Thornbury Hoard

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Coordinates: 51°36′34″N2°31′30″W / 51.6094°N 2.5249°W / 51.6094; -2.5249

Geographic coordinate system Coordinate system

A geographic coordinate system is a coordinate system that enables every location on Earth to be specified by a set of numbers, letters or symbols. The coordinates are often chosen such that one of the numbers represents a vertical position and two or three of the numbers represent a horizontal position; alternatively, a geographic position may be expressed in a combined three-dimensional Cartesian vector. A common choice of coordinates is latitude, longitude and elevation. To specify a location on a plane requires a map projection.


Thornbury Hoard
Thornbury Hoard Coins.jpg
Coins from the hoard, photographed in 2007
Material Silver, pottery
Size 11,460 coins
Period/culture Romano-British
Discovered Thornbury, South Gloucestershire by Ken Allen in March, 2004
Present location Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, Bristol
Identification 2004 T147 (Fig 450)

The Thornbury Hoard is a hoard of 11,460 copper alloy Roman coins, mainly radiates and nummi, dating from 260 to 348, found in the back garden of Ken Allen in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire, England while digging a pond in March 2004. It was described as the "third largest of its kind" found in Great Britain. [1] [2]

Hoard Collection of valuable objects or artifacts

A hoard or "wealth deposit" is an archaeological term for a collection of valuable objects or artifacts, sometimes purposely buried in the ground, in which case it is sometimes also known as a cache. This would usually be with the intention of later recovery by the hoarder; hoarders sometimes died or were unable to return for other reasons before retrieving the hoard, and these surviving hoards might then be uncovered much later by metal detector hobbyists, members of the public, and archaeologists.

Roman currency

Roman currency for most of Roman history consisted of gold, silver, bronze, orichalcum and copper coinage. From its introduction to the Republic, during the third century BC, well into Imperial times, Roman currency saw many changes in form, denomination, and composition. A persistent feature was the inflationary debasement and replacement of coins over the centuries. Notable examples of this followed the reforms of Diocletian. This trend continued into Byzantine times.


Nummus, plural nummi (νοῦμμοι) is a Latin term meaning "coin", but used technically by modern writers for a range of low-value copper coins issued by the Roman and Byzantine empires during Late Antiquity. It comes from the Greek nomos via its Western Doric form noummos, which was used to describe a coin in some parts of southern Italy. The word was also used during the later years of the Roman Republic and the early Empire, either as a general word for a coin, or to describe the sestertius, which was the standard unit for keeping accounts.

Discovery, treatment and valuation

The hoard was discovered by Ken Allen while digging a pond in his back garden. [2] The coins were in a coarse grey ware decorated pot measuring 40–50 cm (16–20 in) high—thought to have originated in Caldicot, Monmouthshire—which had been damaged in the ground. [2]

Caldicot, Monmouthshire town in Monmouthshire, southeast Wales

Caldicot is a town and community in Monmouthshire, southeast Wales, located between Chepstow and Newport on the Gloucester to Newport Line served primarily by Caldicot station, whilst by road it is just off the busy M4 / M48 motorway corridor. The site adjoins the Caldicot Levels, on the north side of the Severn Estuary. Caldicot has easy access on the railway west to Newport, Cardiff Central and east to Chepstow, Lydney, and Gloucester, as well as one stop west to Severn Tunnel Junction and then east via the Severn Tunnel to Filton Abbeywood and Bristol Temple Meads and further afield. Generally good road access to Cardiff and across the Second Severn Crossing, old Severn Bridge to Bristol. The population of the town is around 11,000. It has a large school, Caldicot Comprehensive School, and is known for its medieval castle.

Allen reported the find and took it to Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery where it was weighed in at 28.6 kg (63 lb), and "took two people to lift the bucket it had been collected in". [2] For the most part, the coins were readily identified after drying and chemical treatment.

Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery museum in Bristol, England

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery is a large museum and art gallery in Bristol, England. The museum is situated in Clifton, about 0.5 miles (0.8 km) from the city centre. As part of Bristol Culture it is run by the Bristol City Council with no entrance fee. It holds designated museum status, granted by the national government to protect outstanding museums. The designated collections include: geology, Eastern art, and Bristol's history, including English delftware. In January 2012 it became one of sixteen Arts Council England Major Partner Museums.

At an inquest, the Coroner declared the hoard Treasure and a valuation committee subsequently valued it at £40,000. [1] Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery acquired the hoard, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Headley Museums Treasure Acquisition Scheme, and other organisational funding. [1]

Inquests in England and Wales are held into sudden and unexplained deaths and also into the circumstances of discovery of a certain class of valuable artefacts known as "treasure trove". In England and Wales, inquests are the responsibility of a coroner, who operates under the jurisdiction of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.

Treasure trove amount of money or coin, gold, silver, plate, or bullion found hidden

Treasure trove is an amount of money or coin, gold, silver, plate, or bullion found hidden underground or in places such as cellars or attics, where the treasure seems old enough for it to be presumed that the true owner is dead and the heirs undiscoverable. The legal definition of what constitutes treasure trove and its treatment under law vary considerably from country to country, and from era to era.

Items discovered

The Hoard on display at the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery. Thornbury Hoard, Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery 1.jpg
The Hoard on display at the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery.

The hoard was said to be the "third largest of its kind" [2] and consisted of 11,449 copper alloy nummi and 11 copper alloy radiates, the earliest dating from during the reign of Gallienus in 260; the latest being struck in 348, during the Constantinian dynasty. However, the vast majority were minted in the 330s and consisted of three reverse types showing "Gloria Exercitus", meaning "to the glory of the army" – either carrying a reverse design of "two soldiers with legionary standards" or commemorative types depicting the Roman capitals of Rome and Constantinople. Others commemorated the battle of Chrysopolis fought between Constantine I and Licinius: these coins depict Victory standing on the prow of a ship.

Gallienus Roman emperor

Gallienus, also known as Gallien, was Roman Emperor with his father Valerian from 22 October 253 to spring 260 and alone from spring 260 to September 268. He ruled during the Crisis of the Third Century that nearly caused the collapse of the empire. While he won a number of military victories, he was unable to prevent the secession of important provinces. His 15-year reign was the longest since the 19-year rule of Caracalla.

The Constantinian dynasty is an informal name for the ruling family of the Roman Empire from Constantius Chlorus to the death of Julian in 363. It is named after its most famous member, Constantine the Great who became the sole ruler of the empire in 324. The dynasty is also called Neo-Flavian because every Constantinian emperor bore the name Flavius, similarly to the rulers of the first Flavian dynasty in the 1st century.

Obverse and reverse front and back side of coins, medals, orders of merit, and paper bills

Obverse and its opposite, reverse, refer to the two flat faces of coins and some other two-sided objects, including paper money, flags, seals, medals, drawings, old master prints and other works of art, and printed fabrics. In this usage, obverse means the front face of the object and reverse means the back face. The obverse of a coin is commonly called heads, because it often depicts the head of a prominent person, and the reverse tails.

The find was compared in size and constitution [1] to those of the Nether Compton (22,670 coins) [3] and Bishopswood (17,548 coins) hoards, found in 1989 and 1895 respectively.

ReignDate range№ of coinsTypeNotes
Gallienus 260–2682 radiate
Claudius II 268–2701radiate
Tetricus I/II 271–2746radiate
Carausius 287–2931radiate
1 barbarous radiate
Constantine I 313–31713 nummi inc 2 nummus fractions
Constantine II 318–33059nummi
Constantinian 330–33511,232nummiGloria Exercitus (2 commemorative standards)
Constantinian335–34087nummiGloria Exercitus (legionary standard)
Constantinian341–3482nummiTwo Victories
49barbarous nummi

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 "Treasure Annual Report 2004" (PDF). Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-01. Retrieved 2013-11-10.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "Pots of money... Roman style!" (PDF). South Gloucestershire Council. 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-04. Retrieved 2013-11-10.
  3. "Nether Compton Hoard". Forum Ancient Coins. Retrieved 2010-07-17.