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Hoard of Roman Coins in a field in Somerset

7 July 2010

Some 52,500 bronze and silver coins dating from the 3rd century AD have been  found by a hobby metal detectorist in a field near Frome in the West Country. It is the largest single hoard ever found in Britain – and they all date between 253-293AD. A Roman road ran nearby but there is no trace, as yet, of a villa or settlement, so it is a bit puzzling. Archaeologists said that hoards are usually buried at times of invasion and civil unrest – the Irish and Saxon raids of the 5th century might be a more fitting time. He expresses surprise about the 3rd century AD provenance of the coins – and indeed, why were so many of them buried as they could not have been carried there as the hoard was too heavy. They must have first dug a hole for the clay pot and then poured the coins into it – thousands of them. However, the period between 250 and 280AD is generally recognised as unsettled and troubled times – and there is even a low growth tree ring event. In this instance, the hoard was buried in 293 or shortly afterwards – rather late in the day. In the mid to late 3rd century AD a lot of settlements and villas appear to have been abandoned. When reoccupied they invariably had a smaller population – and it has been suggested plague raced through the British countryside in the 3rd century (as it seems to have done elsewhere in the Roman Empire. Some regions were left depopulated and were resettled with barbarians.

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