Ancient gold hoard found in Midlands

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The Independent Online

The world's largest hoard of ancient gold and silver coins has been discovered in the East Midlands.

The world's largest hoard of ancient gold and silver coins has been discovered in the East Midlands.

Preliminary examinations of the material – the most significant find in recent British archaeological history – revealed it was most likely buried as a pagan religious offering at around the time of the Roman invasion in AD43.

Archaeologists unearthed between 3,000 and 4,000 silver and gold ancient British coins as well as other treasures near Market Harborough in south Leicestershire – inside the military frontier zone established by the Roman invaders in the first four years of the occupation.

This suggests that the hoard wasa votive offering, probably designed to ensure the Romans' victory. The archaeologists, directed by Vicki Priest of Leicester University's archaeology department, also found the remains of agilt silver Roman cavalry helmet. It is the only piece of gold and silver Roman military equipment found in Britain and would have been worn by a senior officer. It is possible that it was given to a British tribal leader as a diplomatic gift.

Leicester, the capital of the probably pro-Roman local tribe, the Corieltauvi, was a few miles away and it is likely that Corieltauvian leaders were among the British kings and magnates who swore allegiance to Claudius, the Roman emperor, at a diplomatic gathering in Colchester, just a few months after the invasion.

The coins, worth the equivalent of about £200,000 at the time of the Roman conquest, date from the first four decades of the first century AD. Most are Corieltauvian, but some were minted by other British tribal groups.

"The discovery of this site should help illuminate one of the key events of history: the Roman conquest of Britain. The finds have amazed us all," said Ms Priest.

The Roman helmet had an iron core covered with sheet silver, decorated with textile drapery motifs and stylised hair topped by a laurel wreath and the image of a lion.The site, the location of which is being kept secret, was found by Leicestershire County Council's community archaeology network. Excavations have been funded by English Heritage, the British Museum and the BBC.

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