TREASURE-hunters have dug up a hoard of ancient silver coins dating back to the Battle of Hastings in 1066 – worth an impressive £5million.
A metal-detecting couple made the lucky find while searching an unploughed field on a farm in north-east Somerset.
Adam Staples and partner Lisa Grace, both aged 42, unearthed the “once in a lifetime” discovery of almost 2,600 coins that date back 1,000 years.
The 2,571 silver coins are made up of King Harold II pennies from the end of Anglo-Saxon England and William the Conqueror coins, after the 1066 Norman conquest.
King Harold II is known as the last Anglo-Saxon King of England, and he ruled the English kingdoms for just nine months from January 1066 until he was killed by William, Duke of Normandy, at the Battle of Hastings.
Much of the impressive hoard is in mint condition and could be valued at anywhere between £1,000 and £5,000 for each coin.
Experts say the coins would have been a substantial amount of money at the time and belonged to an important, wealthy person who probably buried them for safekeeping.
Staples and Grace notified the county’s local finds liaison officer, as they were obliged to by law, and have given the coins to the British Museum in London to evaluate.
Experts there have spent the last seven months assessing and cataloguing them and will later this week unveil them to the public for the first time.
Staples and Grace, from Derby, have remained tight-lipped over their “find of a lifetime”.
But in an interview with Treasure Hunting Magazine, they described the hoard as “amazing” and “absolutely mind-blowing”.
The metal detecting grapevine has also been rife with news of their find, with scores of people posting messages of congratulations to the couple.
Nigel Mills, a coin expert and consultant for London auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb, said: “I am told the coins are absolutely stunning.
“Each coin will have the moneyer’s [person officially permitted to mint money] name on and the mint of where it was issued.
RARE HAROLD II COINS
“In the case of the Harold II coins, some will be from moneyers that we have not seen before.
“Harold II coins are rarer than William coins and could be worth between £2,000 to £4,000 each.
“The William I coins will be between £1,000 and £1,500.
“This hoard could be worth between £3m and £5m.”
The expert added that while museums “have been buying up all of the hoards found, in this case the hoard may be too great for them.
“It maybe that an appeal for sponsors is launched to try and acquire them.”
Mills said he believed the hoard had been buried in the ground within two or three years after 1066 and probably before 1072.
“The Romans buried their coins for the Gods but in this case they were probably hidden and the owner died before they could go back for them.
“It would have been a substantial amount of money back not. Not a king, but somebody high up and important, somebody of substance.
“They didn’t have banks back then so where else were they going to store their money safely?”
Harold II coins are rarer than William coins and could be worth between £2,000 to £4,000 each.
Nigel Mills, coin expert
A spokesman for the Metal Detectives Group said: “When you find something like that you keep where you find it very quiet.
“If it is treasure it will be put out to tender to museums to acquire. A museum and treasure valuation committee will give the hoard a value.
“But you are talking a minimum of £500 per coin and with 2,500 coins that is a lot. But some will be rarer and more valuable than others.”
A spokesman for the British Museum said: “We can confirm that a large hoard of late Anglo-Saxon and Norman coins was discovered in January and has been handed in to the British Museum as possible Treasure under the terms of the Treasure Act (1996).
“This appears to be an important discovery.”
Although the find is smaller than the famous Staffordshire Hoard – the biggest collection of buried coins and artefacts discovered in Britain – it is thought to be at least £1m more valuable.
What was the Staffordshire Hoard?
The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork ever found, comprising over 4,000 items.
Archaeologists believe it was buried during the 7th Century (600-699AD), at a time when the region was part of the Kingdom of Mercia.
The hoard was jointly acquired by the Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Birmingham City Council after it was discovered by a metal detectorist in 2009, near Lichfield, Staffordshire.
Most gold objects found from the Anglo-Saxon era are pieces of jewellery such as brooches or pendants.
However, the Staffordshire Hoard is unique in that it is almost entirely made up of war gear, especially sword fittings.
Over 1,000 pieces are from a single, ornate helmet.
It is the grandest example to have been found from the period and would have been fit for a king.
Although most of the hoard pieces were parts of weapons and armour, they are still highly decorative.
Many pieces feature elaborate designs made from filigree (twisted wire) and garnet inlays.
The quality of the hoard means it was probably associated with leading figures from Anglo-Saxon aristocracy or royalty.
But there’s still a mystery over why the Staffordshire Hoard was buried.
Many of the pieces are bent or warped. It looks like they were forcefully pulled to strip them away from the objects they were attached to.
One theory is that the hoard is a collection of trophies from one or more battles, buried for safe-keeping or as an offering to pagan gods.
The discovery is still transforming experts’ knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon era.
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The 1,300-year-old general’s helmet – part of the Staffordshire Hoard[/caption]
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The Anglo-Saxons were made up of tribes from Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands[/caption]