Hoxne Hoard
The Hoxne Hoard is the largest hoard
In archaeology, a hoard is a collection of valuable objects or artifacts, 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...

 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
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

. Found by a metal detector
Metal detector
A metal detector is a device which responds to metal that may not be readily apparent.The simplest form of a metal detector consists of an oscillator producing an alternating current that passes through a coil producing an alternating magnetic field...

ist in the village of Hoxne
Hoxne is an anciently established village in the Mid Suffolk district of Suffolk, England, about five miles east-southeast of Diss, Norfolk and one-half mile south of the River Waveney...

 in Suffolk
Suffolk is a non-metropolitan county of historic origin in East Anglia, England. It has borders with Norfolk to the north, Cambridgeshire to the west and Essex to the south. The North Sea lies to the east...

, England, on 1992, the hoard consists of 14,865 Roman gold, silver and bronze coins
Roman currency
The Roman currency during most of the Roman Republic and the western half of the Roman Empire consisted of coins including the aureus , the denarius , the sestertius , the dupondius , and the as...

 from the late fourth and early fifth centuries, and approximately 200 items of silver tableware and gold jewellery. The objects are now 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...

 in London, where the most important pieces and a selection of the rest are on permanent display. In 1993, the Treasure Valuation Committee
Treasure Valuation Committee
The Treasure Valuation Committee is an independent body based in London, which offers expert advice to the government on items of declared treasure finds in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland that museums may wish to acquire from the Crown...

 valued the hoard at £
Pound sterling
The pound sterling , commonly called the pound, is the official currency of the United Kingdom, its Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory and Tristan da Cunha. It is subdivided into 100 pence...

1.75 million (today £).

The hoard was buried as an oak box or small chest filled with items in precious metal, sorted mostly by type with some in smaller wooden boxes and others in bags or wrapped in fabric. Remnants of the chest, and of fittings such as hinges and locks, were recovered in the excavation. The coins of the hoard date it after AD 407, which coincides with the end of Britain as a Roman province
Roman Britain
Roman Britain was the part of the island of Great Britain controlled by the Roman Empire from AD 43 until ca. AD 410.The Romans referred to the imperial province as Britannia, which eventually comprised all of the island of Great Britain south of the fluid frontier with Caledonia...

. The owners and reasons for burial of the hoard are unknown, but it was carefully packed and the contents appear consistent with what a single very wealthy family might have owned. Given the lack of large silver serving vessels and of some of the most common types of jewellery, it is likely that the hoard represents only a part of the wealth of its owner.

The Hoxne Hoard contains several rare and important objects, including a gold body-chain and silver-gilt pepper-pots (piperatoria). The Hoxne Hoard is also of particular archaeological significance because it was excavated by professional archaeologists with the items largely undisturbed and intact. The find has helped to improve the relationship between metal detectorists and archaeologists, and influenced a change in English law regarding finds of treasure.

Discovery and initial excavation

The hoard was discovered in a field of a farm, about 2.4 kilometres (1.5 mi) southwest of the village of Hoxne
Hoxne is an anciently established village in the Mid Suffolk district of Suffolk, England, about five miles east-southeast of Diss, Norfolk and one-half mile south of the River Waveney...

 in Suffolk
Suffolk is a non-metropolitan county of historic origin in East Anglia, England. It has borders with Norfolk to the north, Cambridgeshire to the west and Essex to the south. The North Sea lies to the east...

, on 1992. Peter Whatling, the tenant farmer
Tenant farmer
A tenant farmer is one who resides on and farms land owned by a landlord. Tenant farming is an agricultural production system in which landowners contribute their land and often a measure of operating capital and management; while tenant farmers contribute their labor along with at times varying...

, had lost a hammer and asked his friend Eric Lawes, a retired gardener and amateur metal detectorist, to help look for it. While searching the field with his metal detector, Lawes discovered silver spoons, gold jewellery and numerous gold and silver coins. After retrieving a few items, he and Whatling notified the landowners (Suffolk County Council
Suffolk County Council
Suffolk County Council is the administrative authority for the county of Suffolk, England. It is run by 72 elected county councillors representing 63 divisions...

), and the police, without attempting to dig out any more objects.

