In a little more than five minutes, a metal detectorist uncovered a
hoard hidden for centuries.
In the summer of 2011, a hoard of 3,784 mainly bronze Roman coins
was found at Bredon Hill in Worcestershire, a previously unknown Roman
site. It is the county’s largest such find and one of national importance.
The hoard is believed to have been buried about A.D. 350, with the
coins dating to between a period around A.D. 244 to 282. Experts
suggest that the timing of the coins’ burial makes the hoard unique in Britain.
Worcestershire is a county in the English Midlands west of the
nation’s second largest city, Birmingham. Bredon (pronounced Breedon)
Hill is southwest of Evesham in Evesham Vale. The hill is one of the
country’s important wildlife sites and although the small tower at its
summit is only mid-18th century, the remains of an Iron Age fort are
located nearby, while on the north side are the remains of Elmley
Castle, a large medieval fortification.
In the summer of 2011 Jethro Carpenter and Mark Gilmore, two
friends from childhood and metal detecting enthusiasts, were enjoying
a walk on the hill with their detectors.
In a scenario that is every metal-detectorist’s dream, within
minutes of putting the devices to the ground, one of the screens
registered “overload” and it was clear that a large find had been
discovered. For two hours the duo excavated the area by hand,
unearthing coin after coin before appreciating the magnitude of their
discovery, and the relevant authorities, the Portable Antiquities
Scheme, the coroner for Worcestershire and the landowner, were alerted
to the find.
Carpenter, 43, remarked at the press conference held in
Worcestershire on Oct. 21: “As a child you watch pirate films and
dream of finding buried treasure being uncovered in chests but the
truth is that as a metal detector enthusiast you can hunt for months
on end and find nothing so much as a dropped penny. I’ve known the
Bredon Hill area for more than 20 years and taken my detector there
countless times so never in a million years did I expect to come
across such a find. On the day of the discovery, my detector was down
for no more than five minutes when it started to make a high-pitched
noise, indicating a lot of buried metal below foot. Even more
excitingly, the screen flashed up ‘overload.’ Mark and I started
digging and uncovered coin after coin. It was so exciting, my heart
was racing as they just kept on appearing and I could see the head of
an emperor visible indicating they were Roman. This find offers a
window into a completely different world and it makes you wonder ‘who
buried these coins and why?’ It’s amazing that the Museums Service,
archaeology experts and metal detectorists can work together to try
and help us piece together this jigsaw.”
Gilmore, 47, was 50 feet away when the find was made but shared in
“When Jethro called me over, I dug down and found a bit of
pottery,” he said. “When you get a good signal and find pottery, you
know you’re on to something good. My heart started fluttering, it’s unbelievable.”
Since the discovery on June 18, experts from Worcestershire County
Council Historic Environment and Archaeology Service assessed the site
and uncovered evidence of a Roman settlement. Tom Vaughan, project
manager at the Worcester agency, indicated that the hoard was found on
the side of the hill in an area that was densely populated with Roman
farmsteads. However, the exact location is being kept secret.
Richard Henry, the Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities
Scheme said, “This discovery of this coin hoard is really exciting
news for Worcestershire and of major significance not only for the
county but also the country.”
The 3,784 coins span 38 years and are a “fascinating little piece
of history” dating from a turbulent time during which the Roman Empire
saw revolts, rebellions, plague and invasions.
“This project is a fantastic example of the ways different
professional groups and the finders can work together to help preserve
our nation’s heritage,” said Henry.
It is believed that the coins were buried around A.D. 350, when
there was a revolt involving the Dobunni and Cornovil tribes that were
based in the Welsh Marches (the term used to describe the
Wales-England border). However, following additional research that
Worcestershire County Council Historic Environment and Archaeology
Service undertook with the British Museum, it is believed the most
recent coins in the hoard were minted around 80 years before they were buried.
The coins represent 16 different Roman emperors, according to news
reports about the find.
The coins are currently with the British Museum for conservation
and research. When this is completed, the information will enable the
coroner (the local official responsible), Geraint Williams, to decide
whether the hoard should be declared as treasure.
If this is the case, a market valuation will be set by the British
Museum, and Worcestershire County Museum will have four months to
raise the funding if they decide to acquire the find for long-term
exhibition in the county. The finders and landowner will share in the
proceeds from the sale.
A selection of coins from the hoard is on display at the Worcester
City Art Gallery through Nov. 26. ■