Metal Detectorists Uncover Largest Hoard of Anglo-Saxon Gold Coins in England, Dating Back 1,400 Years

TIMEDecember 29, 2021

A hoard of 131 gold coins and a number of other gold objects dating back 1,400 years ago stand to be the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold coins ever found in England.

In A.D. 600, England, still ununited, was divided into several smaller Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. One of the most important of these was East Angles (modern-day Norfolk and Suffolk), which in later centuries would prove to yield a great number of treasures from antiquity.

Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of British Museum)

These treasures include the famed Sutton Hoo Anglo-Saxon ship burial grounds discovered in Suffolk in 1938—and now, the more recent said stash of gold coins, which was found in a field in West Norfolk between the years 1990 and 2020—starting with just a single gold coin found before the introduction of the Treasures Act (in 1996), meaning it was not considered part of a group.

The majority of the objects in the hoard, though, were found between 2014 and 2020 by a single metal detectorist who wished to remain anonymous. The landowner also requested anonymity. The finder reported the stash to authorities in accord with the Treasures Act, which dictates that any two or more coins containing at least 10% precious metal must be turned in. Should the Crown wish to acquire the items, the finder is to be compensated per market value.

Intriguingly, 10 of the 131 coins were found by a former policeman who, instead of reporting the discovery, tried to sell the coins, passing them off as single finds from a number of different sites. His marketing efforts were uncovered, however, and he was found guilty in 2017, sentenced to 16 months in prison, and dismissed from the police, the British Museum stated. Two of the coins, he did sell, however, which disappeared into the antiquities trade.

Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of British Museum)

The said hoard, buried after A.D. 600, are mostly Frankish tremisses, which were not yet produced in East Anglia by that date; also included were nine gold solidi (a larger coin from the Byzantine Empire worth three tremisses); four other gold objects were also among the treasures: a gold bracteate (a type of stamped pendant), a small gold bar, and two other gold pieces believed to be parts of larger items of jewelry, the museum added.

The region of East Angles was one of the most bountiful in terms of archaeological yields through metal detecting. Previously, the largest hoard of coins from this period was a purse containing 101 coins found at Crondall in Hampshire in 1828, which had been disturbed before the discovery and may have contained even more coins. This find, buried around A.D. 640, contained a mixture of Anglo-Saxon, Frankish, and Frisian coins, along with a single coin of the Byzantine Empire minted in Constantinople.

Far and away the most famous discovery from this period, though, is the Sutton Hoo ship burial in Suffolk, which dates somewhere between 610 and 640. The site housed 37 gold coins, three blank gold discs of the same size, two small gold ingots, and several other gold items.

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Michael Wing
Editor and Writer
Michael Wing is a writer and editor based in Calgary, Canada, where he was born and educated in the arts. He writes mainly on culture, human interest, and trending news.