The Norfolk tax has recently been declared England’s largest Anglo – Saxon coinage | Inheritance

More than 130 gold coins excavated by metal detectors from a field in western Norfolk over a period of almost 30 years have been declared the largest treasure of such objects from the Anglo-Saxon period found in England.

The 131 coins, as well as four other gold objects dating to 1,400 years ago, were sporadically discovered between 1991 and 2020, but it was not until Wednesday that a study considered them to be part of the same treasure.

Most of the objects were found by a single anonymous detector, who reported his findings to the relevant authorities. However, 10 of the coins were found by David Cockle, a police officer who was jailed for 16 months in 2017 for illegally trying to sell them. Two of the finds that Cockle had hidden have since disappeared in the antique shop.

The coins are mostly Frankish wooden missises and include nine gold solidi, a larger coin from the Byzantine Empire worth three tremisses. The discovery of the other objects, including a gold bracteate (a type of stamped pendant) and a small gold bar, suggests that the coins should be seen as gold bars, valued by weight rather than face value.

Gold bracteate, gold bar and two more artifacts intended for jewelery fragments
Gold bracteate, gold bar and two more artifacts believed to be jewelery fragments discovered in Norfolk, part of a treasure that Norwich Castle Museum hopes to acquire. Photo: British Museum / PA

On Wednesday, the forensic pathologist for Norfolk launched an investigation to determine whether the findings constituted tax under the terms of the Treasure Act (1996), which would make it the property of the Crown. Typically, two or more coins that contain more than 10% precious metal and are more than 300 years old are defined as treasures.

The Crown will require a find if an accredited museum wishes to acquire it for public benefit and is able to pay a reward equal to the full market value. In this case, the Norwich Castle Museum hopes to acquire the ham with the support of the British Museum, where Treasure Act cases are always prepared.

Tim Pestell, senior curator of archeology at the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, called it an “internationally significant find”. He said: “Examining the tax and its whereabouts has the potential to unlock our understanding of early trade and exchange systems and the importance of Western Norfolk to the reigning kings of East Anglia in the seventh century.”

The decades on both sides of the 600AD were a golden age for Anglo-Saxon England. The largest find of gold metal works from this period was the Staffordshire tax in 2009, which contained more than 5.1 kg of gold and 1.4 kg of silver.

The former largest coin stock during this period was 101 coins in a purse, discovered in Crondall, Hampshire, in 1828.

Perhaps the most famous discovery was the tomb at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, popularized by the Netflix movie The Dig. The Sutton Hoo treasure included a purse containing 37 Frankish gold coins, three shiny gold discs of the same size as the coins, and two small gold bars.

Gareth Williams, curator of early medieval coins at the British Museum, said: “This is a hugely important find. it contains many more coins.

“In fact, it is the largest coinage of the period known so far. It must be seen in conjunction with other recent finds from East Anglia and elsewhere and will help transform our understanding of the economy of early Anglo – Saxon England.”

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