The High Weald Roman Coin Hoard

High Weald Roman Coin Hoard and pottery container
High Weald Roman Coin Hoard and pottery container

In 2008, during the summer holidays at King’s College London, I was lucky enough to gain an internship at The British Museum identifying and cataloguing the High Weald hoard. The hoard, discovered in East Sussex with the aid of a metal detector, contained 2895 radiate coins dating from AD 215-268. Radiates, or Antoniniani as they are sometimes called, are identified by the radiate crown (crown of sun-rays) worn by the emperors portrayed on the coins. My task was to identify the individual coins using the appropriate catalogues for reference. It was important to note any variations, hybrids/mules and rare coins. I wrote a catalogue as a permanent record, which I hope will be accessible to the public on the online database of finds.

Only the third coin of Sabinia Tranquillinia ever found in Britain
Only the third coin of Sabinia Tranquillinia ever found in Britain
Reverse side of Sabinia Tranquillina featuring Concordia goddess of harmony
Reverse side of Sabinia Tranquillina featuring Concordia goddess of harmony

The archaeological record shows that there was a massive increase in hoarding in the later third century AD. The coins of the High Weald hoard range from the reign of Caracalla to Postumus, with most emperors being represented in some quantity. The notable exceptions are Severus Alexander (AD 222-235) and Maximinus (AD 235-238). The High Weald hoard is similar to the famous Dorchester hoard as it contains a high proportion of earlier, less debased coinage such as that of the emperors Gordian and the Philips. However, the hoard is unusual as it closes with Postumus but is not composed highly of the extremely debased coins, such as the Bassaleg, Caerleon, Eastbourne and Selsey hoards. It is, furthermore, rare for such a large hoard to contain no examples of the smaller denomination denarii.

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Coin hoards and individual coin finds are generally found on or in proximity to the coast. Coin hoards are very rare in the High Weald but the area has not been thoroughly searched by detectorists. Absence of evidence is not always evidence of absence.

Only the second coin of Cornelia Supera ever found in Britain
Only the second coin of Cornelia Supera ever found in Britain
Reverse side of Cornelia Supera featuring Vesta goddess of the family hearth and of fire
Reverse side of Cornelia Supera featuring Vesta goddess of the family hearth and of fire

Establishing a chronology of the iron sites of the Weald is problematic and coinage is an important tool in dating iron production sites. The High Weald hoard’s close proximity to the iron production site at Bardown presents a possible connection. The exploitation of the resources of the Weald was rapid and exhaustive. It is interesting as the end date of the hoard correlates with the decline in iron production sites and could be used to reaffirm the end date of the site.

Alexandra Stuart Hutcheson, British Museum Intern

2 Responses

  1. Lesley Abdela

    The hoard was found by Tim Symonds.

  2. When I found what was to become known as The High Weald Treasure, I took the thousands of coins uncleaned to the Finds Officer for East Sussex, in Lewes. From there they were sent in a little van to the British Museum where they were cleaned so extraordinarily well that when the coins went on tour of the museums in the county they gleamed as though newly minted in Rome and Antioch. Finally they found their 21st Century home in the Pavilion Museum, Brighton, together with the metal detector I donated to accompany any display. Digging up nearly 3000 3rd Century Roman coins was exhilarating (even one radiate would have made my day), but the following months learning about the terrifyingly volatile 3rd Century AD and the equally terrible fate of most of the emperors and empresses whose coins had lain in Sussex clay for 1700 years was an education in itself. These days I write Sherlock Holmes novels and am pondering how to incorporate the High Weald Treasure into a tale of mayhem and mystery only Holmes and Watson can unravel.
    Tim Symonds, Burwash, AD 2017

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