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England’s biggest Anglo-Saxon coin hoard declared treasure

A hoard of 131 Anglo-Saxon gold coins was declared treasure on Wednesday (3 November 2021). This makes it the largest hoard of gold coins from the period and was described by Tim Pestell, the senior curator of archaeology at Norwich Castle Museum as an “internationally significant find“. Norwich Castle Museum hopes to acquire the hoard with the support of the British Museum.

The find

The 131 coins, and four other gold objects, were found at various times between 1991 and 2020 in a field in west Norfolk. The first coin was discovered in 1991, but it was not until 2014 that further coins were found. It was only on Wednesday that the inquest deemed them to be part of the same hoard.

Most of the objects were found by a single anonymous detectorist. However, 10 of the coins were found by David Cockle, a serving police officer who was jailed for 16 months in 2017 for failing to declare them. Cockle managed to sell two of his find and these have since disappeared.

The Hoard

The coins are mostly Merovingian tremisses with nine gold solidi, worth three tremisses.Some of the coins were struck from the same die in the same workshop as those found in a purse at the Sutton Hoo.

Gold bracteate, gold bar and two jewellery fragments
 Photograph: British Museum

The four other objects include a gold bracteate (a type of stamped pendant) and a small gold bar.

Dr Marsden, from the Norfolk Historic Environment Service, said: “It seems to have been built up by someone moving around the Merovingian kingdom. And as it was found near an Anglo-Saxon cemetery, it may have been buried in a barrow (burial) and scattered by centuries of ploughing.”

Gareth Williams, the curator of early medieval coins at the British Museum, said: “This is a hugely important find. It is close in date to the famous ship burial from Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. In fact it is the largest coin hoard of the period known to date. It must be seen alongside other recent finds from East Anglia and elsewhere, and will help to transform our understanding of the economy of early Anglo-Saxon England.”

Other Anglo-Saxon hoards

The Staffordshire Hoard was the largest find of gold metalwork from this period with more than 5.1kg of gold and 1.4kg of silver.

The previous largest coin hoard of this period was 101 coins in a purse, discovered at Crondall, Hampshire, in 1828.

The Sutton Hoo hoard included a purse of 37 gold Merovingian coins, three blank gold discs the same size as the coins, and two small gold ingots. Although it contained more gold overall there were fewer coins than the Norfolk hoard.

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