The following day, a team of archaeologists from the Suffolk Archaeological Unit carried out an emergency excavation of the site. The entire hoard was excavated in a single day, with the removal of several large blocks of unbroken material for laboratory excavation. The area within a radius of 30 metres (98.4 ft) from the find spot was searched using metal detectors. Peter Whatling's missing hammer was also recovered and donated to the British Museum.

The hoard was concentrated in a single location, within the completely decayed remains of a wooden chest. The objects had been grouped within the chest; for example, pieces such as ladles and bowls were stacked inside each other, and other items were grouped in a way consistent with being held within an inner box. Some items had been disturbed by burrowing animals and ploughing, but the overall amount of disturbance was low. It was possible to determine the original layout of the artefacts within the container, and the existence of the container itself, due to Lawes' prompt notification of the find, which allowed it to be excavated in situ by professional archaeologists.

The excavated hoard was taken to the British Museum. The discovery was leaked to the press, and on 19 November, the Sun
The Sun (newspaper)
The Sun is a daily national tabloid newspaper published in the United Kingdom and owned by News Corporation. Sister editions are published in Glasgow and Dublin...

newspaper ran a front-page story, alongside a picture of Lawes with his metal detector. Although the full contents of the hoard and its value were unknown, the newspaper article claimed that the hoard was worth £10 million. In response to the unexpected publicity, the British Museum held a press conference at the museum on 20 November to announce the discovery. Newspapers lost interest in the hoard quickly, allowing British Museum curators to sort, clean and stabilize the hoard without further disruption from the press. The initial cleaning and basic conservation of the hoard was completed within a month of its discovery.

Inquest and valuation

On 3 September 1993, a Coroner's inquest was held at Lowestoft
Lowestoft is a town in the English county of Suffolk. The town is on the North Sea coast and is the most easterly point of the United Kingdom. It is north-east of London, north-east of Ipswich and south-east of Norwich...

, and the hoard was declared a 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...

, meaning that it was deemed to have been hidden with the intention of being recovered at a later date. Under English common law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

, anything declared as such belongs to the Crown
The Crown
The Crown is a corporation sole that in the Commonwealth realms and any provincial or state sub-divisions thereof represents the legal embodiment of governance, whether executive, legislative, or judicial...

 if no one claims title
Title (property)
Title is a legal term for a bundle of rights in a piece of property in which a party may own either a legal interest or an equitable interest. The rights in the bundle may be separated and held by different parties. It may also refer to a formal document that serves as evidence of ownership...

 to it. However, at the time, the customary practice was to reward anyone who found and reported a treasure trove promptly with money equivalent to the market value of the treasure, with the money being provided by the national institution that wished to acquire the treasure. In November 1993, the Treasure Trove Reviewing Committee
Treasure Valuation Committee
The Treasure Valuation Committee is an independent body based in London, which offers expert advice to the government on items of declared treasure finds in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland that museums may wish to acquire from the Crown...

 valued the hoard at £1.75 million (today £), which was paid to Lawes, as finder of the treasure. He shared his reward with the farmer, Peter Whatling. Three years later, the 1996 Treasure Act
Treasure Act 1996
The Treasure Act of 1996 is an Act of Parliament designed to deal with finds of treasure in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; it does not apply in Scotland. It legally obliges finders of objects which constitute a legally defined term of treasure to report their find to their local coroner...

 made it a legal requirement that the finder and the landowner should be rewarded equally.

Subsequent archaeological investigations

In September 1993, after the field of the hoard find was ploughed, the Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service surveyed
Archaeological field survey
Archaeological field survey is the method by which archaeologists search for archaeological sites and collect information about the location, distribution and organization of past human cultures across a large area...

 the field, finding four gold coins and 81 silver coins, all considered part of the same hoard. Both earlier Iron Age
British Iron Age
The British Iron Age is a conventional name used in the archaeology of Great Britain, referring to the prehistoric and protohistoric phases of the Iron-Age culture of the main island and the smaller islands, typically excluding prehistoric Ireland, and which had an independent Iron Age culture of...

 and later mediaeval materials were also discovered, but there was no evidence of a Roman settlement in the vicinity.

