full market value, as determined by an independent committee and that reward is shared by Mr Crisp and the owner of the land where the find was made. That way everyone is a winner.”

In the meantime the coins have been washed and stabilised by a team of conservators at the British Museum, led by Pippa Pearce, and they are being studied by Roger Bland and the Portable Antiquities Scheme’s Roman coins specialist, Sam Moorhead. The British Museum is actively seeking funds to clean the coins fully: this will be a year’s work for one conservator.

A selection of coins from the hoard will be on display in Gallery 68 at the British Museum from Thursday 22nd July until mid-August. The Portable Antiquities Scheme is a voluntary scheme managed by the British Museum on behalf of the Museums Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) and is funded through Renaissance, a programme to transform England’s regional museums.

For further details, including a full account of the discovery, images of the excavation and of the coins and a video of the removal of the coins from the pot see: www.finds.org.uk/fromehoard

For further information please contact:

Rebecca Musto PR and Communications Officer on 01823 355585 or email rmusto@somerset.gov.uk.

Roger Bland, Head of Portable Antiquities & Treasure, British Museum, 0798 966 9414, rbland@thebritishmuseum.ac.uk or Sam Moorhead, National Finds Adviser, Portable Antiquities Scheme, 0770 4677443, smoorhead@thebritishmuseum.ac.uk

Olivia Rickman, Press Manager, British Museum, 020 7323 8583, orickman@thebritishmuseum.ac.uk

Notes

Upon discovering the hoard Dave Crisp contacted Katie Hinds, Finds Liaison Officer for Wiltshire. MS Hinds then contacted Anna Booth, Somerset Finds Liaison Officer, who, with Somerset County Council archaeologists, set about the delicate task of excavating the pot and its contents. The hoard was then taken to the British Museum, so that the coins could be cleaned and recorded. This work was done within two months and represented about 400 hours’ work for the conservator team.

The coins all date from between AD 253 to AD 293 were found in a large, well-preserved pot – a type of container normally used for storing food – and weigh around 160kg. Since the pot containing the coins was found by the archaeologists to be already broken in the earth, the coins were removed from the pot in 12 layers, with each layer containing up to 16 separate bags of coins, a total of 67 separate groups in all.
Carausius Adventus silver denarius - cleaned by BM conservation
Because of the weight of the coins and the fragility of the pot in which they were buried, the pot must have been buried in the ground before the coins were tipped into them. This suggests that this hoard is unlikely to have been buried because its owner (or owners) were concerned about the threat of invasion and, wishing to find a safe place to store their wealth, intended to come back and recover it later when the times were more peaceful. If that had been their intention, then they would have buried their coins in smaller containers which would have been easier to recover. The only way anyone could have recovered this hoard would have been by breaking the pot and scooping the coins out of it, which would have been awkward. It is thought therefore most likely that the person or persons who buried this hoard entrusted it to the earth without intending to come back and recover it later. Perhaps it was the offering of an agricultural community for a good harvest or favourable weather.

Each of the 67 groups of coins was washed and sorted separately and as a result we know that the great majority (85 per cent) of the coins of Carausius, the latest coins in the hoard, were contained within a single layer (Context 16). This gives us a fascinating insight into how the coins were placed in the pot, as a group of coins of Carausius must have been tipped into the pot separately from the rest of the coins.

Somerset County Council LogoAbout 570 coin hoards of this period are known from Britain, a greater concentration than from any other part of the Roman Empire. The largest hoard ever found in Britain contained 54,912 coins dating from AD 180 to 274 and was found in two containers at Cunetio, near Mildenhall in Wiltshire; another hoard of 47,912 coins of AD 251-90 was found at Normanby in Lincolnshire in 1983.

