Buried Treasure - Sarah Woodbury

Buried Treasure

The impulse to bury treasure, gold, or much-valued objects is long-standing.

“An amateur treasure hunter armed with a metal detector has found over 52,000 Roman coins worth $1 million buried in field, one of the largest ever such finds in the UK, said the British Museum.

Dave Crisp, a hospital chef, came across the buried treasure while searching for “metal objects” in a field near Frome, Somerset in south-western England.”   http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/europe/07/09/uk.roman.coin.treasure/

“The find includes more than 760 coins from the reign of Carausius, the Roman naval officer who seized power in 286 and ruled until he was assassinated in 293.

“The late third century A.D. was a time when Britain suffered barbarian invasions, economic crises and civil wars . . . Roman rule was finally stabilized when the Emperor Diocletian formed a coalition with the Emperor Maximian, which lasted 20 years. This defeated the separatist regime which had been established in Britain by Carausius.” 

An interesting question about this is why was the treasure buried?  The natural response is because the person needed to perserve it–whether because his villa was under attack, or he thought it would be, or merely from robbers.

Throughout the millenia, burying treasure was a common response to attack, in hopes of perserving it.  This is a Roman hoard, but after the Romans left and the Saxons came, Britons all along the east coast of England buried their treasure–and by the number of hoards that have been found, very few were able to return to claim it.

Last year, a hoard of Anglo-Saxon coins was discovered in central England. The so-called Staffordshire Hoard, the largest hoard of Saxon gold every found, included more than 1,500 objects.

Of it, Kevin Leahy, National Finds Advisor states, “Most of the gold and silver items appear to have been deliberately torn from the objects to which they were originally attached. We have over 80 gold and garnet pommel caps, and there also appear to be fittings from helmets.

This is not simply loot; swords were being singled out for special treatment. If it was just gold they were after we would have found the rich fittings from sword belts. Perhaps gold fittings were stripped from the swords to depersonalise them – to remove the identity of the previous owner. The blades then being remounted and reused.

It looks like a collection of trophies, but it is impossible to say if the hoard was the spoils from a single battle or a long and highly successful military career. We also cannot say who the original, or the final, owners were, who took it from them, why they buried it or when. it will be debated for decades.

We don’t know how it came to be buried in that field, it may have been  . . . concealed in the face of a perceived, but all too real, threat, which led to it not being recovered.”


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