Smithsonian reports on another British coin hoard. Metal detectors really work, don’t they?
This September, a British birder who’d stopped on the edge of a farmer’s field to watch a buzzard and a pair of magpies stumbled onto a trove of 2,000-year-old Celtic coins worth an estimated £845,000 (around $1,150,000 USD).
As first reported by Julian Evan-Hart of Treasure Hunting magazine, the unnamed bird-watcher—who is also an amateur metal detectorist—unearthed the stash of some 1,300 gold coins in a field in the eastern English countryside. Dated to between roughly 40 and 50 A.D., the cache is the largest hoard of Iron Age Celtic coins found in the United Kingdom since 2008, when a car mechanic excavated a stash of 850 ancient staters, or handmade money, in Suffolk.
“I saw the glint of gold and realized it was a beautiful Celtic gold stater, which made me sit down in sheer shock,” the birder tells Treasure Hunting, as quoted by the Daily Mail’s Luke May. “I then spotted the second coin two feet away and rushed home to get my [metal detector].”
Upon his return, the man found that his detector produced a “really strong” signal—a sure sign that more treasures lingered below the surface. Digging down about 18 inches, he extracted a copper vessel brimming with gold coins dated back to the era when Celtic queen Boudica led a massive uprising against the Romans.
“I had to sit down to get my breath back,” the treasure hunter says. “I had only come out for a walk and found a Celtic hoard.”
Once the man overcame his initial shock, he filled two large shopping bags with the cache of coins and returned home. Then, he promptly contacted local authorities to report the find. If experts deem the discovery treasure, they will offer it to a museum and potentially offer a share of the reward to the finder. (Current guidelines define treasure very narrowly, but as Caroline Davies reports for the Guardian, the U.K. government is working to expand these parameters in order to better protect the country’s national heritage items.)
“The coins form a substantial if not enormous contribution to our academic numismatic knowledge and will undoubtedly be subject to much assessment over the coming year,” says Jules Evan-Hart, editor of Treasure Hunting, in a statement quoted by the New York Post’s Hannah Sparks. “It is possible that [the coins] may form a deposit as a ‘war chest’ for Boudica’s eastern campaigns.”