Summary of the coins found in the hoard (note: these quantities are provisional and the final figures will change once the illegible coins have been cleaned and identified):

Central Empire

The coins in the hoard from Central Empire
Emperor Reign Quantity
Valerian & Gallienus (joint reign) 253-60 46
Gallienus (sole reign) 260-8 6,091
Salonina (wife of Gallienus) 260-8 404
Claudius II 268-70 5,421
Divus Claudius 270-1 1,227
Quintillus 270 333
Aurelian 270-5 266
Severina (wife of Aurelian) 270-5 13
Tacitus 275-6 252
Florian 276 10
Probus 276-82 619
Carus 282-3 8
Divus Carus 283 5
Magnia Urbica (wife of Carus) 282-3 2
Carinus 282-5 19
Numerian 283-4 12
Diocletian 285-305 38
Maximian 286-305 22
Total Central Empire 14,788

Gallic Empire

The coins in the hoard from Gallic Empire
Emperor Reign Quantity
Postumus 260-9 257
Laelian 269 4
Marius 269 35
Victorinus 269-71 7,494
Divus Victorinus 271 14
Tetricus I 271-4 12,416
Tetricus II 272-4 5,203
Gallic Empire uncertain 2,954
Total Gallic Empire 28,377

British Empire

The coins in the hoard from British Empire
Emperor Reign Quantity
Carausius 286-93 766

Breakdown by identification status

Identification class
Status Quantity
Contemporary copies 314
Identifiable coins 44,245
Illegible coins 8,258
Total 52,503

The Portable Antiquities Scheme is a scheme to record archaeological objects found by the public, and to date over 570,000 finds have been recorded on its database (www.finds.org.uk). Its network of Finds Liaison Officers are the principal means by which new discoveries made by the public are reported to advance archaeological knowledge and our understanding of the past.

Under the 1996 Treasure Act, anyone who finds a group of coins buried together, or any artefact that is suspected to be 300 or more years old and has a 10 per cent gold or silver content, has a legal obligation to declare it to the local coroner within 14 days.

Press coverage of the hoard’s discovery

July 9th, 2010 by Anna Booth

You can listen to an interview with the finder of the Frome Hoard (Dave Crisp) and the Scheme’s Keeper (Roger Bland) on the attached MP3Today interview. And the below is an ITN news bulletin:

Links on the hoard

‘Geophys’

July 8th, 2010 by Anna Booth
Geophysical survey in progress

Geophysics (c) Somerset County Council

04.05.10

While the hoard is being washed and counted at the British Museum, over here we are keen to find out more about the site in which it was found. So a geophysical survey was carried out on the field today. This is a non-invasive type of survey often used by archaeologists to build up a picture of archaeological features below the surface of the ground (on this occasion by using a fluxgate magnometer to measure magnetic anomalies). A company called Geophysical Surveys Bradford (GSB), were employed to carry out the survey and me and Dave arranged to meet them on site.

However, their preliminary findings showed virtually nothing! Apparently they detected one or two anomalies, but nothing that you wouldn’t expect in your average field. This didn’t come as much of a surprise to be honest as, although there is evidence of Roman occupation in the surrounding region, Dave tells me he’s found very little apart from the two hoards in the field despite a thorough search.

Although we were slightly disappointed by these results, they still help us to build up a picture of the original landscape in which the hoard was buried. So we now know that the hoards weren’t buried next to a settlement, but in the middle of nowhere!

Farewell hoard…

July 8th, 2010 by Anna Booth

26.04.10

Just a quick entry to say that we said goodbye to the hoard today.

Roger Bland, Head of the Portable Antquities Scheme, and Sam Moorhead, our Roman Coins Advisor, drove down in Sam’s car to pick it up. Roger rang first thing to say that they hoped to come down straight away, leaving us feeling slightly unprepared for how quickly it was going to leave us.

Anna shows coins to Sam and Roger © Somerset County Council

Before they arrived I had the opportunity to package it in slightly smaller boxes (although it still took up a huge amount of space!) and to show some of the bags of coins to colleagues. The Museum of Somerset very much hopes to acquire the hoard in due course, but it will undoubtedly still be some time until we see it in its entirety again here, so it was good to give everyone a chance to have a quick look until it disappears again.

We helped Sam and Roger load it into the car and they headed back after a quick cup of tea, keen to get back to London before their destination, the British Museum, closed. They apparently made it in time and Sam sent me a message saying that he only realised the sheer size of what they were dealing with when he saw how low his car was sitting as it stood on the museum forecourt!

Coins being loaded © Somerset County Council

It was really sad to see it go, but the story isn’t over yet as we have yet to announce the discovery to the public. However, it has been decided that the coins will be washed by a conservator and counted before we do this, to give us more of a story to tell – who knows, it might be the biggest hoard from this country ever!!!

