Treasure hunter finds hoard of 52,000 Roman coins

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

A metal-detector enthusiast has found one of the biggest ever hoards of Roman coins. It is the biggest hoard ever found in a single vessel in Britain, numbering 52,500 Roman coins of varying denominations.

Dave Crisp was in a field near Frome, Somerset, when he found what turned out to be an earthenware pot full of coins from the third century AD. The coins, held in a metal jar weighing 160kg, is estimated to have been worth around four years' pay for a Roman legionary soldier.

The find was initially made at the end of May. Since then the site has been excavated and the British Museum has begun a conservation process. A total number for the coins was only reached last week.

Experts involved in the excavation have nothing but praise for Mr Crisp. “The discovery at Frome stands out as a story, mainly because Dave Crisp reported it immediately to his local coroner,” says Somerset Finds Liaison Officer Anna Booth.

“This meant we got to excavate the site in its original, undisturbed state. Mr Crisp took part in this process with us, even going to the extent of camping there one night with his grandson, to make sure that the site was safe over night.”

The 'coarse, average type of vessel' in which the coins were kept is made from black burnished ceramic ware, and measures around 50cm in diameter. Though the pot was intact in the ground, it had been cracked, making it easier to get the coins out.

“The pot was enormous, there is no way that anyone could have carried it, which we think makes it unlikely that the money was hidden by someone who intended to return to it,” adds Booth. “The pot has been carefully placed in the ground using packing material such as reeds and grass, so we think it could be a ritual offering.”

An inquest on 22 July will rule whether the find is classed as treasure or not. Under the 1996 Treasure Act (for England, Wales and Northern Ireland), objects that might be considered treasure, or are more than 300 years old, must be reported to the local coroner within 14 days of discovery.

In the case of coins, if there are more than 10 from the same hoard with a silver or gold content of at least 10 per cent, then it is classed as 'treasure' and must be offered for sale to a museum (the British Museum has first refusal) at a value determined by the Treasury Valuation Committee.

If the hoard is declared to be treasure, and it seems certain this will, then Somerset County Museum Service has declared its interest in buying it and a reward would be shared between the finder, Dave Crisp, and the owner of the field.

Last year's Staffordshire Hoard of Saxon jewellery earned finder Terry Herbert a cool £1.3m. Yet Booth insists that it is too early to tell how much Mr Crisp stands to make from his discovery. “I can't comment on the value of the coins, partly because I don't know and also because there are just too many variables. It will depend on how many rare coins there are and the condition they're in.”

The hoard will eventually go on display at Taunton Museum, which is undergoing refurbishment and will be reopened in spring 2011, when conservation work is complete.

Whatever the value of the haul, it is of great historical interest, including coins minted by 21 emperors and three emperors' wives. Famous rulers include Gallenius, Diocletian and Maximian, but perhaps more interesting is that 766 coins feature the notorious Carausius, a brutal usurper who ruled Britain and parts of northern Gaul independent of the empire from 286-293 AD. Coins of Carausius are rarely found in hoards.

Carausius also struck his own coins, and reinstated the silver denarius. There are up to ten of these in the hoard. The second half of the third century was a troubled time for Britain, with Carausius's play for power causing political instability. It was also the tail-end of the third century crisis, during which the empire was hit by disease, unrest and economic depression. It is possible this huge haul was actually deflated in value at the time. It could explain why such a large number of them were buried together.

Hoard of 10,000 Roman coins found in Shropshire

Top 10 metal detector discoveries

Roman mystery woman discovered near Hereford: not a female gladiator

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Scientists believe Mercury is coated in billions of years’ worth of carbon dust, after being ‘dumped on’ by passing comets
science
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executives

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of Europe's leading prov...

    Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

    £30,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a perso...

    Sheridan Maine: Accounts Payable Clerk

    £21,000 - £24,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a new opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Regional Sales Manager - East Region - OTE £45,000

    £30000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor