All that glitters IS gold! Tales from a Treasure Island

Way, way back in June 2012 I was part of a group from the archaeology section of Societe Jersiaise who were invited to visit a newly found hoard of coins, safely stashed at a secret location. The largest Celtic coin hoard in the world! The coins had been found buried deep in a Jersey field by metal detectorists Reg Mead and Richard Miles – after a 30 years search!

IMG_1335.JPG A few weeks ago Jersey Heritage kindly invited the archaeology section to visit the hoard for an update on progress, and I jumped at the chance.

IMG_8075.JPGA lab has been set up in the middle of the Jersey Museum, and last year this formed a large part of the Roman and Celts exhibition. Although the exhibition has finished, the lab is still here until it moves to La Hougue Bie later on in the year.

IMG_8057.JPGNeil Mahrer, Museum Conservator with Jersey Heritage, provided us with a overview of what has been happening with the hoard since it was brought from the field. The first stage the team undertook was to remove a rectangle block of coins from the front of the hoard. This area was particularly important as it contained lots of organic samples, which have been removed and sent for analysis before they deteriorate.

IMG_8053.JPGThe team are able to digitally record every single coin before removing it from hoard. Three pin points are taken from the surface of the coin, and then three from the edge, and this enables size and orientation to be exactly plotted in 3D by the computer. Neil believes this will provide unrivalled research material for future studies, especially important once the hoard is fully disassembled.

IMG_8059.JPG Just look how tightly packed the coins are! The current estimate is that there are around 70,000 coins in the hoard, glued together with 2,000 years of verdigris and clay. Staters, quarter staters, billions. Types of coins I’d never even heard of before.

IMG_8072.JPG But the real treasure lies not with the coins, but the numerous gold torques recently unearthed, hidden just under the surface of the coins. And in this case, all that glitters is gold. Mostly made of solid gold, and with one gold plated. These torques are a type of solid necklace, with terminal ends, and closed at the back with a pin. Aren’t they stunning! Imagine how exciting it must be for the team as they uncover one after another treasure in their day to day job. They do need this excitement though – it will take them 3 years to take apart the hoard, at the rate of 500 coins a week.

IMG_8071.JPG Another find is this stone, nestled in amongst the gold and coins. It has been identified as a local granite from Mont Mado, and the current thoughts are that it’s a grinding stone from a quern. Another theory, which I like like much better, is that it is a symbolic capstone, placed on top of the hoard before burying again.

IMG_8061.JPG And here we leave the hoard, with its glimpses of the treasures to come and years of work ahead for the team. We’ll pop back from time to time and give you an update, or you can follow Neil’s blog on the Jersey Heritage website here.

Many thanks to Olga Finch, Curator of Archaeology with Jersey Heritage, Neil Mahrer and his team.

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