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Iron Age coins go on display

PUBLISHED: 23:22 14 October 2005 | UPDATED: 15:36 22 October 2010

Museum curator Tim Thorpe with the gold staters.

Museum curator Tim Thorpe with the gold staters.

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They lay underground in their unusual hiding place as 2000 years of history were played out in the world above. But in 2003 this Iron Age hoard of gold coins finally came to light as part of Norfolk's longest-running archaeological dig.

They lay underground in their unusual hiding place as 2000 years of history were played out in the world above.

But in 2003 this Iron Age hoard of gold coins finally came to light as part of Norfolk's longest-running archaeological dig, at Sedgeford, near Hunstanton.

Now the public has the chance to view the much talked-about discovery, as the coins and the cow's leg bone in which they were hidden have gone on display at the Town House Museum, King's Lynn.

The annual summer excavation of a Saxon burial ground in the valley of the Heacham River has also uncovered evidence of an earlier, Iron Age settlement.

The hoard of 32 Gallo-Belgic E staters has been described as the most significant find since the Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project (Sharp) began in 1996.

Twenty of the coins, depicting a stylised horse on one side, were hidden inside the bone.

They are believed to have been made by the Ambiani tribe of Gaul in northern France 2000 years ago, and there are two main theories about why they were buried.

One is that the owner, perhaps a mercenary who had been fighting the Romans in Gaul, had been paid in gold staters and decided to give a votive offering to the gods for his safe passage home.

Alternatively, he may have decided that his precious coins were too valuable to carry around, so hid them in the bone and buried them to be retrieved later. But he was then either killed or forgot where they were.

The hoard was declared treasure and recently acquired by King's Lynn Museums for £4000, which was raised by the museums' Friends and contributions from the Museums, Libraries and Archives/Victoria and Albert purchase grant fund and the Headley Trust.

It will become one of the star attractions when Lynn Museum re-opens next year after a £1m redevelopment but has gone on display at the Town House Museum in the meantime.

"We thought it would be nice for people to see it - at least temporarily," said area museums officer Robin Hanley.

"It's a very important discovery and it's a really interesting story. It's fantastic to have them in the collections and they've attracted an awful lot of interest."

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