BBC Two unearths one of Britain's biggest ever Roman coin hoards

In a new, landmark history series for BBC Two, Digging For Britain unearths the biggest Roman coin hoard in a single container ever found in Britain.

Metal detectorist Dave Crisp made the discovery of a lifetime when he uncovered a hoard of more than 52,000 coins dating from the 3rd century AD, buried in a field near Frome, in Somerset.

The coins were found in a huge jar just over a foot (0.3m) below the surface.

The excavation will be broadcast in a new BBC Two archaeology series, Digging For Britain, presented by Dr Alice Roberts – to be broadcast in August.

Because Mr Crisp realised the importance of the find, he called the Finds Liaison Officer in Wiltshire, Katie Hinds, as soon as it was discovered. She then informed Anna Booth, Finds Liaison Office in Somerset, who then contacted Somerset County Museums Service to organise an excavation.

They were able to systematically excavate the pot layer by layer, meaning we can learn much more about the circumstances surrounding the burial of this massive amount of coinage that has remained untouched for over 1700 years.

The hoard was so enormous it took the team three full days to excavate the vessel and its contents.

Mr Crisp said: “I have been 22 years detecting and I have never, never had a hoard. I put my hand in, pulled out a bit of clay and there was a little Radial, a little bronze Roman coin – very, very small, about the size of my fingernail.”

Since the discovery in late April, archaeologists at the British Museum have been working through the find.

The coins were all contained in a single clay pot. Although it only measured 18″ (0.45m) across, the coins were packed inside and would have weighed an estimated 160 kilos, as much as two adults.

Sam Moorhead, from the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme, 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 roughly four years’ pay for a legionary soldier.

A selection of coins from the hoard is on display in Gallery 68 at the British Museum until mid-August.

Digging For Britain is a 360 Production. The executive producer is John Farren and the executive producer for the BBC is James Hayes.

Martin Davidson, Commissioning Editor, History, said: “Archaeology is a fantastic jigsaw puzzle and I hope Digging For Britain can help bring to life some of the mysteries of our nation’s past. I’m thrilled that the BBC is in a position to bring this fascinating find to viewers.”

 

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