TWO HOARDS OF COINS FOUND ON THE SAME DAY!
Pete had made two visits to Wren Davies dairy at Collings Hangar Farm at Prestwood in Buckinghamshire seeking permission to hold club digs on their land but had disappointingly been turned down each time. Third time lucky though, the elderly owner humorously succumbed to pester power and agreed for a search of his land that had not been plough since before the second world war, he recalled. We had been allocated fields that had just been cut for haylage as the dairy herd was grazing on lush pasture elsewhere. The newsletter was printed off and posted out in plenty of time resulting in a good turnout in July 1999
The day proved to be an excitingly memorable one for the club with the discovery of not one but two hoards of Roman coins!
THE START OF THE DAY
The deceptively cool morning had by 10.00am filtered away heralding the start of a scorching hot day much promised by the BBC. Our regular club members duly arrived, driving the dusty track in through yellowing fields. Heading for the rear of the dairy farm, all parked tidily on the short harvested pasture eagerly anticipating a great day out. They were not going to be disappointed!
It seemed from the off that people were digging plenty of targets yet these non ferrous hits were a profusion of milk bottle tops blown over the field from the bottling plant at the farm. People moved away from the troublesome areas, venturing through the gate leading to the lower fields out of sight from the parking area..
Red faced and out of breath, a lovely lady called Phyliss Duffield excitedly tugged at Pete’s sleeve, ‘You had better come and give my husband Ted a hand as he is guarding a hoard of coins.’ Initial thoughts were that this was another wind up so Pete was slow to take notice. Phyliss though is not a lady who gives in easily so she persisted in getting him over to the back fields to take a look. Ted and five or six others were there on the left hand field busy searching. Dougie Valverde was there too, eyes keenly lit. It was obvious by his expression that he was the finder!
Dougie’s shaking hand revealed a coin similar to this awesome Roman follis. The condition of this coin screamed ‘hoard coin’ but the for sure give away was that wherever he placed his search coil there were targets everywhere!
The club had been given a selection of fields to search that day and all were separated by dense, high hawthorn hedges. The field was shielded from view, out of sight of the remaining 80 or so diggers so the hoard was only known about by the few people in that more remote field. It was certain that very soon the rest of the club would find their way into this field and as this was clearly a scattered hoard, it had to be made safe. Pete tested the area with his Fisher CZ6 only to agree that there was nowhere that didn't have a signal but at worked out where to tape off a coin free boundary leaving Dougie and helper Ted to continue digging the sun hardened ground.
SOMETHING NOT QUITE RIGHT
Little time had passed, though it was not yet 11.00am when the first head poked through a gap in the hedge dividing the two fields. ‘Whats happening her then Pete?’ questioned a curious onlooker. He was a detectorist but I didn't know his name at the time so may have been a new member. I enthusiastically replied, ‘Its a hoard of Roman bronze coins!’ Irritatingly, the response contradicted my remark with, ‘No, they are silver.’ I argued back, ‘Err, no, I have actually seen them, they are without doubt bronze coins.’ Dougie was still digging. Again, the chap in the hedge chipped in with, ‘hey, I don't know what you are looking at but they are digging a whole load of silver coins on this side of the hedge!’
‘Something not quite right’ though Pete but reluctantly left Dougie, Ted & co to investigate this mistaken report of silver coins. Entering the adjacent grass field, the spectacular gathering of club members left no doubt in Pete's mind that this guy had been right all along and that there was unprecedented second hoard of Roman coins. The two hoards had been found at almost the very same time in two fields divided by a hedge. The groups on either side were oblivious to the others superb discoveries!
The bronze hoard would from now on would be known as PRESTWOOD ‘B’ and the silver hoard PRESTWOOD ‘A’
The coins of Prestwood A date from 31 BC to AD 220.
This is just one of the stragglers that was found in a follow up dig so was part of the treasure found a week earlier.
Emperor Elagabalus, AD 218-222
All the coins from Prestwood ‘A’ are the Roman silver denomination of the time, the denarius. The reported coins numbered 112 in total of which four added to the overall tally from the subsequent dig here.
Two hoards! The silver hoard caused plenty of excitement as this too had been spread over a wide area. You will remember that this land hadn't been ploughed since WW11 so the coins must have been spread much earlier.
Denarii were being located well away from the original burial spot and handed in as treasure by club members. The ground was very stony & rock hard so recovering each coin was a labour of love. Virginia, the landowners daughter who helps run the farm came over with her front loader to help out and was thrilled when her front loader revealed more silver coins.
