Metal detectors strike gold with Celtic coin hoard worth £10m

Two metal detector enthusiasts have uncovered Europe's largest hoard of Celtic coins worth up to £10 million - after searching for more than 30 years.

Determined Reg Mead and Richard Miles spent decades searching a field in Jersey after hearing rumours that a farmer had discovered silver coins while working on his land.

They eventually struck gold and uncovered between 30,000 and 50,000 coins, which date from the 1st Century BC and have lain buried for 2,000 years.

The Celtic silver and gold coins were entombed under a hedge in a large mound of clay, weighing three quarters of a ton and measuring 140 x 80 x 20cm.

Neil Mahrer, Conservator for Jersey Heritage Museum who helped to excavate the hoard, has labelled the discovery as the biggest of its kind.

He said: "This is the biggest Celtic coin hoard ever found which is tremendously exciting."

Experts predict they are of Armorican origin - modern day Brittany and Normandy - from a tribe called the Coriosolitae, who were based in the modern-day area of St Malo and Dinan.

They have dated the coins from 50BC, the Late Iron Age, and believe they would have been buried underground to be kept safe from Julius Caesar's campaigns.

This is because the armies of Caesar were advancing north-westwards to France at the time, driving tribal communities towards the coasts.

Some would have fled across the sea to Jersey, finding a place of refuge away from Caesar's troops. The only safe way to store their wealth was to bury it in a secret place.

Dr Philip de Jersey, a former Celtic coin expert at Oxford University, said each individual coin in the "extremely exciting" find was worth between £100 and £200.

He said: "It is extremely exciting and very significant. It will add a huge amount of new information, not just about the coins themselves but the people who were using them.

"Most archaeologist with an interest in coins spend their lives in libraries writing about coins and looking at pictures of coins.

"For me as an archaeologist, with an interest in coins, to actually go out and excavate one in a field, most of us never get that opportunity. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity."

Richard Miles and Reg Mead first stumbled across a find of 60 silver and one gold coin - believed to be part of the same haul - back in February this year.

The pair claimed they were going to continue to dig around the undisclosed field in Jersey for more - before striking gold with thousands more.

Reg Mead said: "Richard my colleague found the first one and it was amazing - when you see him raising his hand above his head (saying) "got one".

"After that even every one gave you the same buzz - after 61 coins and many, many pieces of rubbish in amongst them.

"We are talking about searching for 40 to 50 hours to get these coins out and every one gives you a buzz."

Several hoards of Celtic coins have been found in Jersey before but the largest was in 1935 at La Marquanderie when more than 11,000 were discovered.

The States of Jersey are working to clarify exactly who owns the coins.

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