In 1994, in response to illegal metal detecting near the hoard find, a follow-up excavation of the field was carried out by the Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service. The hoard burial hole was re-excavated, and a single post hole at the southwest corner was identified; this may have been the location of a marker post to enable the depositors of the cache to locate and recover it in the future. Soil was removed in 10 cm (3.9 in) spits for analysis in the area 1000 square metres (10,763.9 sq ft) around the find spot, and metal detectors were used to locate metal artefacts. This excavation recovered 335 items datable to the Roman period, mostly coins but also some box fittings. A series of late Bronze Age
Bronze Age Britain
Bronze Age Britain refers to the period of British history that spanned from c. 2,500 until c. 800 BC. Lasting for approximately 1700 years, it was preceded by the era of Neolithic Britain and was in turn followed by the era of Iron Age Britain...

 or early Iron Age post holes, which may have formed a structure, were found. However, no structural features of the Roman period were detected.

The coins discovered during the 1994 investigation were spread out in an ellipse centred on the hoard find spot, running east–west up to a distance of 20 metres (65.6 ft) on either side. This distribution can be explained by the fact that, in 1990, the farmer carried out deep ploughing in an east–west direction on the part of the field where the hoard was found. Previously (since 1967 or 1968, when the land was cleared for agricultural use), the farmer had ploughed in a north–south direction, but the absence of coins north and south of the find spot suggests that the ploughing before 1990 had not disturbed the hoard.

Items discovered

The hoard is mainly made up of gold and silver coins and jewellery, amounting to a total of 3.5 kilograms (7.7 lb) of gold and 23.75 kilograms (52.4 lb) of silver. It had been placed in a wooden chest, made mostly or entirely of oak
An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus , of which about 600 species exist. "Oak" may also appear in the names of species in related genera, notably Lithocarpus...

, that measured approximately 60×45×30 cm (23.6×17.7×11.8 in). Within the chest, some objects had evidently been placed in smaller boxes made of yew and cherry wood, while others had been packed in with woollen cloth or hay. The chest and the inner boxes had decayed almost completely after being buried, but fragments of the chest and its fittings were recovered during the excavation. The main objects found are:
  • 569 gold solidi
    Solidus (coin)
    The solidus was originally a gold coin issued by the Romans, and a weight measure for gold more generally, corresponding to 4.5 grams.-Roman and Byzantine coinage:...

    (singular: solidus) coins
  • 14,272 silver coins, comprising 60 miliarense
    A miliarense was the only fairly regularly minted silver coin issued by the late Roman and Byzantine Empires. It was struck with variable fineness, generally with a weight between 3.8 and 6.0 grams. The miliarense was struck from the beginning of the 4th century under Constantine I with a...

    and 14,212 siliqua
    The siliqua is the modern name given to small, thin, Roman silver coins produced from 4th century and later. When the coins were in circulation, the Latin word siliqua was a unit of weight defined as one-twentyfourth of the weight of a Roman solidus .The term siliqua comes from the siliqua graeca,...

    (singular: siliqua)
  • 24 bronze nummi
    Nummus , plural nummi is a Latin term meaning "coin", but used technically for a range of low-value copper coins issued by the Roman and Byzantine empires during late Antiquity....

    (singular: nummus) coins
  • 29 items of jewellery in gold
  • 98 silver spoons and ladles
  • A silver tigress, made as a handle for a vessel
  • 4 silver bowls and a small dish
  • 1 silver beaker
  • 1 silver vase or juglet
  • 4 pepper pots including the "Empress" Pepper Pot
    Empress pepper pot
    The Hoxne hoard pepper pot, commonly known as the Empress pepper pot, although it now seems not to represent an empress, is a silver piperatorium, partially gilded, dating from around 400 AD. It was found as part of the Hoxne Hoard in Hoxne, Suffolk, in November 1992, and is now in the British...

  • Toiletry items such as toothpick
    A toothpick is a small stick of wood, plastic, bamboo, metal, bone or other substance used to remove detritus from the teeth, usually after a meal. A toothpick usually has one or two sharp ends to insert between teeth. They can also be used for picking up small appetizers or as a cocktail...

  • 2 silver locks from the decayed remains of wooden or leather caskets
  • Traces of various organic materials, including a small ivory pyxis
    Pyxis (pottery)
    A pyxis is a shape of vessel from the classical world, usually a round box with a separate lid. Originally mostly used by women to hold cosmetics, trinkets or jewellery, surviving pyxides are mostly Greek pottery, but especially in later periods may be in wood, metal, ivory, or other materials...


