Seaton Down Hoard

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26 Sep 2014 10:05 - 26 Sep 2014 13:20 #716 by andyb
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A breathtaking hoard of 22,000 Roman coins has been found by a metal detecting enthusiast in Devon.

The spectacular discovery in East Devon – dubbed the “Seaton Down Hoard” – is one of the largest and best preserved 4th Century collections ever to have been found in Britain.

It was made by East Devon builder Laurence Egerton in November 2013 on the Clinton Devon Estate near the previously excavated site of a Roman villa at Honeyditches.

The hoard – the equivalent of a worker’s pay for two years – was later carefully removed in its entirety by a team of archaeologists.

Over the past 10 months the coins have been lightly cleaned and the process of identification and cataloguing has begun by experts at the British Museum.

Mr Egerton, from Colaton Raleigh, explained: “Initially I found two small coins the size of a thumbnail sitting on top of the ground. I decided to dig the earth at that spot and immediately reached some iron ingots which were laid directly on top of the coins.

“The next shovel was full of coins – they just spilled out over the field. I had no idea how far down the coins went so I stopped immediately and phoned my wife to come to the site with a camera.”

After reporting the find to the estate and archaeologists, Mr Egerton, removed the loose finds and then back-filled the hole.

“Between finding the hoard and the archaeologists excavating the site I slept alongside it in my car for three nights to guard it,” the 51-year-old said.

“It’s by far the biggest find I’ve ever had. It really doesn’t get any better than this. It is so important to record all of these finds properly because it’s so easy to lose important insights into our history.”

County archaeologist Bill Horner said the Roman copper-alloy coins dated back to between AD260 and AD348 and bear the images of Emperor Constantine, his family, co-Emperors and immediate predecessors and successors.

“Our archaeologists and the team at the British Museum have reported that the majority of the coins are so well preserved that they were able to date them very accurately,” he said.

“This is very unusual for Devon because the county, as a whole, has slightly acidic soil which leads to metals corroding. The soil in this area is chalky which is why they’ve survived so well.”

Buried together in an isolated pit, experts believe the lozenge shape of the hoard suggests the coins were in a fabric or leather bag which has not survived.

They believe the coins could have been the savings of a private individual, a soldier’s wages or a commercial payment.

Despite the volume of coins, their financial value would have been low, amounting to four gold coins which would have provided rations for two soldiers for one year or a worker’s pay for two years.

Mr Horner added: “There were no high street banks, so a good, deep hole in the ground was as secure a place as any to hide your savings in times of trouble, or if you were going away on a long journey. But whoever made this particular deposit never came back to retrieve it.”

Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum is aiming to keep the hoard in Devon so that it can be seen by the public for the first time in more than 1,500 years.

The hoard was declared as treasure at an inquest earlier this month which means it will be eligible to be bought by the museum after valuation by the Treasure Valuation Committee – a group of independent experts who advise the Secretary of State.

The Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM), which already houses a large collection of local Romano-British objects, has launched a fund-raising campaign.

Exeter City Councillor Rosie Denham, who is responsible for culture, media and sport, said: “This extraordinary hoard will add greatly to our picture of life in Roman Devon.

“It would be a wonderful addition to RAMM’s collection of local Romano-British objects which includes finds from nearby Honeyditches.

“Adding it to RAMM’s world-class collections will let the people of Devon share in one of the most significant archaeological finds to have been made in Britain for many years.”

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