Detector man unearths 52,000 Roman coins

A man with a metal detector has made one of the largest finds of Roman coins in Britain, it was revealed today.

The hoard of around 52,000 coins dating from the third century AD was found buried in a field near Frome in Somerset.

The coins were in a huge jar just over a foot below the surface, located by Dave Crisp from Devizes in Wiltshire.

He told how his detector gave a "funny signal", prompting him to dig down through the soil.

"I put my hand in, pulled out a bit of clay and there was a little Radial, a little bronze Roman coin," Mr Crisp told the BBC.

"Very, very small, about the size of my fingernail."

He added: "I have made many finds over the years, but this is my first major coin hoard."

Since the discovery in late April - which weighed around 160kg - experts from the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) at the British Museum have been sifting through the coins.

They believe the stash was probably intended as some sort of religious offering, rather than storage for later use.

Sam Moorhead, from the PAS, said: "I don't believe myself that this is a hoard of coins intended for recovery.

"I think what you could see is a community of people who are actually making offerings and they are each pouring in their own contribution to a communal ritual votive offering to the gods."

It is estimated the coins were worth about four years' pay for a legionary soldier.

A selection from the find is on display at the British Museum until mid-August.

* The story of the excavation will be told in a new BBC Two series, Digging for Britain, which will be broadcast next month.

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