In archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

, a hoard is a collection of valuable objects or artifacts
Artifact (archaeology)
An artifact or artefact is "something made or given shape by man, such as a tool or a work of art, esp an object of archaeological interest"...

, sometimes purposely buried in the ground. This would usually be with the intention of later recovery by the hoarder; hoarders sometimes died before retrieving the hoard, and these surviving hoards may be uncovered by metal-detectorists, members of the public and archaeologists much later. Forgetfulness and physical displacement from the location of the hoard may contribute to failing to retrieve it.

Hoards provide a useful method of providing dates for artifacts through association
Archaeological association
Association in archaeology has more than one meaning and is confusing to the layman. Archaeology has been critiqued as a soft science with a somewhat poor standardization of terms.-Finds and objects:...

 as they can usually be assumed to be contemporary and therefore used in creating chronologies. Hoards can also be considered an indicator of the relative degree of unrest in ancient societies. Thus conditions in 5th century and 6th century Britain
Britain in the Middle Ages
England in the Middle Ages concerns the history of England during the Medieval period — from the end of Roman rule in Britain through to the Early Modern period...

 spurred the burial of hoards of which the most famous are the Hoxne Hoard
Hoxne Hoard
The Hoxne Hoard is the largest hoard of late Roman silver and gold discovered in Britain, and the largest collection of gold and silver coins of the fourth and fifth century found anywhere within the Roman Empire...

, Suffolk; the Mildenhall Treasure
Mildenhall Treasure
The West Row Treasure is a major hoard of highly decorated Roman silver tableware from the fourth-century AD, found at West Row, near Mildenhall in the English county of Suffolk...

, the Fishpool Hoard
Fishpool Hoard
In 1966 the Fishpool Hoard of 1,237 15th century gold coins, four rings and four other pieces of jewellery, and two lengths of gold chain was discovered by workmen on a building site near present day Cambourne Gardens, in Ravenshead, Nottinghamshire, England, an area that was then known as...

, Nottinghamshire, the Water Newton
Water Newton Treasure
The Water Newton Treasure is a hoard of fourth-century Roman silver, discovered near the Roman town of Durobrivae at Water Newton in the English county of Cambridgeshire. The hoard consisted of 27 silver items and one small gold plaque...

 hoard, Cambridgeshire, and the Cuerdale Hoard
Cuerdale Hoard
The Cuerdale Hoard is a hoard of more than 8,600 items including silver coins, English and Carolingian jewellery, hacksilver and ingots. It was discovered on 15 May 1840 on the southern bank of a bend of the River Ribble, in an area called Cuerdale in South Ribble near to the city of Preston,...

, Lancashire, all preserved in the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...


Prudence Harper of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a renowned art museum in New York City. Its permanent collection contains more than two million works, divided into nineteen curatorial departments. The main building, located on the eastern edge of Central Park along Manhattan's Museum Mile, is one of the...

 voiced some practical reservations about hoards at the time of the Soviet exhibition of Scythian gold in New York, 1975. Writing of the so-called "Maikop treasure" acquired from three separate sources by three museums early in the twentieth century, the Berliner Museen, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, commonly called The Penn Museum, is an archaeology and anthropology museum that is part of the University of Pennsylvania in the University City neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.-History:An internationally renowned...

, and the Metropolitan Museum, New York, Harper warned
"By the time "hoards" or "treasures" reach museums from the antiquities market, it often happens that miscellaneous objects varying in date and style have become attached to the original group."

Such 'dealer's hoards' can be highly misleading, but better understanding of archaeology amongst collectors, museums and the general public is gradually making them less common, and more easily identified.


Hoards may be of precious metals, coinage
A coin is a piece of hard material that is standardized in weight, is produced in large quantities in order to facilitate trade, and primarily can be used as a legal tender token for commerce in the designated country, region, or territory....

, tool
A tool is a device that can be used to produce an item or achieve a task, but that is not consumed in the process. Informally the word is also used to describe a procedure or process with a specific purpose. Tools that are used in particular fields or activities may have different designations such...

s or less commonly, pottery
Pottery is the material from which the potteryware is made, of which major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made is also called a pottery . Pottery also refers to the art or craft of the potter or the manufacture of pottery...

 or glass
Glass is an amorphous solid material. Glasses are typically brittle and optically transparent.The most familiar type of glass, used for centuries in windows and drinking vessels, is soda-lime glass, composed of about 75% silica plus Na2O, CaO, and several minor additives...

 vessels. There are various classifications
Categorization is the process in which ideas and objects are recognized, differentiated and understood. Categorization implies that objects are grouped into categories, usually for some specific purpose. Ideally, a category illuminates a relationship between the subjects and objects of knowledge...

 depending on the nature of the hoard.

