Lawrence Egerton is a 51-year-old construction worker from the United Kingdom, half retired. In his spare time, he is a metal prospector. He doesn't do this for a living. For most of the many years he has spent pursuing this hobby, he has dug up little more than rusty pieces of junk. Every once in a while he would find one or two precious coins.
That all changed in November 2013, however, when he found a hoard of more than 22,000 Roman coins.
While Lawrence was scanning a field in Seaton on the south coast of Britain with his detector, he got a signal. He dug a hole, and to his surprise, coins were falling from his shovel. The treasure trove of ancient Roman coins at Seaton Down was enormous. So he reported his find to Devon County Council archaeologist Bill Horner . A team of professional archaeologists came to the site and began excavating the coins. They were familiar with the area because they had already excavated ancient Roman monuments near this field.
The operation lasted three days. Many people were in the area during the day, but no one was there to guard it at night. The lucky detective didn't want to leave such a large treasure out in the open, so he decided to park his car next to it and spend the night there to protect himself from thieves. It wasn't an easy task; Lawrence is a tall man, the car barely fit him, and besides, the three nights were very cold.
After the excavation of the Seaton Down hoard was completed, the experts examined the coins. Because of the large size of the hoard, it took them 10 months to clean and catalog the items, and there is still much work to be done. Handling coins is not a problem for experienced relic custodians; they only need simple tools to clean them one by one, although it takes a long time (especially for treasures of this size). Chemical methods are faster, but they can damage the coins.
In all, archaeologists found 22,888 coins in the Seaton Down pantry and three ingots weighing about 150 pounds. They were in good shape; the rulers and members of the imperial family they depict were clearly visible. The coins were produced between 260 and 348 AD by 17 separate mints located in various places throughout Europe. Some of the coins were minted in 332, the year the eastern capital of Constantinople was founded.
This hoard has been declared a treasure trove because of its historical value. When the coins were in active circulation, they were not considered very valuable, and the hoard itself was probably the savings of a Roman soldier or merchant. The type of coins found at Seaton are called nummus , meaning coins used for everyday purchases. But after nearly 1,700 years of burial, the coins are now worth $100,000. This amount will be divided between Mr. Egerton, as the finder, and the landowner on whose property the find was made.
If you want to take a look at these coins, they are on display at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, which is a couple of miles from where the treasure was found. The local museum purchased this collection by launching a fundraising campaign because they had a limited budget to purchase them.