A circular brown stain at the base of the hole was all that remained of whatever the coins were buried in but there was no pottery to be seen.
Meanwhile, back at the bronze hoard things were looking very interesting! Dougie had recruited more helpers now; Dave and Carol Phillips brought their van over and kept the guys refreshed with drinks all day. The temperature mid afternoon rose to an unbearable 82 degrees but digging had to continue. The heap of Roman bronzes steadily grew all day with an increasing mound building higher as the day progressed. The condition of the coins was really top notch and it would later emerge that there were rare ones amongst them too.
Detectorists outside of the area picked up the occasional straggler and handed them in but it was time to call in Virginia with her tractor as there were no others on the outskirts of the hole. One pass with the loader to get rid of the grass and roots. A second needed a tilt of the front bucket to catch the soil but it was thrilling to see coins falling from it!
Removing the surface layer of soil gave Dougie what he needed; unimpeded access to the signal that he knew was there as his machine read a larger target now!
The coins from Prestwood ‘B’ are all Folles.
A follis is the singular coin with the plural being Folles.
The word follis means bag (usually made of leather) in Latin, and there is evidence that this term was used in antiquity for a sealed bag containing a specific amount of coins.
The word denarius is derived from the Latin dēnī "containing ten", as its value was 10 asses, although in the middle of the 2nd century BC it was re calibrated so that it was now worth sixteen asses or four sestertii. It is the origin of several modern words such as the dinar and the Italian noun for money: denaro. Source Wikipedia,
The moment that many people had been waiting for had arrived. Lying prostrate on the ground, Dougie's weary and sore hand cleared away loose soil that had spilled from the tractors front bucket. A small hole appeared. Dougie knew this was it now as his hand vanished then clawed back heaps upon heaps of green or brown coins! Like a terrier in a rabbit hole he kept going until satisfied no more remained.
This hoard was much bigger than the silver one in the next field and the official tally was 735 folles included 438 examples from the London Mint including some very scarce types, including two unlisted coins.
Description of the denarii from Prestwood A.
6 x Mark Anthony, 31 BC
2 x Nero AD 54-68
1 x Otho 69
6 x Vespasian 69-766
1 x Domitian Caesar
72 x Trajan 98-11
81 x Hadrian 117-13
15 x Antoninus Pius 138-16
7 x Diva Faustina I
1 x Marcus Caesar-1
2 x Faustina II
Marcus Aurelius 161-18
1 x Lucius Verus
1 x Faustina II
1 x Commodus
24 x Commodus 180-19
1 x Divus Marcus
Wars of the Succession (AD 192-7)
21 x Septimius Severus
1 x Julia Domna
2 x Clodius Albinus Caesar
3 x Caracalla Caesar
Joint reign of Severus & Caracalla (AD 198-208)
14 x Septimius Severus
9 x Caracalla
9 x Julia Domna
5 x Geta Caesar
Joint reign of Severus, Caracalla & Geta (AD 208-11)
1 x Caracalla
Sole reign of Caracalla
3 x Caracalla
2 x Julia Domna
1 x Elagabalus
The Coroners inquest was held at High Wycombe and was attended by the landowner, finders & Weekend Wanderers organizers and marshals. The Coroner was amazed when the coins were piled up on the clerk's table and invited everyone down to take a closer look at them.
Satisfied that procedures had been properly adhered to according to the Treasure Act, the finds were declared treasure and an award was made 50/50 between the landowner and finders.
The hoards are now with the Buckinghamshire County Museum.
Theres a shortage of photos as at the time we didn't have a camera at hand.
As a point of interest, our friend and marshal Merlin who lives right by the farm came up with a very interesting observation. Merlin saw that if you followed your shadow exactly east to west at the midday sun, your shadow would lead you directly to the silver hoard. I tried his theory out and it worked! The two hoards were exactly 50 paces apart and by following your shadow at midday you arrive right on the spot. We had just got past the summer solstice so that worked but we needed a secure reference point to work from, like a permanent feature. Sure enough, walking the line by 25 paces and heading north for 25 paces led to the very edge of a stone quarry.
So the theory seemed to pan out OK. In that case, where was the gold hoard buried? It is known that Roman folk buried their stashes of coins by separately. Bronze then silver then gold. So following the theory cleverly observed by Merlin, I walked the length of my shadow from the silver hoard eastwards and came to a exactly to a fork in the narrow track that runs alongside the silver field..
Alas the apex where the gold maybe is overgrown by trees!