The Hoxne Hoard contains 569 gold solidi, struck between the reigns of Valentinian I
Valentinian I
Valentinian I , also known as Valentinian the Great, was Roman emperor from 364 to 375. Upon becoming emperor he made his brother Valens his co-emperor, giving him rule of the eastern provinces while Valentinian retained the west....

 (364–75) and Honorius
Honorius (emperor)
Honorius , was Western Roman Emperor from 395 to 423. He was the younger son of emperor Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of the eastern emperor Arcadius....

 (393–423); 14,272 silver coins, including 60 miliarenses and 14,212 siliquae, struck between the reigns of Constantine II
Constantine II (emperor)
Constantine II , was Roman Emperor from 337 to 340. Co-emperor alongside his brothers, his short reign saw the beginnings of conflict emerge between the sons of Constantine the Great, and his attempt to exert his perceived rights of primogeniture ended up causing his death in a failed invasion of...

 (337–40) and Honorius; and 24 bronze nummi.

The most significant coin find from the end of Roman Britain, the hoard contains all major denominations of coinage of the time, and many examples of clipped
Coin clipping
Coin debasement is the act of decreasing the amount of precious metal in a coin, while continuing to circulate it at face value. This was frequently done by governments in order to inflate the amount of currency in circulation; typically, some of the precious metal was replaced by a cheaper metal...

 silver coinage typical of late Roman Britain. The only find from Roman Britain with a larger number of gold coins was the Eye Hoard found in 1780 or 1781, for which there are poor records. The largest single Romano-British hoard was the Cunetio Hoard
Cunetio Hoard
The Cunetio Hoard is the largest hoard of Roman coins found in Britain. It was discovered in 1978 at Mildenhall, Wiltshire, and consisted of 54,951 low value coins. The coins were contained in a large pot and a container which had been constructed from lead...

, of 54,951 third-century coins, but these were debased
Debasement is the practice of lowering the value of currency. It is particularly used in connection with commodity money such as gold or silver coins...

Radiate (coin)
The radiate or Post-reform radiate , was introduced by Diocletian during his reforms. It looked very similar to an Antoninianus even with a radiated crown like Sol Invictus, except it misses the XXI that numismatists believe was to represent 20 parts bronze to 1 part silver...

s with little precious-metal content. The Frome Hoard
Frome Hoard
The Frome Hoard is a hoard of 52,503 Roman coins found in April 2010 by metal detectorist Dave Crisp near Frome in Somerset, England. The coins were contained in a ceramic pot in diameter, and date from AD 253 to 305. Most of the coins are made from debased silver or bronze...

, unearthed in Somerset
The ceremonial and non-metropolitan county of Somerset in South West England borders Bristol and Gloucestershire to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east, and Devon to the south-west. It is partly bounded to the north and west by the Bristol Channel and the estuary of the...

 in April 2010, contains 52,503 coins minted between 253 and 305, also mostly debased silver or bronze. Larger hoards of Roman coins have been found at Misrata, Libya and reputedly also at Evreux
Évreux is a commune in the Eure department, of which it is the capital, in Haute Normandie in northern France.-History:In late Antiquity, the town, attested in the fourth century CE, was named Mediolanum Aulercorum, "the central town of the Aulerci", the Gallic tribe then inhabiting the area...

, France (100,000 coins) and Komin
Komin is a small town in Dubrovnik-Neretva County in Croatia on the river Neretva. It has a population of about 1300 people.At one time a hoard of 300,000 ancient coins was found here....

, Croatia (300,000 coins).

The gold solidi are all close to their theoretical weight of 4.48 g ( of a Roman pound). The fineness of a solidus in this period was 99% gold. The total weight of the solidi in the hoard is almost exactly 8 Roman pounds, suggesting that the coins had been measured out by weight rather than number. Analysis of the siliquae suggests a range of fineness of between 95% and 99% silver, with the highest percentage of silver found just after a reform of the coinage in 368. Of the siliquae, 428 are locally produced imitations, generally of high quality and with as much silver as the official siliquae of the period. However, a handful are cliché forgeries
Cliché forgery
A cliché forgery is a type of counterfeit coin produced using a genuine coin to impress a design into silver foil. The resulting obverse and reverse impressions are then soldered together around a copper or other metal core. This type of forgery is particularly suitable to the manufacture of...

 where a core of base metal
Base metal
In chemistry, the term base metal is used informally to refer to a metal that oxidizes or corrodes relatively easily, and reacts variably with diluted hydrochloric acid to form hydrogen. Examples include iron, nickel, lead and zinc...

 has been wrapped in silver foil.

