Excavation of the enormous hoard of Celtic coins discovered by metal detectorists on the Channel Island of Jersey in 2012 is finally complete. Comprised of almost 70,000 coins, multiple gold torcs, glass beads and organic materials including plant fibers, a leather bag and a bag woven with silver and gold thread, the Le Catillon II treasure is the largest Celtic coin hoard ever discovered, six times larger than the runner-up.
When Reg Mead and Richard Miles found the hoard after 30 years of searching the same field because of a story they’d heard from the previous landowners daughter, they only dug down to the surface of the mass of coins before alerting Jersey Heritage so the professionals could take over the excavation. With such a great quantity of coins corroded together, archaeologists dug the entire hoard out of the ground in a single soil block measuring 4.5 x 2.6 feet and weighing three quarters of a ton.
The block was transported to the Jersey Museum where it was painstakingly excavated in the glass-walled laboratory in full public view. The museum’s conservator Neil Mahrer worked with a team of experts and volunteers to document, recover, identify and clean every single speck of archaeological material. For the first two years, they focused on removing and cleaning 2,000 loose coins on the surface of the block. In 2014 excavation of the coin mass began. The overwhelming majority of the coins were found to date to 30-50 B.C. and were made by the Coriosolite tribe of what is now Brittany.
Here’s a timelapse video showing the recovery of objects from the block during just one week, November 21-27, 2015.
Before a coin was removed from the block it was laser scanned so its exact position was recorded, and then once it was removed it was laser scanned on its own. One small subblock of coins was not excavated. Instead, it was snugly plastic wrapped and removed whole so that future conservators armed with new technologies have a clean, original section to study.
The scanning and removal of all the rest of the hoard took a lot of time. Four years after the find and almost three years after the excavation of the soil block began, Neil Mahrer scanned and removed the last ten coins of 70,000. Because the Jersey Museum team is composed of wise and provident people with a care for our nerdly needs, they had it filmed.
Neil Mahrer, who has led the conservation project from the beginning, said: “This is a significant milestone for the team. It has been painstaking but thoroughly intriguing work, which has delivered some very unexpected and amazing finds along the way.
“There is still plenty to do and I am sure the hoard will continue to surprise us as we clean and record the material.”
9 thoughts on “Last coins excavated from huge Jersey Celtic hoard”
Maybe they have had every reason to hide this off-shore, as Caesar collects in his own Commentarii de bello Gallico, on his attempt to make himself great again, about the Coriosolites:
Book 2,34: “At the same time he [Caesar] was informed by Publius Crassus, whom he had sent with one legion against the Veneti, the Venelli, the Osismi, the Coriosolitae, the Esuvii, the Aulerci, and the Redones, which are maritime states, and touch upon the [Atlantic] ocean, that all these nations were brought under the dominion and power of the Roman people.”
Book 3,7: “[…] while Caesar had every reason to suppose that Gaul was reduced to a state of tranquillity, the Belgae being overcome, the Germans expelled, the Seduni among the Alps defeated, and when he had, therefore, in the beginning of winter, set out for Illyricum, as he wished to visit those nations, and acquire a knowledge of their countries, a sudden war sprang up in Gaul. The occasion of that war was this: Publius Crassus, a young man, had taken up his winter quarters with the seventh legion among the Andes, who border upon the [Atlantic] ocean. He, as there was a scarcity of corn in those parts, sent out some officers of cavalry, and several military tribunes among the neighbouring states, for the purpose of procuring corn and provision; in which number Titus Terrasidius was sent among the Esubii; Marcus Trebius Gallus among the Coriosolitae; Quintus Velanius, Titus Silius, amongst the Veneti.”
Book 3,11: “He therefore sends Titus Labienus, his legate, with the cavalry to the Treveri, who are nearest to the river Rhine. He charges him to visit the Remi and the other Belgae, and to keep them in their allegiance and repel the Germans (who were said to have been summoned by the Belgae to their aid,) if they attempted to cross the river by force in their ships. He orders Publius Crassus to proceed into Aquitania with twelve legionary cohorts and a great number of the cavalry, lest auxiliaries should be sent into Gaul by these states, and such great nations be united. He sends Quintus Titurius Sabinus his legate, with three legions, among the Venelli, the Coriosolitae, and the Lexovii, to take care that their forces should be kept separate from the rest. He appoints Decimus Brutus, a young man, over the fleet and those Gallic vessels which he had ordered to be furnished by the Pictones and the Santoni, and the other provinces which remained at peace; and commands him to proceed toward the Veneti, as soon as he could. He himself hastens thither with the land forces.”
This is a bit of a side note, but I searched and have not seen anyone mention it on (or in comments)any of the posts about detectorist finds.
Have you discovered the British show “Detectorists”? (2 seasons – both on Netflix in the US) It is a well written fiction show about friends in the Danebury Metal Detecting Club (aka DMDC).
“Pictones”, eh? Could they be another potential source of the later Roman army slang “Picts”.
But srsly, “painstakingly excavated in the glass-walled laboratory in full public view” is surely a model for much government behaviour. Full marks to Jersey. Her Majesty’s other dominions and realms might usefully pay attention.
Whether one should refer to Her Majesty as “Her Majesty” in her role as Duke of Normandy, I don’t know. Should she be “Her Grace”?
Very interesting…always enjoy reading about hoards and this one is massive!
I am most interested in hearing about the story they’d heard from the previous landowners daughter.
Did she know about it beforehand?
4 years is a long time to spend on a dig the size of a small closet. Congratulations to the team!
Jersey, huh? Dollars to donuts Hoffa’s in the middle of that hunk of metal.
Very interesting…always enjoy reading about hoards
I like it. thank you for sharing