Anna – Day three

July 8th, 2010 by Anna Booth

24.04.10

This morning was a little quieter than usual. Dave couldn’t make it until later as he was working and Katie was having a much needed day off as her partner’s children were going to be with them. So when I arrived it was just me and Alan. The morning light was beautifully clear and I had the perfect opportunity to take some shots of the site before we began working. 

Morning - day two (C) Somerset County Council

No sooner had we started when a couple from the village and their children came out to have a look. The kids were fascinated and it was easy to see why. Quite often it is difficult to interest younger children in archaeological excavations as the remains uncovered can be difficult to see, but there was no mistaking a big pot filled with coins sticking out of the ground!

The excavation was proceeding in much the same way as the day before. As we began to work out way further into the pot we noticed that the colour and condition of the coins was changing. Water began to fill the trench and we realised that it was leaking out from the hoard, the base of which had become permanently waterlogged. There was less mud in these lower levels, but the coins were more corroded and had turned an unusual orange colour; presumably the product of staining from the surrounding iron-rich clay.

Before too long more people began to arrive on site. The landowners continued to appear for regular updates. Their sister and brother-in-law, Mr and Mrs Blackman, had also visited periodically over the course of the excavation, but today Mrs Blackman, a local teacher, had a video camera and was keen to take some footage to show her pupils who were studying the Romans. What better way to get them interested we agreed than to show them evidence of Romans living on their doorstep! At midday Alan’s partner Jo, his son, and their two friends (also archaeologists) arrived with a picnic. They all stayed on into the afternoon and offered their help, adding to the growing crowd.

Excitement had been building as we neared the bottom of the vessel. The size of the hoard naturally depended on that of the pot and we had no way of knowing its shape until we had removed all the coins. Suddenly, however, the sides began to narrow rapidly and we realised that we had finally reached the bottom. I was so excited that I sent a picture to Katie, who I had been keeping updated all day. She promptly decided that she couldn’t miss out any longer and would come out with her partner and the kids.  We were surprised at the small diameter of the vessel’s base and this added another piece to the puzzle - it was unlikely that it would have stood up unsupported when fully filled and so was probably buried to a certain point, before then being filled with coins.

The pot (C) Somerset County Council

Having everyone on site really added to the sense that an exciting event was occurring. It was very easy to imagine something rather similar happening long ago on the day that the hoard had been buried. The size of the hoard meant that it would have been difficult for one or two people to bury it alone. It also made it difficult to imagine anyone burying it in a rush or intending to come back at a later date to retrieve it. In fact the only way to get the coins back out would be to stick your arm into the narrow neck of the pot and scoop handfuls out; not exactly practical! So maybe it wasn’t a family’s savings buried quickly in troubled times, but instead it’s burial had been a ritual event with a community travelling to the spot together and sitting around joking, laughing and having picnics, with kids running around chasing each other, just as we had been doing today!

The final stage was the removal of the rest of the pot once we had cleaned and photographed the inside. It came away fairly easily, leaving a perfect imprint within the hole. The organic packing material was clearly visible around the edges of this and Alan decided to dig a little deeper just to confirm that it wasn’t in fact the remains of an ancient tree root that had grown around the pot. It didn’t appear to be so and we made sure we had plenty of samples that could be analysed at a later date to find out what kind of plant/s it was.

Filling in the hole felt like both a momentous event and a slight anticlimax. We had removed a hoard that had sat in the spot since the Roman period and which we already knew was going to add a huge amount to our understanding of this period. We had learnt an enormous ourselves amount along the way, both about this period in history and also about how to excavate such a hoard whilst preserving the evidence that it and its surrounding context contained. It had been an amazing three days of learning for everyone involved. And we were extremely pleased to have been able to share the experience with Dave and Mr and Mrs Sheppard and their family, who all contributed their considerable knowledge of the surrounding area. As the soil was shovelled back into the hole Dave threw in a couple of coins (foreign ones I think – just to confuse them!) – an instinctive reaction to mark the occasion, which we all understood and shared.

Everyone - day three (C) Sopmerset County Council

The coins and pottery were loaded into my tiny car, which almost collapsed under the sheer weight (the remainder of 67 bags of coins and several trays of pottery and organic samples)! I couldn’t tell everyone exactly what was going to happen next, but I promised to keep them all updated and thanked them all for their considerable contributions to a somewhat unexpected series of events and we all said goodbye for the time being.