A founder's hoard contains broken or unfit metal objects, ingot
An ingot is a material, usually metal, that is cast into a shape suitable for further processing. Non-metallic and semiconductor materials prepared in bulk form may also be referred to as ingots, particularly when cast by mold based methods.-Uses:...

s, casting waste, and often complete objects, in a finished state. These were probably buried with the intention to recover at a later time.

A merchant's hoard is a collection of various functional items which, it is conjectured, were buried by a traveling merchant for safety, with the intention of later retrieval.

A personal hoard is a collection of personal objects buried for safety in times of unrest.

A hoard of loot
Looting —also referred to as sacking, plundering, despoiling, despoliation, and pillaging—is the indiscriminate taking of goods by force as part of a military or political victory, or during a catastrophe, such as during war, natural disaster, or rioting...

is a buried collection of spoils from raiding
Raid (military)
Raid, also known as depredation, is a military tactic or operational warfare mission which has a specific purpose and is not normally intended to capture and hold terrain, but instead finish with the raiding force quickly retreating to a previous defended position prior to the enemy forces being...

 and is more in keeping with the popular idea of "buried treasure".

Votive hoards are different from the above in that they are often taken to represent permanent abandonment, in the form of purposeful deposition of items, either all at once or over time for ritual
A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. The term usually excludes actions which are arbitrarily chosen by the performers....

 purposes, without intent to recover them. Furthermore, votive hoards need not be "manufactured" goods, but can include organic amulet
An amulet, similar to a talisman , is any object intended to bring good luck or protection to its owner.Potential amulets include gems, especially engraved gems, statues, coins, drawings, pendants, rings, plants and animals; even words said in certain occasions—for example: vade retro satana—, to...

s and animal remains. Votive hoards are often distinguished from more functional deposits by the nature of the goods themselves (from animal bones to diminutive artifacts), the places buried (being often associated with watery places, burial mounds and boundaries), and the treatment of the deposit (careful or haphazard placement and whether ritually destroyed/broken).
However, it should be noted that valuables dedicated to the use of a deity (and thus classifiable as 'votive') were not always permanently abandoned. Valuable objects given to a temple or church become the property of that institution, and may be used to its benefit.


  • Bactrian Gold
    Bactrian Gold
    The Bactrian Treasure is a treasure cache that lay under the "Hill of Gold" in Afghanistan for 2,000 years until Soviet archeologists exposed it shortly before the 1979 invasion...

  • Chausa hoard
    Chausa hoard
    The Chausa hoard, thus named after the place of discovery: Chausa or Chausagarh, famous for Chausa mangoes, is located in the Buxar district of Bihar. This was the first known bronze hoard discovered in the Gangetic valley and consists of a set of 18 Jain bronzes...

  • Kfar Monash Hoard
    Kfar Monash Hoard
    The Kfar Monash Hoard is a hoard of metal objects found in the spring of 1962 by the agriculturalist Zvi Yizhar in Kfar Monash, Israel. Kfar Monash is located 3.3 km south-east of Tel Hefer in the Plain of Sharon or in modern terms 9km/6mi northeast of Netanya, which is roughly located along the...

  • Wonoboyo hoard
    Wonoboyo hoard
    Wonoboyo hoard is an important archaeological find of golden and silver artifacts from the 9th century Medang Kingdom in Central Java, Indonesia...

  • Ziwiye hoard
    Ziwiye hoard
    The Ziwiye hoard is a treasure hoard containing gold, silver, and ivory objects, also including a few Luristan pieces, that was uncovered on the south shore of Lake Urmia in Ziwiyeh, Kurdistan Province, Iran, in 1947. These objects provide a link between the cultures of the Iranian plateau and the...

See also

  • List of hoards in Britain
  • List of hoards in Ireland
  • List of missing treasure
  • Hacksilver
    thumb|300px|right|Hacksilver from the medieval period, Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Hamburg, Germany.Hacksilver, or Hack-silver, is fragments of cut and bent silver items treated as bullion, either for ease of carrying before melting down for re-use, or simply used as currency by weight...

  • Treasure
    Treasure is a concentration of riches, often one which is considered lost or forgotten until being rediscovered...

  • Treasure trove
    Treasure trove
    A treasure trove may broadly be defined as an amount of money or coin, gold, silver, plate, or bullion found hidden underground or in places such as cellars or attics, where the treasure seems old enough for it to be presumed that the true owner is dead and the heirs undiscoverable...

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