A huge hoard of 131 gold coins and 4 other golden objects has been discovered over the course of years by an amateur treasure hunter in the UK. The anonymous finder discovered all of them on their own property using a metal detector. The coin hoard contains pieces buried around the year 600 and includes coins from the Byzantine Empire. The hoard was uncovered in Norwich in Norfolk County and now Her Majesty’s Coroner for Norfolk will determine if the hoard officially quantifies as “treasure” under English law.

Norwich Anglo Saxon coin hoard
Via: The British Museum/Norfolk Castle Museum

The find is the largest Anglo-Saxon hoard of gold coins ever to be discovered in the UK and they were unearthed over the course of years, little by little. The only larger hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold was the Staffordshire Hoard, uncovered in 2009 which contained no coins.

Coins from this property were part of a criminal investigation when a now-former police officer, David Cockle, acquired ten of these rare coins with permission to metal detect from the landowner. However, Cockle then attempted to sell the coins on the black market as one-off finds. This officer was sentenced to 16 months prison time and lost his job over the illegal operation. Two of these coins were never recovered. Under the Treasure Act of 1996 finders are obligated to report potential treasures of more than 2 coins found together and other finds to the authorities.

Norwich Anglo Saxon coin hoard
The British Museum/Norfolk Castle Museum

Now it will be determined if the coins qualify as treasure, which can change their status legally. To be a treasure in the UK the items found need to be at least 300-years-old and be at least 10% precious metals. If determined to be true treasure and if a suitable museum has the funds to buy them at market value, the law awards the treasure to the Crown and the finder is paid for the treasure.

In this case, according to the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the British Museum that manage such finds, the Norwich Castle Museum hopes to acquire the hoard if and when it is certified as a true treasure.

Norwich Anglo Saxon coin hoard
The British Museum/Norfolk Castle Museum

Some of the coins have already been identified as Frankish tremisses, coins of antiquity that were worth one third of solidi, a larger coin from the Byzantine era – 9 of which were also found at the site.

The Franks were tribe of Germanic peoples and according to Tim Pestell, curator at the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, the find “represents the wealth and Continental connections of enjoyed by the early Kingdom of East Anglia.” At the time the hoard was buried England was not yet unified and was a series of smaller kingdoms that wouldn’t come together until 300 years after these coins were buried.

The other gold objects of the hoard include a gold bracteate (a type of chased or stamped pendant), a gold bar, and 2 gold pieces that look to have come off of pieces of jewelry. Most of the coins were found between 2014 and 2020 in the same field, but the first coin in the hoard was discovered in 1990. This makes the process of uncovering the hoard a 30 year affair.

Norwich Anglo Saxon coin hoard
The British Museum/Norfolk Castle Museum

For reference the famous Sutton Hoo site, discovered in 1938, only contained 37 Anglo-Saxon coins.