Wednesday, 2 June 2010

"Largest UK Roman coin Hoard" found

News on UK metal detecting forums is that a massive hoard of Roman coins has been found in the West Country, apparently Frome in Somerset. The finder is however a metal detectorist from Wiltshire. The hoard reportedly weighs 160kg (which would be somewhere in the region of 40-60 000 individual coins). The coins are apparently mostly third century copper alloy, but there are silver coins in the assemblage as well. The site is apparently now being excavated to establish the archaeological contexct of the deposit, but since there is a fear that unscrupulous collectors might visit the site when it is unguarded and damage it in the search for their own "souvenirs" with metal detectors, the precise location is being witheld from public information. This seems a pity as perhaps the excavation can be used as a means to show the difference between archaeological research and information-gathering and merely hoiking stuff out of the ground.

Also it seems to me that the full scrutiny, documenting and cataloguing of that number of coins is going to need a lot of work by a whole team of numismatists, and the full publication of such a hoard is a major task in head of those responsible. Or will they just be quickly counted in various broad categories ? What will then happen, will a dedicated store be set aside for these artefacts for future in-depth study by specialists, or since we already have many thousands precisely similar Roman coins in public collections, will the coins be then sold off to be scattered in the personal coin hoards of waiting collectors? No doubt when the official announcement is made, the artefact hunters will be roundly praised and none of the ensuing heritage management problems and issues will be aired in public. As ususl.

This is the second large coin hoard find to have come from Somerset. Several metal detectorists located a hoard of 9213 silver coins (TPQ 224) while detecting on a Roman villa site at Shapwick in 1998. The ‘Cunetio Treasure’ was found by metal detecting in 1978 on a Roman small town site (later to become a major fortified centre) and contained 55,000 low denomination coins mostly amassed between AD 270-275. This until now had been the largest coin hoard from Roman Britain. The Normanby hoard in Lincolnshire contained some 48,000 coins.

The Cunetio Hoard is published: Edward Besly, Roger Bland1983: The Cunetio Treasure. Roman Coinage of the Third Century AD. London: British Museum Publications (199 pages and 40 plates).
The Normanby hoard is published in: Roger Bland and Andrew Burnett (eds) 1988: The Normanby Hoard and other Roman coin hoards. London: British Museum press (238pp 40 plates)

Vignette: Time Team presenter Tony Robinson and lots of coins. Imagine writing up that number of artefacts in detail.

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