Any Old Iron - Roman Style

By Richard Moss Published: 12 February 2003

shows Roman coin found in Northumberland.

Left the enthusiasts who found these coins also discovered and reported another significant find - the Bamburgh hoard.

A hoard of Roman coins discovered by metal detecting enthusiasts on a farm near Longhorsley in Northumberland reveals new evidence of entrepreneurial recycling by the local population.

The find, consisting of 70 Roman coins dating from the reign of the Emperor Vespasian to the reign of Marcus Aurelius (AD69-180), has been donated to the University of Newcastle and is arousing considerable excitement among the experts there.

Right: all the coins were well worn.

“The very worn faces of the coins in the hoard suggests for the first time that the native Northumbrians were recycling Roman coins to make artefacts, either for their own use or to sell to the Roman Army”, said Roman expert Lindsay Allason-Jones, Director of Archaeological Museums at Newcastle University.

“But what makes the find unusual is that it dates from a period when there was no Roman fort close to Longhorsley, although there were a number of native settlement sites in the area”

It is thought that the coins were once in the possession of the local population, offering a snapshot of a unique period in Romano-British history. It’s a period when the hitherto barbarian hinterland of Northumberland was absorbed into the northern frontier of Roman Britain – a time when the Antonine Wall, between Glasgow and Edinburgh, and not Hadrian's Wall, marked the frontier of the Roman Empire.

The hoard was discovered close to the route of The Devil's Causeway, the main Roman road running north through Northumberland and represents a coup for the Ashington and Bedlington Metal Detectors Group.

"I soon realized we had something special," explained the group's president Allan Jacques. "Within five minutes I had about 15 coins in my hand, I called the rest of the lads over and we got another 30 that day."

It's not the first time that the work of the group has unearthed valuable national treasure and they always ensure it is reported to the authorities in the correct way.

According to Lyndsey Allason-Jones, the find is invaluable in archaeological terms as it proves a link between the local civilian population and the Roman military presence in the area at the time.

“Although artefacts made from recycled metal have been found before, this is the first real evidence of native settlers using Roman materials as a source of recycling”.

The coins, consisting of 61 sesterii and 9 dupondii will shortly be on display to the public at the Archaeological Museum of the University of Newcastle.