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29.03.2021

St Albans Hoard

England in 2012, believed to be one of the largest hoards of Roman gold coins ever found in Britain. The hoard consists of 159 solids dating from the last decades of the fourth century AD, near the end of the Roman occupation of Britain. After about 408, new Roman coins stopped circulating in Britain, leading to the collapse of the monetary economy and mass production industry.

Most of the coins came from the imperial mints at Mediolanum (Milan) and Ravenna in Italy. They were struck during the reigns of the emperors Gratian, Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius, and Honorius. The coins were found on private land north of St. Albans by Westley Carrington of Berkhamsted, who had just bought a beginner's metal detector from the city store. He found 40 coins and brought them to the store to ask what he should do with them. The store owners reported the find to locals, finds a liaison officer and returns to the field in early October 2012 to continue his search. Another 119 coins were found, bringing the total to 159. They are believed to have been placed in an organic container such as a wooden box or cloth bag, which has now decomposed, as no other artifacts were found along with the coins. They were found scattered over an area of about 15 meters (49 feet). Their spread was probably due to quarrying or plowing in the last 200 years, perhaps more recently during World War II, when the area was last used for crops.

According to curator David Thorold of the Verulamium Museum in St. Albans, coins were usually buried either for religious reasons -- as a sacrifice to the gods -- or to preserve wealth in case of a potential threat to the safety of the owner, such as war or unrest. Finding such a large stock of solids is unusual because the coins were not used regularly due to their very high value. They actually served as a guarantee of cheaper minted bronze and silver, quantities of which could be exchanged for solids. In practice, those who held and used the coins were members of the economic and social elite, such as wealthy merchants, landowners, and soldiers receiving bulk wages. They would use solids for high value transactions such as land purchases or bulk purchases of goods. The coins are in very good condition and do not appear to have been in circulation.

The hoard probably appeared slightly earlier than the larger Hawksne hoard discovered in Suffolk in 1992, which included 569 gold solids and nearly 15,000 other coins. This is not the first hoard found near St. Albans, where the main Roman city of Verulamium was located. In 1932 a hoard of second-century silver denarii was found at Dyke Beach Bottom.

The find fell under the Treasure Act of 1996 , which required an independent panel of experts from the British Museum to examine the coins and make a report to the local coroner to determine whether they should be considered treasure. The coins were purchased by the local council in 2015 for £98,500. The treasure is currently on display at the Verulamium Museum.

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