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04.04.2021

Wickham Market Hoard

The Wickham Market Treasure Trove is a hoard of 840 Iron Age gold staters found in a field on Dallinghoo near Wickham Market, Suffolk, England in March 2008 by auto mechanic, Michael Dark using a metal detector . After excavation, 825 coins were found at the site, and by the time the treasure trove was declared a treasure trove, 840 coins had been found. The coins date from 40 B.C. to 15 A.D.

The treasure has been described as "the largest hoard of British Iron Age gold coins to be fully studied," and was important in providing "a great deal of new information about the Iron Age, and especially about East Anglia at the end of the Iron Age."  It was the largest hoard of staters found since the Waddon-Chase Iron Age burial in 1849.

In June 2011 the hoard was purchased by the Ipswich Museum for £316,000.

On March 16, 2008, a sixty-year-old auto mechanic - who initially wanted to remain anonymous but was later identified as Michael Darke - found his first gold coin after twenty-five years of searching for metals in the fields near Wickham Market. Darke identified the coin via the Internet as a Freckenham stater - named for the hoard in which the typeface was first found in 1885.

A week later, despite the snowfall from his previous trip to the field and working in the wet snow, Darke found eight more gold staters. After further searching, he remarked that his metal detector "suddenly went crazy" and that he "knew for a fact that he was standing right on a jug of gold."

After marking the spot with stones, he decided not to dig up the coins until the next night, saying that "these coins have waited two thousand years for me to find them, so they can wait another night for me," to explain why he was not pressing for extraction. With a shovel, he dug up another 774 coins. The field had not been plowed since 1980 and the soil was of clay consistency, but previous farming operations in the field had scattered the coins over an area of 5-10 m (16-33 ft) after the top of the black clay pot broke. the pot in which they were buried. Some of the coins were still inside the broken pot, and most were found 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) underground.

After washing them in warm water, Darke gave the coins to the landowner, who reported the find to the Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service. 

The hoard was the largest number of Iron Age gold staters found since 1849, when 450 to 800 and 2,000 were found by an agricultural worker in a field on the Waddon Chase near Milton Keynes.

Although it is unknown why the treasure was buried, there are several theories, including that it was a vow treasure or common treasure "collected and buried for the good of the community," either as a war chest in case of an impending threat, or as payment of tribute to prevent an invasion.

Jude Pluviez of Suffolk County Council's Archaeological Service said: "The discovery is important because it underscores the likely political, economic, and religious importance of the area," and that this particular find provided "much new information about the Iron Age, and especially about East Anglia in the late Iron Age."

Ian Lanes, then curator of Iron Age coins at the British Museum, remarked, "This is the largest hoard of British Iron Age gold coins to be fully studied." 

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