The Seaton Down Hoard is a coin hoard with 22,888 Roman coins. It is by far the largest coin hoard found in Devon and the third largest ever found in Britain. A metal-detectorist named Laurence Egerton found the hoard whilst metal-detecting on land owned by Clinton Devon Estates. The hoard is now one of the most important parts of the museum’s archaeology collection.
The Seaton Down Hoard arrived at RAMM on the 20 of July 2016 and is on display at RAMM’s Making History Gallery.
History of the Seaton Down Hoard
The Seaton Down Hoard consists of 22,888 Roman coins and three iron ingots. Made from copper alloy, the hoard is one of the largest of 4th-century coins from the former Roman empire. Whoever owned the coins buried the hoard in around AD 350. Why, and by whom remains a mystery. Could it have been wages for workers or a merchant’s savings? Had the owner of the coins stolen them or tried to hide them from the taxman? We may never know. However, the coins were found a few fields away from known Roman sites. One was a farmstead, the other an army watch tower. These sites might connect to the hoard in more ways than one.
Laurence Egerton found the hoard whilst metal-detecting on land owned by Clinton Devon Estates. When Laurence realised the extent of his find he contacted the Devon County Council archaeologist, Bill Horner who arranged for the hoard to be professionally excavated by AC Archaeology. This prompt action means that we know a lot about the hoard’s archaeology.
The coins were likely held in a large leather sack or saddle bag. This means the coins were nearly all buried at the same time. The hoard weighed 68kg and so was more than one person could comfortably lift.
Most of the coins belong to the time of Emperor Constantine I and date from AD 317 to 340. The earliest coins are from AD 260 and the last from AD 348. This means that the oldest coins had been in circulation for nearly 90 years. Furthermore, almost all of the coins are of a type called a nummus. Nummi (plural of nummus) saw use in everyday purchases. Two nummi would buy a flagon of poor quality wine.
The Seaton Down Hoard in numbers
3 iron ingots.
Earliest coin from AD 260, the latest from AD 348 giving a span of 88 years.
The coins depict 25 rulers, sub-rulers, members of the Imperial Roman family. Many of these figures became rebels and rivals of Constantine I. Many met gruesome ends!
2 nummi would buy you a flagon of cheap wine.
8 nummi would buy you good wine.
20,000 nummi was roughly equivalent to 2 years pay for a middle-ranking civil servant.
Conservation of the coins
Supporters of the hoard
RAMM acquired the coins with help from a generous donation by Patrick and Sally Long, Clinton Devon Estates, Thomson Reuters, Devon County Council and many members of the public. Patrick and Sally Long were particularly keen that the coins are preserved for inspiration and wonder of children.
The conservation and display of the hoard and a project to engage with East Devon schools and communities was funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund with further public donations.