Huge Roman coins find for hobbyist

clay jar with coins in the ground Archaeologists from Somerset County Council excavated the jar and coins

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One of the largest ever finds of Roman coins in Britain has been made by a man using a metal detector.

The hoard of more than 52,000 coins dating from the 3rd Century AD was found buried in a field near Frome in Somerset.

The coins were found in a huge jar just over a foot (30cm) below the surface by Dave Crisp, from Devizes in Wiltshire.

"I have made many finds over the years, but this is my first major coin hoard," he said.

After his metal detector gave a "funny signal", Mr Crisp says he dug down 14in before he found what had caused it.

"I put my hand in, pulled out a bit of clay and there was a little Radial, a little bronze Roman coin. Very, very small, about the size of my fingernail."

Mr Crisp reported the find to the authorities, allowing archaeologists to excavate the site.

Offering to gods

Since the discovery in late April, experts from the Portable Antiquities Scheme at the British Museum have been working through the find.

Dave Crisp explains how he discovered the coin hoard

The coins were all contained in a single clay pot. Although it only measured 18in (45cm) across, the coins were packed inside and would have weighed an estimated 160kg (350lb).

"I don't believe myself that this is a hoard of coins intended for recovery," says Sam Moorhead from the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

"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.

"Because Mr Crisp resisted the temptation to dig up the coins, it has allowed archaeologists from Somerset County Council to carefully excavate the pot and its contents," said Anna Booth, local finds liaison officer.

Somerset County Council Heritage Service now hope the coroner will declare the find as treasure. That would allow the Museum of Somerset to acquire the coins at market value with the reward shared by Mr Crisp and the land owner.

The story of the excavation will be told in a new BBC Two archaeology series, Digging for Britain, presented by Dr Alice Roberts and made by 360production, to be broadcast in August.

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