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The greatest East Anglian treasure finds of all time

PUBLISHED: 19:50 29 July 2019 | UPDATED: 10:01 30 July 2019

Coins from the Hoxne hoard - the richest find of treasure from Roman Britain  Picture: British Museum

Coins from the Hoxne hoard - the richest find of treasure from Roman Britain Picture: British Museum

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It's the 80th anniversary of the Sutton Hoo Anglo-Saxon burial ship discovery. So we thought we'd take a quick look at some other East Anglian treasure hoards

Three of the gold staters discovered in the cow bone at Sedgeford in 2003  Picture: JOHN HOCKNELLThree of the gold staters discovered in the cow bone at Sedgeford in 2003 Picture: JOHN HOCKNELL

The Hoxne hoard

The biggest hoard of late Roman silver and gold found in Britain was on the Suffolk-Norfolk border, at Hoxne in 1992. Metal-detectorist Eric Lawes was the man to thank. It was buried in a carefully-packed oak box.

In the hoard was - deep breath - 14,865 gold, silver and bronze Roman coins and about 200 pieces of silver tableware and gold jewellery, including a gold body-chain. The following year, the Treasure Valuation Committee reckoned it was all worth £1.75million.

When BBC Radio 4 ran its popular series A History of the World in 100 Objects nearly a decade ago, the British Museum nominated an item found at Hoxne: a pepper pot in the shape of a Roman noble-woman.

Chris Mackie with the x-ray showing the Iron Age gold staters at Sedgeford, hidden in a cow's bone  Picture: JOHN HOCKNELLChris Mackie with the x-ray showing the Iron Age gold staters at Sedgeford, hidden in a cow's bone Picture: JOHN HOCKNELL

The programme website said: "Only a very wealthy family could have owned such treasures. We do not know the identity of the person who buried it but several objects are inscribed with the name Aurelius Ursicinus."

READ MORE: When Suffolk's treasures amazed the world

The Snettisham Treasure

Dr Colin Dring in 2002 with the replica of the Great Dish at Mildenhall Museum  Picture: ANDY ABBOTTDr Colin Dring in 2002 with the replica of the Great Dish at Mildenhall Museum Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

This corner of Norfolk has the hoard that's kept on giving. Actually, it's technically a series of at least a dozen hoards that make up The Snettisham Treasure.

The British Museum describes six decades of discoveries on these lands near Sandringham as "spectacular", and it's not wrong. The hoards (groups of objects placed in the ground together) have given us the biggest deposit of gold, silver and bronze items, dating from the Iron Age, ever to be found in Europe.

Most of it was buried between 100 and 60BC. Weigh it all and it tops the scales at more than 40kg - and it's beautifully made.

There are more than 200 torcs (circular ornaments worn around the neck and made from precious metals or bronze), about the same number of coins, and more than 100 bracelet and ring ingots (blocks of metal).

Rings found in the Thetford hoard, displayed at the British Museum  Picture: GeniRings found in the Thetford hoard, displayed at the British Museum Picture: Geni

Speaking of Iron Age neckwear, East Anglia is pretty much Torc Central. More have been found here than in any other region - most of them in hoards.

Mind you, a rare tubular gold torc - one of the first Snettisham discoveries, late in 1948 - was initially thought to be a piece of a brass bedstead…

READ MORE: 'Gentleman's daughter' who unlocked Sutton Hoo's treasures

Icenian silver coins that were part of the Honingham hoard  Picture: GeniIcenian silver coins that were part of the Honingham hoard Picture: Geni

The Mildenhall Treasure

Here's another Roman biggie close to the Suffolk-Norfolk border (and Cambridgeshire, come to that). It comes with a nice, if naïve, story.

The find was actually in a field at West Row, a few miles outside Mildenhall, in 1942.

The duo responsible were ploughman Gordon Butcher and his employer, agricultural engineer Sydney Ford.

Work continuing at  the Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project excavations in Norfolk in 2003, following the discovery of ancient gold coins  Picture: John HocknellWork continuing at the Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project excavations in Norfolk in 2003, following the discovery of ancient gold coins Picture: John Hocknell

Sydney, who collected local antiquities, took the treasures home… and put them on show on the sideboard.

In the spring of 1946, a local amateur antiquarian visited Sydney and saw the collection. Some pieces were dispatched for analysis to prove to the collector they were made of silver, not pewter.

