Record-breaking year for coin finds


19 February 2024
When the British Museum recently released the 2022 ‘Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) Annual Report’, it revealed that 53,490 archaeological finds were recorded, including 1,378 Treasure cases, which was the highest ever reported from England, Wales and Northern Ireland in a single year.

The record-breaking figures highlight the contribution made by members of the public to increasing archaeological knowledge in the UK today.

Most objects were found by people metal detecting, and most of the finds were made on cultivated land where they otherwise could be lost to ploughing. A small proportion were found through mud-larking (scouring muddy riverbanks for finds).

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The counties recording the most PAS finds in 2022 were Lincolnshire (5,101), Norfolk (4,265) and Suffolk (2,727) – all agricultural counties where detecting is popular. In the same period, Norfolk (95), Hampshire (83) and Kent (81) had the highest number of Treasure finds.

Credited with being among the most significant finds was a hoard of 26 Iron Age gold coins found at East Garston, West Berkshire (BERK-EE5FDB), which were concealed inside a flint container.

The naturally occurring flint nodule is roughly spherical and the coins were tightly packed inside its hollow interior. Several other hoards using this method of concealment are known from the Iron Age, including a hoard from Westerham, Kent, which is in the British Museum collection.

The gold coins are all staters, of a type locally produced in the East Wiltshire area in the late Iron Age (c.50–20 BC). One side features traces of an abstract design of crossed wreaths and the other features a horse running to the right with a spiral motif above and a wheel below.

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Pippa Pearce MBE, senior conservator at the British Museum, said:

‘Many of the hoards brought to the museum require cleaning before they can be studied by curators. Every coin is a miniature document. To be understood, it has to be read, and the role of conservation is to make this possible, revealing the hidden detail from beneath the concretions and corrosion built up during burial.’

Mark Jones, interim director of the British Museum, said:

‘The British Museum is proud of its role managing the Portable Antiquities Scheme and overseeing the administration of the Treasure Act 1996 in England. The information about finds is being recorded by the PAS to advance knowledge of past peoples, where and how they lived.

'As such, it reflects every part of human history, from the Palaeolithic to more modern times, across the whole of England and Wales. Most of the finds recorded have been found by members of the metal-detecting community, and I wanted to especially thank them for recording these items with the PAS.’

Images: Berkshire Coin Hoard © The Trustees of the British Museum.