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Sunday, 6 May 2012

Shapwick Coin Hoard 1998

The Shapwick Coin Hoard

Whilst metal detecting at Shapwick, Somerset, in September 1998, cousins Martin and Kevin Elliott discovered the largest hoard of Roman silver denarii ever found in Britain. Excavation of the findspot by Somerset County Council archaeologists established that the 9,238 coins had been buried in the corner of a room of a previously unknown Roman building. Subsequent fieldwalking, geophysical survey by English Heritage (below) and excavation revealed the room to be part of a courtyard villa.

                     The hoard was taken to the British Museum for cleaning, identification and listing.

A group of coins prior to cleaning.

A quantity of coins after cleaning by the British 
 Museum's conservation department.

The coins range in date from Mark Antony (32-31 BC) to emperor Severus Alexander (AD 222 - 235). The hoard was buried in about AD 224. Seventy five per cent of the coins date to the Severan dynasty (post AD 193) and are in remarkable condition. The vast majority of the coins are from the mint of Rome. Exceptions are the coins of Mark Antony, which were probably struck at a mint travelling with his legions in Greece and a proportion of the Severan coins struck in Syria or Alexandria. Many emperors, famous and infamous, and family members appear on the coins. The reverses depict an enormous range of classical gods, goddesses, personifications, battle victories, imperial events and journeys and public works. 

A Aesculapius, god of medicine and healing, reflects Caracalla's concern over his health B Salus, goddess of health and welfare, feeding a snake on a coin of Severus C Venus, goddess of love and beauty, on a coin of Julia Domna D Diana, goddess of the moon, riding in a chariot on the reverse of a denarius of Julia Domna E Roma, the personification of Rome, on a coin of Elagabalus F Hispania (Spain), one of a series representing the provinces of the Roman Empire on denarii of Hadrian G Mars, god of war, carrying a spear and trophy on a coin of Elagabalus HCoin of Severus with Neptune, god of the sea, holding a trident I Sailing ship with gangway to the ground and surrounded by birds, a lion, tigers, a stag and bull. It marks a public event held in the amphitheatre in Rome in AD 202 J Coin struck to emphasise Septimius Severus's generosity in providing entertainment for the people of Rome K Galley with seven rowers and a pilot on a coin of Elagabalus. The reverse legend reads FELICITAS TEMP (happy or prosperous times) LDenarius of Antoninus Pius struck in AD 158 - 9 to mark the completion of the restoration of the temple of Augustus and Livia.

The hoard represented a very considerable sum of money in the early 3rd century - the equivalent of ten years pay for a Roman legionary. Who buried the coins and why they were not retrieved will never be known.
Following a Treasure Inquest in Taunton, the hoard was valued and acquired in it's entirety by Somerset County Museums Service for the sum of £265,000. Generous grants were received from Somerset County Council, National Heritage Memorial Fund, National Art Collections Fund and Resource/V&A Purchase Grant Fund.
Acquisition of the hoard provides a wonderful addition to the archaeology display at the Somerset County Museum and the coins will be of tremendous value to future numismatic studies.

A popular booklet called 'The Shapwick Treasure' has been published which provides an account of the discovery of the hoard, it's content and importance.
Price £2.50 plus postage and packing.

My thanks to Stephen Minnitt at Somerset.gov.uk for allowing me to use the information/images.


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