Coins cast continental clues as Harborough Museum shows Peatling Magna hoard to public

By Culture24 Reporter | 18 July 2012
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A photo of a man carrying ancient coins with white gloves while smiling at the lens
Finder Steve Bestwick with the Peatling Magna Hoard
© Leicestershire County Council
A gallery devoted to the Hallaton Treasure of Iron Age and Roman finds already makes Harborough Museum, in Leicestershire, a must-see museum for archaeology fans.

And it has struck gold again with a set of ten gold coins, discovered in a village but offering a glimpse into the intercontinental connections the ancient tribes of the county might have enjoyed 2,000 years ago.

“When you find the first one, you don’t quite believe it’s gold,” says Steve Bestwick, of Leicester Search Society, who detected the coins in Peatling Magna in the autumn of 2010.

“When you find a few, you realise there could be lots. Then you focus, listen carefully to your machine. This could be the dream find – an ancient hoard.”

Beyond Bestwick’s initial thrill lie myriad mysteries. “These coins bring up so many questions. Why did they come to Leicestershire? What sort of journey they have been on?

“How did they get here from the continent, so long ago before cross-channel ferries? Who was the last person to hold them and what did they mean to them?”

Some of the answers are fairly clear. As the museum puts them on public display, curators have dated the coins to around 50 or 60 BC, made of a style symbolic of north-west France and the Low Countries, which were given the Latin name of Gallo Belgica during their Roman occupation at the time.

These origins suggests that the inhabitants of Leicestershire, known as the Corieltavi, had French connections, although the lucrative value of each piece would have made them the stuff of elite tribe members.

“Most Gallo-Belgic coins are found in hoards, usually in mint condition,” says Wendy Scott, the Finds Liaison Officer at the county council.

“You don’t normally find imported coins this far north – this is the most northerly example so far. They are usually found in the south-east of England, maybe because the area is closer to the continent, or perhaps because they had strong trade links with the Gallo-Belgic tribes.

“We think they may have been considered special because they were imported. They may have been hoarded because they were better quality gold than local coins.”

The coins have been recorded as treasure, and are now on permanent show at the museum. They were unveiled to coincide with the launch of the Festival of British Archaeology.

More pictures:

A photo of two large, intricately-engraved gold coins placed on black material
© Leicestershire County Council
A close-up photo of a pair of white gloves carrying a set of ten gold coins
© Leicestershire County Council
A photo of a set of large, intricately-engraved gold coins placed on black cloth
© Leicestershire County Council
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