Massive Gold Coin Hoard from Roman Empire Discovered

Posted by - Monday, October 29th, 2012

A massive hoard of historic gold coins found this month in the United Kingdom will draw the interest of coin and gold lovers everywhere.

It was the biggest gold coin find in the nation to date. Discovered north of the district of St. Albans in Hertfordshire, the hoard contained 159 coins from the late era of Roman rule in Britain.

Roman Gold Coin HoardThey mainly dated to the late 4th and early 5th centuries during the rule of emperor Honorius (A.D. 395 to 423).

95 of them displayed his image, and 42 were of his brother Arcadius (395 to 408), Byzantine emperor. There were also eleven of the Roman emperor Valentinian II (375 to 392), seven of Theodosius (379 to 395), and one of Gratian (375 to 383).

Three of the coins could not be identified, as they required additional cleaning. But all but one were found to be in very good condition.

The hoard was discovered by a metal detectorist who has chosen to remain anonymous. The hoard falls under the Treasure Act of 1996, under which they will be submitted to a panel of experts for the British Museum and report to another official who must decide if they qualify as “treasure.”

Should they be confirmed as treasure, the museum will raise money, which will be split between the finder and the landowner.

The coins were considered rare even in the Roman era. They would have been very highly valued and often buried for the purpose of protection or storage.

A long trip, for example, may have moved the owner to bury the coins, or possibly the threat of war. They might have also been buried as a religious sacrifice to the gods.

But they wouldn't have been owned by just anyone.

From Coin World:

“They would have been used for large transactions such as buying land or goods by the shipload,” [prehistory to medieval curator David] Thorald said. “Typically, the wealthy Roman elite, merchants or soldiers receiving bulk pay were the recipients.”

They were minted all across the empire. The majority were from Milan, but others came from Ravenna, Trier, Rome, Constantinople, Thessalonica, Lyons, and Sirmium. Four were from unknown mints.

A presentation on the coins will be held on November 1 at the museum. Once the panel examines the hoard, they will likely be put on display.

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