1,400-Year-Old Anglo-Saxon Gold Coin Hoard Is Largest Ever!
The Anglo-Saxons, a major migrating cultural group from the North Sea coastlands, arrived and settled in England in the Early Middle Ages (5th century AD onwards). Their identity was formed as a result of a fusion between migrating Germanic tribes and indigenous British groups. It was the Anglo-Saxons, in fact, who established the Kingdom of England, and much of the English language in common use today. Recently, the Evening Standard reported that a massive Anglo-Saxon gold coin hoard, 131 in total, and 4 other gold objects, was found in west Norfolk, England dating from around 1,400 years ago.
One of the gold coins found by the anonymous detectorist. (Norfolk Identification and Recording Service)
Norfolk’s Anglo-Saxon Gold Coin Hoard, UK’s Biggest Ever!
Gareth Williams, curator of early medieval coins at the British Museum, said the "hugely important find," which dates to the same era as the Sutton Hoo ship burial (i.e., the early 600s AD) near Woodbridge in Suffolk.
“It is close in date to the famous ship burial from Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, and although it doesn’t contain as much gold as the whole of the Sutton Hoo burial, it contains many more coins. 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,” Williams said to the The National UK .
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Many of the coins in the Norfolk Anglo-Saxon gold coin hoard were minted by the Merovingian dynasty, like this one issued by Chlothar II from 584–628 AD. (PHGCOM / Public domain )
Area coroner, Yvonne Blake, said that the coins had been scattered over a wide area probably by ploughing, and were discovered by the same anonymous metal detectorist between 2014 and 2020. He added that some of the coins had been struck with the same die as coins found at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, where an ancient ruler was buried with his treasures in a ship, as per a report by the Eastern Daily Press .
The first coin in the Norfolk Anglo-Saxon gold coin hoard was actually discovered in 1991, but it was only in 2014, that more coins were found, the earliest dating to 610 AD.
Some of these coins were minted by the Byzantine Empire , but most were made by the Merovingian dynasty, which roughly corresponds to modern-day France, said a BBC report. At this period in history, Britain did not mint its own gold coins, so they had to be from somewhere on the European continent, as confirmed by numismatist Dr. Adrian Marsden, from the Norfolk Historical Environment Service.
In fact, many of the Norfolk coins were struck from the same die in the same workshop as those found in a purse at the Sutton Hoo, Dr. Marsden added. He suggested that the hoard was probably in the possession of an English person who frequented the Merovingian kingdom .
Dr. Marsden also stressed that these items were probably part of a barrow-burial, and then scattered because of many centuries of ploughing (the finds were discovered near an Anglo-Saxon cemetery ).
Ian Richardson, senior treasure registrar at the British Museum in London, suggested that this was potentially a travelling merchant , as all the items came from a single hoard, but no container had been found.
Storied Gold Coins that Travelled Across the Continent
Apart from the Sutton Hoo die cast coins, there were coins from Frisia (modern-day northern Holland), Austrasia (parts of modern-day Germany and Austria), and the French regions of Aquitaine, Burgundy, and Provence.
Most of the Norfolk Anglo-Saxon gold coin hoard are Frankish tremisses. There were also nine gold solidi , larger coins from the Byzantine Empire worth three tremisses. A tremissis or tremis means a third of a unit. Tremisses were small gold coins minted in the Late Antiquity period. They were introduced into the Roman currency in the 380s by Emperor Theodosius I and were in circulation for almost five hundred years.
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The hoard included gold coins such as this and several other gold items. (Norfolk Identification and Recording Service)
The Norfolk gold hoard also contains four other gold objects, including a gold bracteate or stamped pendant (worn as jewelry; produced in Northern Europe, during the period of the Germanic invasions), a small gold bar, and two other pieces of gold that were probably parts of larger items of jewelry.
The coins are not all known to experts and have only been previously identified in a drawing in a book dated to 1666 AD, that has since been lost.
The largest Anglo-Saxon coin hoard, prior to the Norfolk discovery, was found in Hampshire in 1828 and consisted of 101 coins.
Incidentally, while the first metal detectorist who found most of the Norfolk hoard requested anonymity, the second detectorist was actually a serving police officer by the name of David Cockle. He was caught trying to conceal and profit off the find. He was caught, suspended from duty, and served a 16-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to the charges in 2017.
Top image: The amazing Norfolk Anglo-Saxon gold coin hoard, which is now the largest ever found in the UK. Source: The Trustees of the British Museum
By Sahir Pandey
BBC. 2021. Largest Anglo-Saxon gold coin hoard found in Norfolk . Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-norfolk-59151380
Bishop, C. 2021. Medieval coins found near King's Lynn came from across ancient Europe. Available at: https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/medieval-coins-found-near-kings-lynn-treasure-trove-8460012
Ebrahimi, S. 2021. England's largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold coins unearthed. Available at: https://www.thenationalnews.com/world/uk-news/2021/11/03/englands-largest-hoard-of-anglo-saxon-gold-coins-unearthed/
Russell, S. 2021. Largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold coins in England unearthed in Norfolk . Available at: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/england-norfolk-british-museum-anglosaxon-suffolk-b964242.html