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The Roman earring found by Nick Bateman. Source: Nick Bateman

Detectorist Strikes Roman Gold in England


When this English metal detectorist realized that he hadn’t dug up a metal top, but an ancient Roman gold earring, he “sank to his knees in disbelief”.

After many unfruitful searches, 53 -year-old English builder and metal detectorist, Nick Bateman, from Burston, Norfolk, titled this apparently treasure-barren south Norfolk field, “The Disappointment.” However, on Christmas Eve 2021 the treasure hunter was swooping his detector in the ‘Disappointment’ when his detector let out a low squeal leading to the discovery of a rare gold earring.

At first, Bateman thought the earring was a medieval artifact, but a jewelry specialist has since confirmed it’s actually dated to the Roman occupation of Britain. According to a report in The BBC, the news of the earring’s Roman heritage caused the lucky finder to “dance in the kitchen with Badger,” his dog.

Mr Bateman said the "disappointing” field is now one of “the best fields he’s ever been in”.

Nick Bateman and his dog, ‘Badger’ shown here, go out detecting together. (Nick Bateman)

Nick Bateman and his dog, ‘Badger’ shown here, go out detecting together. (Nick Bateman)

Bateman Is Becoming A Treasure Finding Machine

Nick Bateman was referred to as “lucky” in the opening lines of this article, but his latest discovery is perhaps more so the work of skill with his having been taught the arts of treasure hunting by experienced and renowned Suffolk detectorist, Joe Edwards-Gill. In 2020 Gill told EPD24 that “East Anglia is one of, if not the best place to metal detect in the world”.

Joe told the BBC that “Nick Bateman has been detecting for five minutes and he's already got five pieces going through the treasure process.” And highlighting how impressive this is, Joe admitted that he has been detecting for over 10 years and that so far he has “only found one' official treasure.

Fairly Battered, But Really Valuable Nevertheless

Nick Bateman said he had completed all his “Christmas stuff” and decided to nip out “for a sneaky hour or two" swooping his detector. He said the signal was poor, but he dug down 7 to 10 centimeters (3 or 4 inches) to check, and he noticed what he thought was “a gold metal bottle top.”  Bateman told the BBC that when he wiped away the mud and realized it was an earring, “I sunk to my knees in disbelief".

Described as "fairly battered," when Bateman unearthed the ancient earring he followed the correct legal protocol and reported his find to the local coroner. It was then analyzed by Numismatist, Adrian Marsden, from the Norfolk Historic Environment Service. By the way, “Numismatists” include collectors, specialist dealers, and scholars who use coins and other currency in object-focused research.

The earring has a small cross indented, visible top right here (The Portable Antiquities Scheme)

The earring has a small cross indented, visible top right here (The Portable Antiquities Scheme)

The “Disappointment Field” Needs Renamed

Punched out of two gold discs that were carefully soldered together the tiny artifact measures 20.5mm by 22.1mm (0.8in). Upon a closer inspection Marsden identified a tiny cross beneath its suspension loop and a laurel wreath and an eagle, which he said is “exactly the sort of design you would expect to find on Roman objects.” It is thought the earring originally had two loops, one for hanging on the ear hook and another suspended from the second loop, allowing it to dangle and sparkle in the sun.

So it turned out that Bateman was wrong in the end, and that his so-called “Disappointing Field” was in fact the keeper of a rare Roman treasure. The finder told the BBC that everything has changed, and now when he looks over the field his mind drifts back in time and he wonders “what that Roman woman's life was like, what she looked like and how she came to lose the earring in a Norfolk field." Let’s answer that question.

Wealthy Roman women wore, and collected, lots of exotic jewelry as it was a prime symbol of one's social status. They adorned themselves with precious stone-encrusted necklaces, gem-heavy bracelets, rich yellow gold and silver finger rings, and they usually had pierced ears in which one set of earrings was worn.

Top image: The Roman earring found by Nick Bateman  Source: Nick Bateman

By Ashley Cowie

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Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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