Buried treasure excites the imagination. Who hasn’t dreamed of striking it rich after accidentally stumbling across pot of priceless gold buried in their garden? But the discovery of hidden hoards from Britain’s past are also of vital importance to our understanding of the country’s culture.
And that is the subject of a fascinating new display of coins and medals at The British Museum. Hoards: the Hidden History of Ancient Britain, which runs until May, explores the stories behind the headlines focusing on prehistoric and Romano-British hoards from across the United Kingdom.
Tracing the history of hoarding from the Bronze weapons discovered in the river Thames and the first Iron Age coin hoards through to the Hoxne and Oxborough hoards, which were buried after the collapse of Roman rule in Britain.
The exhibition also takes a look at why ancient people have placed precious objects in the ground. Were they accidentally lost or stolen, discarded as worthless, saved for recycling, hidden for safekeeping or offered up to the gods?
The centerpiece of the exhibition is the enormous Frome hoard pot, which was discovered in 2010 and held 52,503 Roman coins – the largest to be found in a single container. Also on show will be coins from the Hoxne hoard found in 1992 by Eric Lawes, who was looking for a hammer at the time, and a replica of a money bag from the Beau Street hoard of around 17,500 coins discovered by archaeologists in the centre of Bath.
Hoards: A Hidden History of Ancient Britain is a free exhibition which runs until May 22 and is accompanied by a series of public talks and lectures.
A gallery talk by Eleanor Ghey, 18 December, 1.15pm to 2pm. Room 69a. Free, just drop in
Hoards: hidden history, the curator’s introduction to the exhibition given by Eleanor Ghey, 28 January, 1.30pm-2.30pm. BP Lecture Theatre. Free, booking essential
The Jersey hoard of Iron Age Coins (title TBC), a lecture by Philip de Jersey, 11 March, 6.30pm-7.30pm. BP Lecture Theatre. Tickets: £5/£3