The West Norfolk hoard, discovered by an anonymous metal detectorist, contains a total of 131 gold coins, most of which are Frankish tremisse.
The West Norfolk hoard, buried shortly after 600 CE, contains nine gold solidi, a larger coin from the Byzantine empire worth three tremisses.
It also contains four other gold objects, including a gold bracteate (a type of stamped pendant), a small gold bar, and two other pieces of gold which were probably parts of larger items of jewelry.
The presence of these items in the hoard suggests that the coins should be seen as bullion, valued by weight rather than face value.
“This is a hugely important find,” said Dr. Gareth Williams, curator of early medieval coins at the British Museum.
“It is close in date to the famous ship burial from Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, and although it doesn’t contain as much gold as the whole of the Sutton Hoo burial, it contains many more coins.”
“In fact, it is the largest coin hoard of the period known to date. It must be seen alongside other recent finds from East Anglia and elsewhere, and will help to transform our understanding of the economy of early Anglo-Saxon England.”
At the point when the West Norfolk hoard was buried, England was not yet unified, but was divided into several smaller Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
Of these, the kingdom of the East Angles, including modern Norfolk and Suffolk, was one of the most important.
This region is also one of the most productive in terms of finds of archaeological material through metal detecting, so it is perhaps unsurprising that the largest find to date of gold coins from the Anglo-Saxon period was discovered in Norfolk by metal detectorists.
“This internationally-significant find reflects the wealth and continental connections enjoyed by the early Kingdom of East Anglia,” said Dr. Tim Pestell, senior curator of archaeology at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.
“Study of the hoard and its findspot has the potential to unlock our understanding of early trade and exchange systems and the importance of west Norfolk to East Anglia’s ruling kings in the seventh century.”
“The West Norfolk hoard is a really remarkable find, which will provide a fascinating counterpart to Sutton Hoo at the other end of the kingdom of East Anglia,” said Helen Geake, finds liaison officer for Norfolk.
“It underlines the value of metal-detected evidence in helping reconstruct the earliest history of England, but also shows how vulnerable these objects are to irresponsible collectors and the antiquities trade.”