Welsh Metal Detecting Duo Strikes Rare, 2000-year-old Iron Age Treasure
A pair of metal detectorists exploring an open field in Anglesey, Wales, have discovered an Iron Age treasure trove of 15 gold coins. According to a statement from Museums Wales, the coins represent “the first time” that Iron Age currency has been found in Wales. Furthermore, every coin featured mystical and intricate designs and materials, providing insights into trade and societal values during the Iron Age in Britain.
Aerial image of Anglesey island in Wales, where the Iron Age treasure was found. (Patrick O’Neill / Adobe Stock)
Symbols on Iron Age Treasure Hoard Serving as Keys
The landscapes of Iron Age Wales, spanning from around 800 BC to 74 AD, were a fusion of natural beauty and human interaction. Rolling hills, dense forests, and expansive coastal regions were encrusted with strategically located fortified hillforts and ceremonial spaces. Rivers represented key trade routes facilitating the exchange of ideas and goods, including apparently, gold coins.
The Museum Wales statement reporting the find of the Iron Age treasure hoard explained that the 15 well-preserved coins, known as staters, were struck (minted) sometime between 60 BC and 20 BC, at three different mints across what is now Lincolnshire, in England.
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“The obverse (head) side shows Apollo’s wreath and hair, while the reverse (tails) shows a stylized triangular-headed horse with various symbols surrounding it,” stated the press release announcing the find of the Iron Age treasure hoard.
The statement added that this type of coin was very popular in ancient Greece. Archaeologists at the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust have associated the 15 coins with the Corieltavi tribe, who dominated the modern East Midlands during the late Iron Age.
Experts have concluded that the Iron Age treasure, made up of gold coins, was minted some time between 60 BC and 20 BC by the Corieltavi tribe. (Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales)
Introducing the Team Who Found the Iron Age Treasure
The two metal detectorists unearthed the 15 Iron Age coins between July 2021 and March 2022, after which they contacted the British Museum and Museum Wales Portable Antiquities Scheme. Earlier this week heritage authorities announced the 15 coins were officially a national “treasure.” So who were the treasure hunters?
Lloyd Roberts, who found the first coins in the hoard, had been hunting for treasure for 14 years, and in the statement he said “finding a gold stater was always number one on my wish list.” Roberts said that “after contacting the Portable Antiquities Scheme, we both just sat on the spot, had a coffee and imagined what our surroundings and people’s lives were like over 2,000 years ago!”
Robert’s teammate, Tim Watson, who found ten of the coins, said he had already scanned this field and never found anything of interest. Describing the Iron Age treasure find, Watson explained; “I rushed home to show my wife and we were both in awe of this coin, which was like nothing else I had found, immaculately preserved with such unusual stylized images.” Enchanted, the couple invested in a new metal detector. Over the proceeding weeks Watson unearthed another nine Iron Age coins.
Why is the Iron Age Treasure So “Incredibly Rare”?
Museums Wales said the discovery is “incredibly rare.” This is not only because of the symbols, or the time period the coins were used. Instead, the interest in the Iron Age treasure lies in the fact that although Iron Age tribes in the region didn't generally use the currencies of other cultures, these coins were minted in modern-day Lincolnshire, in England.
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The museum said the island find-zone was an “important religious center” from the first century BC to the first century AD. They speculate that the coins were perhaps deposited as “offerings to the gods,” an idea which is supported by the depictions of the God Apollo.
After the archaeologists have completed their analysis of the coins discovered in Wales, they will eventually be put on display at the Oriel Môn museum and gallery in Anglesey. They will be exhibited alongside an already splendid collection of Iron Age artifacts and relics, including intricate metalwork, pottery, and tools, all of which provide deep-insights into the sacred island's ancient cultures.
Top image: The Iron Age treasure found in an Anglesey field was made up of a hoard of 15 gold coins. Source: Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales
By Ashley Cowie