Katie – day three

July 8th, 2010 by Katie Hinds

I wasn’t officially working today, but I couldn’t resist going back to the site with my partner and his kids. On the way there Anna texted me a picture – it was the bottom of the pot! They had finally found it. It seems a little taller than it is wide – will it beat the Cunetio hoard to be the biggest coin hoard from the country? By the time we arrived at the site almost all the coins had been removed. Dave arrived shortly after – in the nick of time, having had to work that morning. Alan’s partner, son and dog were also there as well as two archaeologist friends of his, and the landowner’s sister and her husband. When finally the last piece of pot was lifted out we all cheered! It was pretty amazing to see the original pit that had been dug at the end of the 3rd century.

(C) Somerset County Council

As the hole was being backfilled (the kids were brilliantly enthusiastic with the shovels, then relayed and jumped up and down on the turf so it looked as if we’d never even been there!) Dave chucked a couple of modern coins into the hole. It felt really weird waving goodbye to everyone and driving away – for three days a field in Somerset has been all I could think about, and now it is time to share that story with the wider world.

Katie – day two

July 8th, 2010 by Katie Hinds

I dreamt about coins and pots last night, unsurprisingly. Anna and I were on site just after 8am and began the exciting part of lifting the fragments of inverted vessel before Alan started on the main part of the pot. The fabric is black burnished ware and it really is a pot of beauty. Alan is half-sectioning the pot and taking the coins out in layers. As the

Layers (C) Somerset County Council

 coins were coming out (it felt very strange and un-archaeological to be taking handfuls of coins and dumping them in bags!) Anna and I were checking which emperors we had – Gallienus, Claudius II, Tacitus, Maximian, Probus (there seemed a lot of him), but as yet no Carausius…

Naomi and her husband Simon called by (having had to miss the first day at a conference), and Simon swiftly pointed out our missing piece of pot from yesterday was actually not missing at all, it was just that a fragment had slipped downwards. Relief all round, especially from Alan who had been feeling very bad about losing a piece!

Steve Minnitt from the Somerset County Museum spent most of the afternoon with us, as well as the landowner’s brother-in-law.

My hands are stained brown/ green from the copper-infused clayey soil. While Anna and Alan took turns excavating

Bagging (C) Somerset County Council

the coins I bagged up the different layers and stored them in archive boxes. Each finds bag took maybe between 500 and 800 coins. The boxes could not hold more than four bags for fear of spinal damage! Dave and I spent a while guestimating how many coins per bag multiplied by the number of boxes but soon gave up. How could we possibly guess?

At the end of Day 2 it is clear there will be a Day 3 tomorrow. It is Saturday tomorrow and Anna and I are due to help the Avon & Gloucs FLO at a rally near Bristol on Sunday. We really hope the hoard will be out by then!

Anna – Day one

July 8th, 2010 by Anna Booth

22.04.10

I was up bright and early to drive to the site this morning. We were off to a good start already – the sun was shining – meaning no worries about digging holes in the rain!

When I finally reached the field, Dave the finder introduced himself and his grandson Aaron, before describing his finds to me while we waited for Katie Hinds (the Wiltshire FLO) and Alan Graham (an independent archaeologist employed to excavate whatever we found) to arrive. He showed me the dispersed hoard of fourth century siliquae that he had found at the entrance to the field and then the pieces of pottery and loose coins that he had taken from the site of other potential hoard some distance away. The bits of pottery were odd because they seemed to be from the base of a vessel. What was going on? Were they from a pot that had been buried upside down? Or maybe there was a smaller pot upturned in the mouth of a lager one? When everyone was there we walked over to the site further inside the field to investigate further.

Dave began by revealing the carefully disguised (and amazingly small) hole that he had initially dug. We couldn’t help commending him once again for his restraint. It must have been so difficult to resist digging a deeper hole to investigate further! Luckily Alan immediately formulated a plan… he would dig a 1.5m trench around Dave’s original hole, lifting off the topsoil to begin with and take things from there depending on what we found.

The turf and some of the topsoil had been removed and we stool around the trench gawping at something sticking out in the middle. Katie and I had immediately recognised it as a Roman Black Burnished Ware dish turned upside down, as this is a type of pottery that we often record. Its centre was cracked and had caved in – just inside a few tantalising bronze coins could be spotted. In a rough circle around the dish was the outline of the top of a small pit, dug by whoever buried it originally.