Historical spread and minting

Coins are the only items in the Hoxne Hoard for which a definite date and place of manufacture can be established. All of the gold coins, and many of the silver coins, bear the names and portraits of the emperor in whose reign they were minted. Most also retain the original mint mark
Mint mark
A mint mark is an inscription on a coin indicating the mint where the coin was produced.-History:Mint marks were first developed to locate a problem. If a coin was underweight, or overweight, the mint mark would immediately tell where the coin was minted, and the problem could be located and fixed...

s that identify where they were minted, illustrating the Roman system of regional mints producing coins to a uniform design. The coins' manufacture has been traced back to a total of 14 sources: Trier, Arles and Lyon (in Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

), Ravenna, Milan, Aquileia
Aquileia is an ancient Roman city in what is now Italy, at the head of the Adriatic at the edge of the lagoons, about 10 km from the sea, on the river Natiso , the course of which has changed somewhat since Roman times...

, Rome (in modern Italy); Siscia
Sisak is a city in central Croatia. The city's population in 2011 was 33,049, with a total of 49,699 in the administrative region and it is also the administrative centre of the Sisak-Moslavina county...

 (modern Croatia), Sirmium
Sirmium was a city in ancient Roman Pannonia. Firstly mentioned in the 4th century BC and originally inhabited by the Illyrians and Celts, it was conquered by the Romans in the 1st century BC and subsequently became the capital of the Roman province of Lower Pannonia. In 294 AD, Sirmium was...

 (modern Serbia), Thessaloniki (Greece), Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

, Cyzicus
Cyzicus was an ancient town of Mysia in Anatolia in the current Balıkesir Province of Turkey. It was located on the shoreward side of the present Kapıdağ Peninsula , a tombolo which is said to have originally been an island in the Sea of Marmara only to be connected to the mainland in historic...

, Nicomedia
Nicomedia was an ancient city in what is now Turkey, founded in 712/11 BC as a Megarian colony and was originally known as Astacus . After being destroyed by Lysimachus, it was rebuilt by Nicomedes I of Bithynia in 264 BC under the name of Nicomedia, and has ever since been one of the most...

, and Antioch
Antioch on the Orontes was an ancient city on the eastern side of the Orontes River. It is near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey.Founded near the end of the 4th century BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals, Antioch eventually rivaled Alexandria as the chief city of the...

 (modern Turkey).

The coins were minted under three dynasties of Roman emperors. The earliest are the successors of the Constantinian dynasty
Constantinian dynasty
The Constantinian dynasty is an informal name for the ruling family of the Roman Empire from Constantius Chlorus to the death of Julian in 363. It is named after its most famous member, Constantine the Great who became the sole ruler of the empire in 324...

, followed by the Valentinianic emperors
Valentinian Dynasty
The Valentinian Dynasty or Valentinianic Dynasty, consisting of four emperors, ruled the Western Roman Empire from 364 to 392 and the Eastern Roman Empire from 364 to 378.*western emperors:**Valentinian I...

, and finally the Theodosian emperors
Theodosian dynasty
The Theodosian dynasty was a Roman family that rose to eminence in the waning days of the Roman Empire.-History:Its founding father was Flavius Theodosius , a great general who had saved Britannia from the Great Conspiracy...

. The collegiate system of rule (or Consortium imperii
Consortium imperii
Consortium imperii is a Latin term dating from the Roman Dominate, denoting the sharing of imperial authority between two or more emperors, each hence designated as consors imperii, i.e. "partner in imperium", either as formal equals or in subordination; the junior is then often the senior's...

