Greatest Anglo-Saxon gold coin treasure found in Norfolk –

131 gold coins sporadically discovered over the past 30 years in a single field in western Norfolk have been declared the greatest treasure of such artifacts from the Anglo-Saxon period to be found in England.

The coins, along with four other gold objects dating back around 1,400 years, were largely discovered by a metal detector which reported each find to local authorities. (According to a report by the Guardian, 10 pieces were discovered by a local policeman, who was jailed for 16 months in 2017 for trying to sell them illegally.)

The treasures of Norfolk consist primarily of Frankish tremisses, a small gold coin used in Late Antiquity (c. 284 CE-700 CE). Nine solidi (a large Byzantine Empire coin worth about three tremisses), a small gold ingot, and a gold bracteate (a flat medal commonly worn as jewelry) were also found.

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The Norfolk Coroner is currently examining the gold items to determine if they constituted treasure as defined by Britain’s 1996 Treasure Act, which would make the coins the property of the crown. (In the UK, coroners are responsible for investigating claims to the treasury, as well as adjudicating causes of death.) The Treasure Act states that two or more coins made up of more than 10% precious metal and which have over 300 years are considered treasury. Researchers are legally required to report suspicious treasures to local authorities.

The crown will claim the find if an accredited museum wishes to acquire the objects and can pay a reward equivalent to its market value. Currently, the Norwich Castle Museum hopes to acquire the treasure with the support of the British Museum.

In a statement, Tim Pestell, senior curator of archeology at the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, called the Norfolk treasure a “find of international significance”, adding that “the study of the treasure and its place of discovery has the potential to unlock our understanding of early trade and exchange systems and the importance of West Norfolk to the reigning kings of East Anglia in the 7th century.

Until now, the largest treasure trove of coins dating from the Anglo-Saxon period consisted of 101 coins discovered at Crondall, Hampshire, in 1828. The most famous of these finds was made at Sutton Hoo in 1939 by the archaeologist amateur Basil Brown and popularized by the 2021 Netflix Drama Excavation. Brown and his team discovered an early medieval burial monument under a mound filled with 37 gold coins, three blank coins and two small ingots, among Byzantine silverware, military hardware and other treasures. The entire burial chamber is in the British Museum in London.

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