A once-in-a-lifetime discovery: Archaeologist Rachael Hall on Roman and Iron Age cave coins in the Peak District

| 07 July 2014

National Trust archaeologist Rachael Hall on the excavation which led to the first discovery of Iron Age and Roman coins buried together in Britain

Click on the picture to launch the gallery

“A climber, sheltering from the rain, made the discovery of three Iron Age coins and a Roman Republican coin.

Following on from the find being made we decided that we needed to excavate this cave site because we wanted to ensure we could protect the site and also understand a little bit more its archaeology and why these coins might have been here in the first place.

We called in the help of the army’s Operation Nightingale team and the University of Leicester Archaeological Services and set about the excavation last October.

We excavated the entire cave and made a huge amount of finds dating right back to the Palaeolithic, tens and tens of thousands of years ago through to modern day.

But of course the highlight of our finds was the Iron Age coin hoard. The cave was divided up into a grid system and very, very carefully we excavated through each of those different grid squares, just looking for any traces of archaeological remains, finds...anything that might tell us a little bit more about our initial discovery.

In total we found 20 Iron Age coins – a mix of gold and silver. Each one looks like a little piece of art.

A Roman Republican coin is very special in itself because it’s a coin that arrived here before the Roman conquest.

An Iron Age coin is incredibly unusual for this area of the Peak District. Finding Iron Age coins is just so special. They are incredibly beautiful.

As you walk up the arch it’s got sort of a monumental quality about it. You come into the cave and it’s like a small church – there’s something incredibly unusual and incredibly special about the site and I do wonder if, in the Iron Age, it would also have been viewed as an incredibly special place.

Our Iron Age lady or gentleman might have known that it was a sacred space – an ideal place in which to hide their worldly goods.

Following the excavation the coins were recorded by the British Museum experts. They’ve then been cleaned by conservation specialists at University College London.

They’ll be put on display at Buxton Museum so everyone can go along and share in this exciting treasure with us.

I think it’s the most exciting site that I have ever worked on in my lifetime in archaeology so far.”

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Pics: Richard Davenport Photography; National Trust; John Millar; R Hall

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