) meant that imperial partners would mint coins in each other’s names at the mints under their jurisdiction. The overlapping reigns of Eastern
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 and Western
Western Roman Empire
The Western Roman Empire was the western half of the Roman Empire after its division by Diocletian in 285; the other half of the Roman Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire, commonly referred to today as the Byzantine Empire....

 emperors often allow changes of type to be dated to within part of a reign. So the latest coins in the hoard, of Western ruler Honorius (393–423) and his challenger Constantine III (407–11), can be demonstrated to belong to the earlier parts of their reigns as they correspond to the lifetime of the Eastern Emperor Arcadius
Arcadius was the Byzantine Emperor from 395 to his death. He was the eldest son of Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of the Western Emperor Honorius...

, who died in 408. Thus, the coins provide a terminus post quem
Terminus post quem
Terminus post quem and terminus ante quem specify approximate dates for events...

or earliest possible date for the deposition of the hoard of 408.

The siliquae in the Hoard were struck mainly at Western mints in Gaul and Italy. It is unknown whether this is because coins from further East rarely reached Britain through trade, or because the Eastern mints rarely struck siliquae. The production of coins seems to follow the location of the Imperial court at the time; for instance, the concentration of Trier coins is much greater after 367, perhaps associated with Gratian
Gratian was Roman Emperor from 375 to 383.The eldest son of Valentinian I, during his youth Gratian accompanied his father on several campaigns along the Rhine and Danube frontiers. Upon the death of Valentinian in 375, Gratian's brother Valentinian II was declared emperor by his father's soldiers...

 moving his court to Trier.
Table of mints and periods of gold solidi in the Hoxne Hoard 
Mint 367–75 375–8 378–88 388–95 394–402 402–8 Total
Aquileia 2 2
Constantinople 4 1 5
Lyons 5 5
Milan 15 6 367 388
Ravenna 54 54
Rome 1 38 39
Sirmium 8 8
Thessaloniki 1 1
Trier 6 6 8 58 78
Total 1 6 6 27 78 368 94 580

Clipping of the silver coins

Almost every silver siliqua in the hoard has had its edge clipped
Coin clipping
Coin debasement is the act of decreasing the amount of precious metal in a coin, while continuing to circulate it at face value. This was frequently done by governments in order to inflate the amount of currency in circulation; typically, some of the precious metal was replaced by a cheaper metal...

 to some degree. This is typical of Roman silver coin finds of this period in Britain, although clipped coins are very unusual through the rest of the Roman Empire. The clipping process invariably leaves the imperial portrait on the front of the coin intact, but often damages the mint mark, inscription, and the image on the obverse.

The reasons for the clipping of coins are controversial. Possible explanations include fraud, a deliberate attempt to maintain a stable ratio between gold and silver coins, or an official attempt to provide a new source of silver bullion while maintaining the same number of coins in circulation.

The huge number of clipped coins in the Hoxne Hoard has made it possible for archaeologists to observe the process of coin-clipping in detail. The coins were evidently cut face-up to avoid damaging the portrait. The average level of clipping is roughly the same for coins dating from 350 onwards.

Gold jewellery

All the jewellery in the hoard is gold, and all gold items in the hoard, other than coins, are jewellery. None of the jewellery is unequivocally masculine, although several pieces, like the rings, might have been worn by either gender. There is one body chain, six necklaces, three rings, and nineteen bracelets. The total weight of the gold jewellery is about 1 kilograms (2.2 lb), and the average metal content of the jewellery pieces is 91.5% gold (about 22 carat
Carat (purity)
The karat or carat is a unit of purity for gold alloys.- Measure :Karat purity is measured as 24 times the purity by mass:where...

), with small proportions in the metal of silver and copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...


The most important gold item in the hoard is the body chain, which consists of four finely looped gold chains, made using the "loop-in-loop" method called "fox tail" in modern jewellery, and attached at front and back to plaques. At the front, the chains have terminals in the shape of lions' heads and the plaque has jewels mounted in gold cells, with a large amethyst
Amethyst is a violet variety of quartz often used in jewelry. The name comes from the Ancient Greek ἀ a- and μέθυστος methustos , a reference to the belief that the stone protected its owner from drunkenness; the ancient Greeks and Romans wore amethyst and made drinking vessels of it in the belief...

 surrounded by four smaller garnet
The garnet group includes a group of minerals that have been used since the Bronze Age as gemstones and abrasives. The name "garnet" may come from either the Middle English word gernet meaning 'dark red', or the Latin granatus , possibly a reference to the Punica granatum , a plant with red seeds...