Today, the British Museum says about the objects: "The Mildenhall Treasure, a large hoard of Roman silver vessels of the fourth century AD, is one of the most iconic finds from Roman Britain."

The Wickham Market Iron Age coin hoard found in 2008 at nearby Dallinghoo  Picture: Portable Antiquities SchemeThe Wickham Market Iron Age coin hoard found in 2008 at nearby Dallinghoo Picture: Portable Antiquities Scheme

READ MORE: Will there ever be another archaeological dig at Sutton Hoo?

The items were declared treasure trove at an inquest in Bury St Edmunds that year, and the collection was acquired by the British Museum, where "it became an overnight sensation when it was first displayed… and has since remained hugely popular".

The museum explains: "The artistic and technical quality of the silver objects is outstanding, and though we do not know who owned them, it was probably a person or family of considerable wealth and high social status…

"Much of the decoration relates to the mythology and worship of Bacchus, the god of wine, a theme that was very popular on silver tableware throughout the Roman period."

The "Great Dish", an intensely-decorated circular platter weighing more than 8kg, has become the emblem of the Mildenhall Treasure. It's also known as the Neptune or Oceanus dish.

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"Bacchic imagery had a long history in Greek and Roman art, and this example, on a magnificent silver vessel, is one of the finest to survive from the late-Roman period."

The Thetford hoard

Detectorist Arthur Brooks found a hoard of Roman-British metalwork at Gallows Hill, near Thetford, in November, 1979 - items that later found a home in the British Museum.

The artefacts were dated to the mid-to-late years of the 4th Century. They included 33 silver spoons and three silver strainers; 22 gold rings; five gold-chain necklaces; four gold bracelets; four necklace pendants; a gold amulet; an emerald bead, and a gold belt-buckle adorned with a dancing satyr.

The Honingham hoard

Back in 1954, a local farmer and his employees were harvesting a crop of sugar beet about eight miles west-ish of Norwich when they found a collection of 341 silver Iron Age coins and the bottom of a small Roman pot.

The coins were found to have belonged to the Iceni people. The theory was that they'd been buried in about 60AD, when Boudicca led her tribe's rebellion against Roman rule.

The Scole hoard

Excavations of land where a housing estate was due to be built found a number of items all thought to be Roman: shards of pottery, some coins, and objects made from iron and copper alloy. There were also the footings for houses.

Coins and pieces of pottery from the Iron Age were found, too.

Then in 1982 and 1983, when the new houses were being built, workers found 202 silver Iceni coins and 87 Roman ones. There were also four skeletons of people thought to have lived in the 3rd Century.

The Sedgeford hoard

When you find a muddy cow's bone that appears to be full of gold coins, you want to check it out. Which is how, in the summer of 2003, amateur archaeologist Chris Mackie took it to a hospital in King's Lynn and asked to have it x-rayed.

The bone found at Sedgeford, near Heacham, contained 20 gold coins dating from the 1st Century. Nineteen other coins were found nearby on the Iron Age site. All the coins featured a stylized horse and appeared to have been buried when they were fairly new.

They were known as Gallo-Belgic E staters, made probably in northern France. It was thought they might have been brought back to Britain by soldiers or mercenaries.

The Wickham Market hoard

It should really be the Dallinghoo hoard, since the 840 Iron Age gold staters (a kind of coin) were found in a field in the village near Wickham Market in 2008.

Car mechanic and detectorist Michael Darke made the breakthrough, finding his first gold coin in a quarter of a century of metal-detecting in the area.

He later returned, found eight more, and then his machine registered a major find. Michael dug up 774 more coins.

A major excavation followed. In all, 840 coins were found. Almost all had been minted in East Anglia by the Iceni tribe; a couple came from Lincolnshire.

A few years later, Ipswich Museum bought the coins for £316,000.

The Cookley hoard

In the summer of 2018, 60 Roman coins were found in a field near Halesworth by a metal detectorist.

The hoard uncovered at Cookley consisted of 58 solid silver coins and a couple of silver-plated copies. The denarii were dated to a period from 153BC and 60 to 61AD. Some were made during the reigns of emperors such as Augustus, Caligula and Nero.

Expert Dr Anna Booth reckoned they might have been hidden during the revolt against the Romans led by Boudicca.

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