Archaeologists say Leicestershire silver gem is Britain's oldest Roman coin

By Culture24 Staff | 29 January 2010
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A photo of two large ancient silver coins

A 2,200-year-old silver shard found by archaeologists in Leicestershire in 2000 will go on public display after officials realised it was the oldest Roman coin ever found in Britain.

The slightly worn silver denarius was dated to 211 BC when it was discovered in a hoard of more than 5,000 coins near the village of Hallaton last year. Council Officers only realised its significance after a report said the oldest coin of the period dated from 207 BC.

It will now take centre stage at Harborough Museum in Market Harborough.

A helmet-clad Goddess is depicted on one side, opposed by a pair of mythical twins riding galloping horses on the reverse. Soldiers and unskilled workers would have earned a denarius for a day's work in the 1st century AD.

The appearance of the coin in Britain before the Roman conquest is thought to represent strong evidence of Anglo-Italian exchange through trade or diplomacy.

The coins, believed to have been buried as gifts to the Gods, were excavated at an Iron Age shrine of the Corieltavi tribe which also unearthed a richly decorated Roman cavalry helmet, a unique silver bowl and the remains of more than 300 pigs.

"Leicestershire boasts the largest number of Iron Age coins ever professionally excavated in Britain in the Hallaton Treasure," said David Sprason, County Council Cabinet Member for Communities and Wellbeing.

"To also have the oldest Roman coin ever found is something very special."

Leicestershire County Council bought the Hallaton finds and created a special Hallaton Treasure Gallery at the Museum in a £934,000 scheme.

As well as the permanent exhibtion of the Hallaton Treasure at Harborough Museum, two travelling exhibitions are touring the Midlands and a programme of events to publicise this nationally significant find is underway. More information about the Hallaton Treasure, including finds slideshows, can be found at www.leics.gov.uk/harboroughmuseum.

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