The Frome Hoard

Discovery, contents and destination

Frome Hoard
The hoard revealed!

In April 2010 Katie Hinds, the Portable Antiquities Scheme’s Finds Liaison Officer from Wiltshire, received a call from a local metal detectorist, Dave Crisp, to let her know that he had found what he thought might be a hoard of Roman coins near Frome, a town that lies just over the border in Somerset. Katie called the FLO for that county, Anna Booth (now a research student in the department of Archaeology and Ancient History at Leicester), who, together with her colleagues in Somerset County Council’s Historic Environment Service, organised for an excavation of the site to be carried out a few days later. The services of a local independent archaeologist,

Anna Booth
Anna Booth displaying the winning ‘Golden Trowel’ award
Alan Graham, were called upon to direct the excavation. Alan, Katie and Anna were joined on site by Dave and his grandson, who led them to the carefully disguised findspot. The team were unsure about what they were dealing with at this stage, so opened up a small 1m square trench over the site. Once the topsoil had been removed the top of a cracked, but complete Roman greyware storage vessel emerged, with a small black burnished ware dish on the top acting as a lid and organic material carefully packed around the outside surface. The lid was taken away to reveal that the vessel was in fact filled to the brim with Roman bronze and base silver third century coins, commonly known as radiates.

Consultations with Roman coin experts at the British Museum, Sam Moorhead and Roger Bland, took place regarding the best way to proceed with the excavation. It was finally decided that the time and expense that would be involved in an attempt to block lift the vessel intact would be unlikely to proportionately increase the amount that could be learnt about it and so the decision was made to excavate it in situ; the first time that such a large hoard had been excavated in this way. The tightly packed coins inside were therefore removed in twelve numbered layers in the hope that these might later shed light on the way in which they were originally deposited. When the excavation was complete the coins were taken to the British Museum for initial sorting which revealed that there were a total of 52,503 altogether making it the biggest hoard ever discovered in a single vessel in Britain. They could all be provisionally dated to c. AD 253 to c. 293 and also included the largest group of coins of the British emperor Carausius that had been found together and a very rare group of five of his silver denarii.

The hoard was subsequently declared treasure and Somerset County Museum is attempting to raise the funds to acquire it.

In February 2011 the excavation was named ‘Rescue dig of the year’ by Current Archaeology magazine.

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