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29.01.2021

Chesterton Lane Hoard

Dr. Martin Allen, senior assistant curator of the Coin and Medal Division at the Fitzwilliam Museum, said more about his favorite item at the museum: 

"Discovering this hoard was one of my most exciting moments during my time at the museum. As an expert on medieval coins, I had always hoped that someday someone would find a hoard of coins in Cambridge, and was beyond thrilled when the Cambridge Archaeology Department called me in October 2000 to tell me that they had found a hoard in Chesterton. Lane Corner!"

The archaeologists were excavating the site of a new sewer shaft - not a pretty place, but they had made some unusual discoveries. They uncovered various layers beneath our feet; at the bottom of the pit was the bed of a prehistoric river; above was a Roman road and part of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery; above were the remains of a medieval house in which the hoard was buried in the 1350s, shortly after the Black Death wiped out most of the population.

After the hoard was acquired by the Fitzwilliam Museum and preserved in the British Museum, I spent many weeks identifying the coins. Most of the coins are silver pennies, which were the main form of money in England before the Black Death, but there are also nine magnificent gold coins from the 1350s. The total value of the hoard was more than £10, which at the time was a huge sum of money, equivalent to many years' earnings for most people (about £5,000 in today's money).

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