(C) Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum

Was that it? Dave would still have done the right thing asking for us to excavate the site to be on the safe side, but it would have been such as shame if this was all that had turned up as a result. However, Alan began to inspect the dish more closely and called us to have a look. It appeared that the dish was sitting within something wider – the rim of a much bigger vessel.

Alan got back to work immediately, following the line of the original pit, whilst the rest of us stood around speculating about what we might be dealing with (and wishing we could help more, if only the trench wasn’t so small…!). Did this mean that we might be dealing with a pot filled with coins, or maybe with coins only on the top? Perhaps the pot had something else inside and the coins had been placed above it as an offering before slipping inside when the top was cracked? The possibilities were endless.

Soon the shoulders of the pot began to emerge and for the first time we had some idea of what we were dealing with. The pot was getting bigger by the second as we dug further. In fact it was even bigger than we had initially guessed, as the neck was fairly narrow. If it was filled with coins then it could potentially be an enormous hoard.

(C) Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum

With this thought in my mind I rang Bob Croft, the County Archaeologist, and Stephen Minnitt, the Head of Museums (who had dealt with coin hoards from the county before) to ask for advice, while Katie rang the head of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, Roger Bland, and our Roman Coins Advisor, Sam Moorhead. Everyone reacted with a mixture of shock and excitement and the views on what we should do were varied. Should we try to block lift the whole thing? A risky and expensive operation. Or should we excavate the coins in the ground?

Bob soon turned up on site  after driving over specially and after lots of discussions and advice from Sam, Roger and Steve over the phone, we decided that excavation in situ would be preferable as we needed to get it out asap (to avoid leaving the site at risk). The main benefit of block lifting would have been the opportunity to carefully excavate the hoard in a lab to see if the coins we put in the pot in one go or in phases. Baring this in mind, we decided to half-section the pot and take the coins out in layers, to see if we could still achieve this.

Meanwhile, the landowner, Geoff, had arrived on site and we were able to explain why there was a big hole in the middle of his field! He was extremely interested and more than happy for us to continue with our plans. So with everyone on board we decided to begin this process the following day. Dave and Aaron kindly volunteered to camp out and protect the site overnight. A huge help as it meant we didn’t need to worry about security! And the rest of us went home to get some rest before another early start the next day…

Katie – Day one

July 8th, 2010 by Katie Hinds

What a day! Its 8pm and I’ve just got home. Anna and I met up with Dave and his grandson Aaron, and Alan Graham, the archaeologist Naomi had organised to excavate the hoard. We thought we would have a hoard in a pot by the end of today, but it soon became clear when Alan began clearing the soil from around the top of the pot that what Dave and we had thought was the rim of the pot, was in fact the base of an inverted vessel on top of the pot, and fitted neatly inside the rim. Which means it is one big pot! I made a quick phone call to Wiltshire Heritage Museum this afternoon when it became clear the pot was roughly 50cm in diameter. WHM houses the pot from the biggest coin hoard in the country (54,952 late 3rd century coins from the Roman town of Cunetio near Marlborough). Dianne, the Fundraising Officer, nipped off with a ruler and measured the Cunetio pot for me – 50cm in diameter!!! My mind is racing with visions of coins. I rang Sam Moorhead from the middle of the field – he sounded in shock and kept saying ‘can you see any Carausian coins?’ (the so-called rebel emperor AD 286-293).

(C) Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum

The difficult decision of the day however was how on earth to get these coins out of the ground. If we lifted en bloc, it would be a mammoth task (Sam guessed it would weigh a ton, no joke intended) and very expensive. Plus, as it would then have to be excavated in laboratory conditions, it could take a while before we knew what was in there. The decision was taken, with help from Bob Croft (Somerset County Archaeologist) who had called by and Roger Bland on the phone, that we would take the coins out in layers. Sam was keen to see whether there was any differentiation between the date of the coins at the top to those at the bottom. In other words, had this pot represented some sort of bank over the years. It was clear anyway that the pot could not have been lowered into the pit with the coins inside as it would have been far too heavy.

