1. The delighted staff of the Ashmolean Museum celebrate the saving of the hoard.

Coining it on Jersey

The Jersey Coin Hoard is the biggest cache of Celtic coins in the world. Now, three years after being unearthed in a field by local metal detectorists Reg Mead and Richard Miles, the coin hoard has been completely disentangled. The finding of the hoard was a fitting reward for Mead and Miles who had been searching the field for 30 years.
Six times larger than any other hoard, it is made up of 70,000 or so coins (above ), numerous gold neck torques, glass beads, a leather purse and a woven bag of silver and gold. Over time, the coins corroded and stuck together. Since its discovery, the hoard's components have been carefully separated, recorded and then cleaned by experts from Jersey Heritage. On 20 January, the last coins were released.

Estimated to have originally weighed between about 300 to 400 kilos, the hoard is believed to have been buried by the Coriosolitae, a Celtic tribe from Brittany, circa 50–30 BC. Intriguingly, when it was found, there was a footprint in the layer of soil above it – perhaps made when it was pushed down into the earth. A cast and a laser scan of the footprint were made before it had to be removed when the hoard was recovered.

'The hoard lay about four feet underground and it appears that the coins and other objects were tipped into a hole in the ground,' reports Neil Mahrer, Conservator of Jersey Heritage, who led the conservation project. This hoard prompts several questions about the history of the island. 'The biggest Celtic hoards have all been found here on Jersey,' explains Mahrer.

'We know little of what was happening on the island during the Iron Age but it seems to have been especially important to the Celts at the time.' One question is whether this hoard was related to the presence of the Romans in northern Europe. 'France was comprised of many kingdoms up until the arrival of Julius Caesar. The tribes only began to unify after he arrived. The coins may have been buried to be hidden from the Romans, or as an offering to the gods,' says Mahrer.

Other, smaller hoards have been found in the field, too, he says, including a Roman hoard from about 50 years later. A three-dimensional scan has been taken of all the coins in this hoard and a virtual model produced. Studying it may help show how life was lived on the island at the time.

'We'll have to investigate the site now,' says Mahrer. 'We'd like to undertake a full geophysical survey of the field to discover what was going on.' Two years ago an 'open' laboratory at La Hougue Bie Museum, where visitors could see archaeologists working on the hoard, was set up near the field. Here, staff from Jersey Heritage and volunteers continue to work on it. The laboratory will be open to the public again from 28 March.
Diana Bentley