About the Seaton Down Hoard
The Seaton Down Hoard consists of 22,888 Roman coins and three iron ingots. It was buried in around AD 350 but why, and by whom is a mystery. Could it have been wages for workers or a merchant’s savings? Were the coins stolen or were they being hidden from the taxman? We may never know. The coins were found a few fields away from known Roman sites. One was a farmstead, the other an army watch tower. The hoard is probably connected to these in some way.
Laurence Egerton found the hoard whilst metal-detecting on land owned by Clinton Devon Estates. When Laurence realised the extent of his find he contacted the Devon County Council archaeologist, Bill Horner who arranged for the hoard to be professionally excavated by AC Archaeology. This prompt action means that we know a lot about the hoard’s archaeology.
The coins were all buried at the same time and were probably held in a large leather sack or saddle bag. The hoard weighed 68kg and so was more than one person could comfortably lift.
Most of the coins belong to the time of Emperor Constantine I and date from AD 317 to 340. The earliest coins are from AD 260 and the last from AD 348. This means that the oldest coins had been in circulation for nearly 90 years. Almost all of the coins are of a type called a nummus. Nummi (plural of nummus) were used in everyday purchases. Two nummi would buy a flagon of poor quality wine.
The Seaton Down Hoard in numbers
- 22,888 coins
- 3 iron ingots
- Earliest coin from AD 260, the latest from AD 348 giving a span of 88 years
- The coins were made in 17 mints from 9 modern countries
- The coins depict 25 rulers, sub-rulers, members of the Imperial family. Many of these rulers became rebels and rivals of Constantine I. Many met bloody ends!
- 2 nummi would buy you a flagon of cheap wine
- 8 nummi would buy good wine
- 20,000 nummi was roughly equivalent to 2 years pay for a middle-ranking civil servant