Leon Saryan passed along this article about the wonderful 1992 find of the Hoxne Treasure. Thank you.
When Eric Lawes set off for a field in Hoxne village, Suffolk on November 16, 1992, it wasn't on a treasure hunt. The metal detector he'd received as a retirement gift was meant to find a hammer lost on the farmland. But the detector picked up a strong signal in the earth, leading Lawes to start digging, and it quickly became apparent that he had indeed found treasure.
After bringing up only a few shovelfuls of silver spoons and gold coins, Lawes quickly retreated and called the police and the local archaeological society. The very next day, as covertly as possible, the archaeologists excavated a chunk of earth with the treasure still contained within. This way, they could remove the objects under laboratory conditions, which would help determine the age and storage method of the cache. By the time everything had been removed from the dirt, the archaeologists had nearly 60 pounds of gold and silver objects, including 15,234 Roman coins, dozens of silver spoons and 200 gold objects.
Lawes received £1.75 million from the British government for finding the gold and leaving it intact, which he split with the farmer on whose land the hoard was uncovered (he also eventually found the hammer, which later went on exhibit). As for archaeologists, they had their own reward: of the 40 treasure hoards discovered in Britain, the Hoxne Hoard was
the largest and latest ever found in Britain, says Rachel Wilkinson. The project curator for Romano-British collections at the British Museum, where the artifacts reside, Wilkinson says the unique way this hoard was excavated, compared to how most are retrieved by farmers plowing their field, makes it invaluable.
In the 25 years since the unearthing of the Hoxne hoard, researchers have used the objects to learn more about one of Britain's most turbulent periods: the island's separation from the Roman Empire in 410 A.D.
The end of the fourth century A.D. was an unsettled time for the Roman Empire. The territory stretched across the entirety of the Mediterranean world, including all of the land that would come to be Italy, Spain, Greece and France and large chunks of North Africa, Turkey and Britain. Under Emperor Theodosius, Christianity became the sole religion of the empire, while all other belief systems became illegal, a dramatic change after centuries of polytheism. And while parts of the Empire continued to thrive, the Western Roman Empire was deteriorating. Gothic warriors won battles and killed leaders like Emperor Valens, and in 410 the Visigoths (nomadic Germanic peoples) sacked Rome. Meanwhile, Roman subjects in Britain were left to fend for themselves against raiders from Scotland and Ireland, having lost the support of Roman soldiers even before the separation from the Empire.
The years from the later fourth century to 450, the period including the British hoarding peak, witnessed numerous invasions into the [mainland Europe] Empire by Germanic and Hunnic groups often followed by largescale devastation and disruption, writes Roman archaeologist Peter Guest, the author of The Late Roman Gold and Silver coins from the Hoxne Treasure.
To read the complete article, see:
SEARCH FOR THE LOST HAMMER LEADS TO THE LARGEST ROMAN TREASURE EVER FOUND IN BRITAIN
Wayne Homren, Editor
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