The Hoxne Hoard

Featured Image: Gold and Silver coins from the Hoxne Hoard, © British Museum

The Hoxne Hoard is one of the largest Roman treasure hoards ever to have been discovered in Britain. It consists of almost 15,000 coins and 200 other gold and silver objects buried in the 5th century AD.

Image shows a stylised silver tigress
Silver Vessel handle in the shape of a tigress, ©British Museum

The Hoard was discovered by metal detectorist Eric Lawes on 16 November 1992 whilst searching for a friend’s lost hammer. Mr Lawes only dug out a few objects before realising his discovery and reporting the finds to Suffolk County Council that day. An emergency excavation was undertaken the next day.

Excavating the hoard 1992
two archaeologists in exposed trench over various items to be recovered
Close up of excavation

The excellent condition of the treasure is due to the early involvement of professional archaeologists. Items which are often destroyed, such as textile pieces were recovered and give an insight into how the items were deposited.

The careful excavation revealed that Hoxne treasure was buried in a wooden box or chest which had rotted away but could be reconstructed from the position of the contents and some iron fittings on the outside. Small silver padlocks survived which were likely for small caskets within the main box or chest. The lifting of some of the hoard in soil blocks allowed for micro-excavation by the British Museum, which revealed traces of straw and fabric used as packing. Plans and photographs allowed the archaeologists to reconstruct the arrangement of items as they were buried.

closeup of several gold bracelets in the gloved hands of an archaeologist
Gold Bracelets

The Hoard includes gold jewellery such as bracelets, as well as toiletry and silver tableware. There were many silver spoons and table utensils that have the appearance of statuettes, notably the piperatoria (pepper-pots). One of the examples is in the shape of a bust of a wealthy Roman woman and is known as the “Empress” Pepper pot.

Image shows a hollow silver statuette of the top half of a woman's body.
The “Empress” Pepper-Pot

Many of the items have Christian inscriptions, which shows the influence of Christianity in Late-Roman Britain.

14,865 coins were recovered, of which 569 were gold, 24 bronze and the rest silver. Fifteen emperors are represented on the silver coins and, except for one, they were minted between 358CE and 408CE. Hoards are not unusual in this period, as wealth was buried due to the political instability at that time as Britain ceased to be a province of the Roman Empire in the early 5th century AD.

We cannot be certain who owned the hoard, but ten spoons are inscribed with the name Aurelius Ursicinus and so it is possible that the rest of the hoard also belonged to him. It was likely the accumulated wealth of an affluent private family, possibly living at the settlement at Scole just over 3km away on the road from Camulodunum/Colonia Victricensis (Colchester) to Venta Icenorum (Caistor-by Norwich).

close up of the gold bracelets in hands of someone cleaning the soil out with brushes.
Cleaning and conserving gold bracelets by the British Museum, © British Museum

The Treasure can be viewed in the British Museum, London.

Read about the Hoard in the Suffolk Historic Environment Record (HXN 019) here

Read about the The Hoxne Late Roman Treasure by Catherine Johns

Read about The Late Roman Gold and Silver Coins from the Hoxne Treasure by P.S.W.Guest

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