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01.04.2021

Thetford Hoard

Gallows Hillach, near Thetford in Norfolk, England, in November 1979, and now in the British Museum. Dating from the mid- to late 4th century AD, this hoard is a collection of thirty-three silver spoons and three silver strainers, twenty-two gold rings, four gold bracelets, four necklaces five gold chain necklaces and two pairs, a clasp necklace, a gold amulet made in the form of a pendant, an unfinished engraved gemstone, four beads (one emerald and three of glass), and a gold belt buckle decorated with a dancing satyr. The treasure belonged to a small cylindrical slate box with a lid.

The find was made under very unfortunate circumstances. The finder had discovered the metal without the knowledge or permission of the owners of the site, which had recently been permitted for construction work, and discovered it late on a November afternoon in bad light. He discovered the material in great haste, probably failing to notice some small items, and because he knew he had no legal right to search the area, he did not report his discovery to the authorities as required by law. Instead, he unwisely tried to sell the objects he found to private buyers. By the time archaeologists learned of the find a few months later, the site had been built up, making proper archaeological investigation impossible. It was not even possible to question the finder about the circumstances, because by the time the material was brought to the British Museum for study, he was terminally ill and died about a month later, in July 1980. Persistent rumors that the treasury originally included coins have never been confirmed or convincingly denied, but even if there were no coins, it is likely that the group as we now see it is incomplete. A full account of the circumstances of the discovery is contained in the standard catalog. This lack of information makes it particularly difficult to speculate about the nature of the hoard and the purpose of its concealment in antiquity.

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