Abstract: Coin hoards and hoarding in Britain: buried with the intention of recovery or votive deposits?


Recent spectacular discoveries of hoards from England such as the hoard of 52,503 Roman coins from Frome or the Staffordshire hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver reported under the Treasure Act have raised the question why these were buried in the ground. We have generally assumed that hoards such as these were buried in times of trouble by people who intended to recover them later. Certainly the few documented cases of the burial of coin hoards, such Samuel Pepys’s account of how he gave his wealth to his wife to bury in their country house when Dutch ships were threatening London in 1667, fit this pattern.

But the archaeological recovery of the Frome hoard has led us to believe that whoever put it in the ground did not intend to recover it, and instead we are looking for other reasons such as votive deposition or deliberate abandonment. It is generally accepted that metalwork was deposited in the ground in the prehistoric period for votive reasons: could this also be an explanation for Roman and later hoards?

Before the Treasure Act of 1996 it was difficult to debate these issues because under the old law, hoards were only deemed to be Treasure Trove if they were buried with the intention of recovery and the suggestion that they might be votive would mean that they would not be Treasure Trove and so offered to a museum. This lecture will consider these questions with a focus on Britain to see if practices from one period can inform another.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

Richard Hobbs, Treasure. Finding our Past, British Museum Press, 2003

Roger Bland and Catherine Johns, The Hoxne Treasure: an illustrated introduction, British Museum Press, 1993

Sam Moorhead, Roger Bland and Dan Pett, `Hoarding in ancient Britain’, Current Archaeology 248, Nov. 2010, pp. 12-15.

Kevin Leahy and Roger Bland, The Staffordshire Hoard, British Museum Press, 2009

Sam Moorhead, Anna Booth and Roger Bland, The Frome Hoard, British Museum Press, 2010

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