s alternating with four empty cells, which probably held pearl
A pearl is a hard object produced within the soft tissue of a living shelled mollusk. Just like the shell of a mollusk, a pearl is made up of calcium carbonate in minute crystalline form, which has been deposited in concentric layers. The ideal pearl is perfectly round and smooth, but many other...

s that have decayed. At the back, the chains meet at a mount centred on a gold solidus
Solidus (coin)
The solidus was originally a gold coin issued by the Romans, and a weight measure for gold more generally, corresponding to 4.5 grams.-Roman and Byzantine coinage:...

of Gratian
Gratian was Roman Emperor from 375 to 383.The eldest son of Valentinian I, during his youth Gratian accompanied his father on several campaigns along the Rhine and Danube frontiers. Upon the death of Valentinian in 375, Gratian's brother Valentinian II was declared emperor by his father's soldiers...

R. is an abbreviation of the Latin word Rex or Regina and is used as notation in British or other Commonwealth realm criminal prosecutions to mean "the Crown" or "the state", which is represented by the current monarch....

 375–383), which has been converted from an earlier use, probably as a pendant, and which may have been a family heirloom
In popular usage, an heirloom is something, perhaps an antique or some kind of jewelry, that has been passed down for generations through family members....

. Body chains of this type appear in Roman art, sometimes on the goddess Venus
Venus is the second planet from the Sun, orbiting it every 224.7 Earth days. The planet is named after Venus, the Roman goddess of love and beauty. After the Moon, it is the brightest natural object in the night sky, reaching an apparent magnitude of −4.6, bright enough to cast shadows...

 or nymph
A nymph in Greek mythology is a female minor nature deity typically associated with a particular location or landform. Different from gods, nymphs are generally regarded as divine spirits who animate nature, and are usually depicted as beautiful, young nubile maidens who love to dance and sing;...

s; some examples have erotic contexts, but they are also worn by respectable high-ranking ladies. They may have been regarded as a suitable gift for a bride. The Hoxne body chain, worn tightly, would fit a woman with a bust-size of 76–81 cm (30–32 inches). Few body chains have survived; one of the most complete, from the early Byzantine
Byzantine usually refers to the Roman Empire during the Middle Ages.Byzantine may also refer to:* A citizen of the Byzantine Empire, or native Greek during the Middle Ages...

 era and found in Egypt, is also in the British Museum.
One of the necklaces features lion-headed terminals, and another includes stylized dolphins. The other four are relatively plain loop-in-loop chains, although one has a Chi-Rho symbol () on the clasp, the only Christian element in the jewellery. Necklaces of similar lengths would normally be worn in the Roman period with a pendant
A pendant is a loose-hanging piece of jewellery, generally attached by a small loop to a necklace, when the ensemble may be known as a "pendant necklace". A pendant earring is an earring with a piece hanging down. In modern French "pendant" is the gerund form of “hanging”...

, but no pendants were found in the hoard. The three rings were originally set with gems, which might have been natural gemstones, or pieces of coloured glass; however, these were taken from the rings before they were buried, perhaps for reuse. The rings are of similar design, one with an oval bezel
Bezel setting
A bezel is a band of metal containing a groove and a flange holding a watch crystal or gemstone in its setting. This was the earliest method of setting gemstones into jewelry...

, one with a circular bezel, and one with a large oblong bezel.
The 19 bracelets buried in the hoard include three sets of four matching gold bracelets. Though many similar bracelets have survived, sets of four are most unusual; they may have been worn two on each arm, or possibly were shared by two related women. One set has been decorated by corrugating the gold with lateral and transverse grooves; the other two sets bear pierced-work geometric designs. Another five bracelets bear hunting scenes, common in Late Roman decorative art. Three have the designs executed in pierced-work, whereas two others are in repoussé
Repoussé and chasing
Repoussé or repoussage is a metalworking technique in which a malleable metal is ornamented or shaped by hammering from the reverse side to create a design in low relief. There are few techniques that offer such diversity of expression while still being relatively economical...

