After a search that spanned three decades, two amateur treasure hunters have uncovered the biggest ever hoard of Iron Age silver and gold coins in the UK -- weighing a full ton and valued at $15 million.
Reg Mead and Richard Miles found the stash using a high powered metal detector called a deepseeker. What they discovered was a large block of clay containing 30,000 to 50,000 gold and silver coins dating from the 1st Century BC.
The coins—which could have been buried to prevent Roman troops from getting them during Julius Caesar's invasion of the British Islands—come from Armorica, modern day Brittany and Normandy. They have been buried for more than 2,000 years.
"I have been searching for things like this since 1959 and never found anything on this scale before."
- Reg Mead, amateur treasure hunter
Each Roman or Celtic coin is said to be worth between 100 to 200 British Pounds ($156 to $311), according to Dr. Philip de Jersey, a former Celtic coin expert at Oxford University. He believes the haul is “extremely exciting and very significant.”
The trove of coins has since been transferred to the Jersey Heritage Museum, for a careful cleaning and examination by conservator Neil Mahrer.
Olga Finch, curator of archaeology at the Jersey Museum, called it a find of international importance. "The fact that it has been excavated archaeologically is also rare and will greatly enhance the level of information we can glean about the people who buried it. It is an amazing contribution to the study of Celtic coins."
Further excavation is taking place at the secret location by archeologists keen to get to the bottom of the ancient discovery, while it is kept secluded from the threat of looters.
Ownership and value of the findings could take months to determine and are subject to the island's Treasure Act. It is estimated the coins could be worth £10 million (US$15.6 million).
The coins are understood to date back to the Late Iron Age, a time when the armies of Rome's Julius Caesar were advancing north-westwards through France, driving the tribal communities towards the coast.
People escaping would have crossed the sea to Jersey, finding a place of refuge away from Caesar's campaigns. It is thought they may have buried their wealth to protect it.
"I have been searching for things like this since 1959 and never found anything on this scale before," Mead told the Daily Mail. "We had been searching that land for 30 years."
While Mead, Miles and the farmer who owns the land have an agreement over how the split the find, actual ownership of the coins is unclear.
Mead said he is following up with the States of Jersey for clarification.
Newscore contributed to this report.