The biggest Celtic coin hoard of all time has been unearthed in the Parish of Grouville.
It is estimated that the hoard contains between 30-50,000 coins, which have lain buried for 2,000 years, and weighs approximately ¾ of a ton.
They are in one solid mass measuring 140 x 80 x 20cm. The coins are of Armorican origin (modern day Brittany and Normandy) from a tribe called the Coriosolitae, who were based around Rance in the area of modern-day St Malo and Dinan. They are thought to date from the year 50BC (Late Iron Age). At this time the armies of Julius Caesar were advancing north-westwards through France, driving the tribal communities towards the coast. Some of them would have crossed the sea to Jersey, finding a safe place of refuge away from Caesar’s campaigns. The only safe way to store their wealth was to bury it in a secret place.
Curator of Archaeology at Jersey Museum, Olga Finch said: ‘This is an incredibly important archaeological find of international significance. The fact that it has been excavated archaeologically is also rare and will greatly enhance the level of information we can glean about the people who buried it. It is an amazing contribution to the study of Celtic coins, we already have a number of very important Iron Age coin hoards found in the Island, but this new addition will make Jersey a magnet for Celtic coin researchers. It reinforces just how special Jersey’s archaeology it.’
The hoard was discovered by metal detectorists Reg Mead and Richard Miles who, believing they had found something significant, reported it to Jersey Heritage.
The hoard was then excavated by Jersey Heritage staff, Olga Finch (Curator of Archaeology) and Neil Mahrer (Conservator) assisted by Robert Waterhouse (the Société Jersiaise), Celtic coin expert Dr Philip de Jersey (States of Guernsey archaeologist) and the finders, landowner and members of their families. Thanks also must go to the Grouville Constable and honorary police and the States of Jersey police for their assistance and support.
It is very rare that coin hoards like this are excavated archaeologically so we are indebted to the finders for leaving their discovery in situ and reporting it straight away. With this kind of cooperation, we have been able to gain so much more information about the find and the site by studying the context in which the hoard was found.
As the find contains objects of precious metal, it has been reported to HM Receiver General who will liaise closely with Jersey Heritage to determine the status of the hoard.
The site is currently protected as an Area of Archaeological Potential. The urgent work undertaken to archaeologically record and then remove the coin hoard was agreed by Jersey’s Minister for Planning and the Environment to ensure the hoard was removed in a controlled and appropriate manner. Following this rare and momentous discovery the Minister, working with Jersey Heritage and the Department of the Environment, will increase the level of protection on this site by seeking its designation as a Listed Place.
There is still an incredible amount of work involved in the conservation and identification of the coins. The finders and the landowner have said that they want the hoard to go to the island and be put on display for the people of Jersey to enjoy.