Biggest-ever haul of Roman coins found in Somerset

July 8, 2010 | by | 1 Comment

An amateur metal detector enthusiast is celebrating after he unearthed Britain’s biggest ever haul of Roman gold coins .

Lucky Dave Crisp, 63, found the hoard of more than 52,000 coins, which date from the third century AD, buried in a field near Frome, Somerset.

The dedicated metal detector has spent over 20 years scouring miles of field in Somerset and Wiltshire in search of treasure.

But he literally struck gold in April when he dug down a foot beneath the surface after picking up a slight ‘beep’ and found a huge well-preserved earthenware crock.

Dave, from Devizes, Wilts., told how his detector gave a ”funny signal”, prompting him to dig down through the soil.

He was stunned to dust away the dirt to find the pot full of treasure which is thought to have lain undisturbed for 1,800 years.

It is thought the £250,000 find – known as the Frome Haul – represents the biggest single haul ever unearthed in Britain.

Dave said: ”I put my hand in, pulled out a bit of clay and there was a little Radial, a little bronze Roman coin.

”It was very, very small, about the size of my fingernail.

”I have been metal detecting since 1988 and this hoard is the most exciting and important find that I have ever made.”

Married hospital chef Dave started metal detecting ‘seriously’ in 1988 and has spent at least one day a week searching fields around Somerset and Wiltshire since.

During that time he has found coins, artefacts and jewellery spanning a range of eras including Celtic, Georgian, Saxon and Victorian.

He approached a farmer, who wants to be known only as Geoff, near Frome, Somerset last April to asked if he could search his field.

And after two hours of meticulously scouring the land, Dave struck gold.

”The joy of metal detecting is that you never know what you will find,” Dave added.

”I always live in hope but didn’t expect to find something like this. It’s by far the most significant thing I’ve found yet.”

He left the haul untouched and immediately contacted the finds liaison officer at Somerset Count Council, who hired a team of archaeologists to analyse the find.

Dave, who is secretary of the Trowbridge Metal Detecting Club, said: ”Leaving it in the ground for the archaeologists to excavate was a very hard decision to take, but as it had been there for 1,800 years, I thought a few days more would not hurt.

”My family thought I was mad to walk away and leave it.”

The hoard was taken to the British Museum, where the coins were cleaned and recorded. A coroner will rule whether it qualifies as a treasure trove at an inquest on July 22.

Grandfather-of-three Dave said he has agreed to do a 50/50 split of the proceeds from the find with the landowner Geoff.

Since the discovery – 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.

Experts believe the pot may have belonged to Carausius, who ruled Britain independently from AD 286 to AD 293, and was the first Roman emperor to strike coins in Britain.

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.

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

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  1. brian young says:

    As I have recently retired and have just purchased my first metal detector I was very pleased to read this article. It’s given me a lot of hope !!!!!!!

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