Another facinating discovery is that the pot was packed around with reeds of some kind. They are not weaved, but they are clearly placed. The pot is cracked and almost intact one small piece appears to be missing. Anna, Dave, Aaron and I spent a good hour hunting through the spoil but to no avail. Dave and Aaron are camping out tonight, right next to the pit. Can’t get better security than that!

Anna – Hoards of hoards…

July 8th, 2010 by Anna Booth

15.04.10

Katie gave me a ring about the hoard as soon as she found out. When I heard her on the other end of the phone I at first assumed she was ringing about the rally we were attending in Wiltshire that weekend, so the news about the hoards came as a bit of a surprise!

“A local metal detectorist, Dave, has found a dispersed hoard of Roman silver coins in the entrance to a field. And you’ll never guess what… When he went further into the field he then found what he thinks is the top of a Roman bronze coin hoard in a pot!!!”.

“Two hoards in one field! Do we know anything about the size of the bronze one”, I asked?

“Not really, he’s been great and covered it straight up before calling me. We know that the coins are third century radiates though and he’s kept a few along with some bits of broken pot that were lying in the soil”.

I was amazed that the finder had acted so responsibly and promptly. What a challenge it must have been to leave his find lying in a field! Although he had covered it up really well to ensure the spot remained hidden, we knew that we had to investigate the site as soon as possible. So after saying goodbye to Katie I quickly called my colleagues at Somerset County Council’s Historic Environment Service (HES), Bob Croft (County Archaeologist) and Naomi Payne (Historic Environment Officer), to deliver the exciting news.

Luckily they were the position to help us by employing an independent archaeologist experienced in excavation, Alan Graham, to help us excavate the site if needs be. This was fantastic news as we knew that very few coin hoards had been properly excavated before, so we wanted to make the best of the opportunity that had been presented to us.

A time when Dave, Katie, Alan and I were all free was agreed upon and we arranged to meet at the site first thing the following Thursday…

Katie – THE phonecall

July 8th, 2010 by Katie Hinds

15.4.10

How very exciting! I have just had a phone call from Dave, who is the secretary of the Trowbridge MDC and a fan of all things Roman, with some very exciting news!  Last week I received an email from Dave to say he had found a few siliquae, was writing to the coroner, and would let me have them at the next club meeting. I have to admit I had half forgotten about them until Dave rang me today. The conversation went something like this:

‘Hi Katie, I have a few things to tell you’

‘Oh yes of course! How exciting about your siliquae hoard! Your first hoard! You must be so chuffed! How many have you got?’

‘About 30 I think…’

‘30!! I thought you had five or six! That’s fantastic, I really look forward to seeing them’

‘…but the real reason I’m ringing is to tell you that I’ve found another hoard, and its in a pot!’

Dave had always bemoaned the fact he had never found a hoard. He has made some super finds over the years but that hoard had eluded him – which is perhaps why he found another while searching for the dispersed coins of his first! Hoards are like buses maybe, you wait for one and two come along at once…

The really weird thing was that just yesterday I had been talking to the county archaeologist and her team about devising a plan of action if a hoard (or something that needed excavating) was discovered in Wiltshire. I have come to rely on the good will of Wessex Archaeology, the Wiltshire Archaeology Field Group and local independent archaeologists in these situations in the past. But Dave’s hoard was something for Somerset to deal with, as it had been found over the county boundary, and I was really pleased our very own Naomi Payne (ex-Somerset FLO and now HER Officer for Somerset) would be the first port of call. The first port of call that is, after I rang Anna (Booth, Somerset FLO) to tell her the exciting news!

And that is pretty much where we are now. Dave has two days off work next week so we are trying to arrange the best day to go and do the excavation. Anna, Naomi and I have spent the day emailing each other trying to arrange dates and swapping info. Naomi has searched the Somerset HER and discovered a record of a siliqua hoard found in the parish on the 19th century. Could the siliquae Dave found be part of this same hoard? Unfortunately there is no findspot on the HER, but siliquae hoards are sufficiently unusual for two to have been found in the same parish. But what am I saying – we have two hoards from the same field here which is really unusual, so anything could go!

Dave emailed through pictures of a few pieces of pot and coins that had been in the soil above the hoard (probably disturbed by the plough) and we can tell from this the coins are radiates and probably late 3rd century in date. So roughly a hundred years earlier than the siliqua. What is going on at this site? I can’t wait to get out on site next week!

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