. One bracelet is the sole gold item in the hoard to carry an inscription: it reads "" in Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, meaning "Use happily, Lady Juliane". The expression utere felix (or sometimes uti felix) is the second most common inscriptional formula on items from Roman Britain, and is used to wish good luck, well-being and joy. The formula is not specifically Christian, but it sometimes occurs in an explicitly Christian context, for example, together with a Chi-Rho symbol.

The jewellery may have represented the "reserve" items rarely or never used from the collection of a wealthy woman or family. Some of the commonest types of jewellery are absent; brooches, pendants, and ear-rings for example. Items set with gems are notably missing, although they were very much in the taste of the day. Catherine Johns, former Senior Curator for Roman Britain at the British Museum, speculates that the current or favourite jewellery of the owner was not included in the hoard.

Silver items

The hoard contains about 100 silver and silver-gilt
Silver-gilt or gilded/gilt silver, sometimes known in American English by the French term vermeil, is silver gilded with gold. Most large objects made in goldsmithing that appear to be gold are actually silver-gilt; for example most sporting trophies, medals , and many crown jewels...

 items; the number is imprecise because there are unmatched broken parts. They include a statuette of a leaping tigress, made as a handle for an object such as a jug or lamp; four pepper-pots (piperatoria); a beaker; a vase or juglet (a small jug); four bowls; a small dish; and 98 silver spoons and ladles. The beaker and juglet are decorated with similar leaf and stem patterns, and the juglet has three gilded bands. In contrast, the small bowls and dish are plain, and it is presumed that the owners of the Hoard had many more such items, probably including the large decorated dishes found in other hoards. Many pieces are gilded
The term gilding covers a number of decorative techniques for applying fine gold leaf or powder to solid surfaces such as wood, stone, or metal to give a thin coating of gold. A gilded object is described as "gilt"...

 in parts to accentuate the decoration. The technique of fire-gilding with mercury
Mercury (element)
Mercury is a chemical element with the symbol Hg and atomic number 80. It is also known as quicksilver or hydrargyrum...

 was used, as was typical at the time.


The pepper-pots include one vessel, finely modelled after a wealthy or imperial lady, which soon became known as the "Empress" pepper-pot
Empress pepper pot
The Hoxne hoard pepper pot, commonly known as the Empress pepper pot, although it now seems not to represent an empress, is a silver piperatorium, partially gilded, dating from around 400 AD. It was found as part of the Hoxne Hoard in Hoxne, Suffolk, in November 1992, and is now in the British...

. The woman’s hair, jewellery, and clothing are carefully represented, and gilding is used to emphasize many details. She is holding a scroll in her left hand, giving the impression of education as well as wealth. Other pepper-pots in the hoard are modelled into a statue of Hercules
Hercules is the Roman name for Greek demigod Heracles, son of Zeus , and the mortal Alcmene...

 and Antaeus
Antaeus in Greek and Berber mythology was a half-giant, the son of Poseidon and Gaia, whose wife was Tinjis. Antaeus had a daughter named Alceis or Barce.-Mythology:...

, an ibex, and a hare and hound together. Not all such spice dispensers held pepper — they were used to dispense other spices as well — but are grouped in discussions as pepper-pots. Each of those found in this hoard has a mechanism in the base to rotate an internal disc, which controls the aperture of two holes in the base. When fully open, the containers could have been filled using a funnel; when part-open they could have been shaken over food or drink to add the spices.

Piperatorium is generally translated as pepper-pot, and black pepper
Black pepper
Black pepper is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. The fruit, known as a peppercorn when dried, is approximately in diameter, dark red when fully mature, and, like all drupes, contains a single seed...

 is considered the most likely condiment these were used for. Pepper is only one of a number of expensive, high-status spices which these vessels might have dispensed, however. The piperatoria are rare examples of this type of Roman silverware, and according to Johns the Hoxne finds have "significantly expanded the date range, the typology and the iconographic scope of the type". The trade and use of pepper in this period has been supported with evidence of mineralized black pepper at three Northern Province sites recovered in the 1990s, and from the Vindolanda tablets
Vindolanda tablets
The Vindolanda tablets are "the oldest surviving handwritten documents in Britain". They are also probably our best source of information about life on Hadrian's Wall. Written on fragments of thin, post-card sized wooden leaf-tablets with carbon-based ink, the tablets date to the 1st and 2nd...

 which record the purchase of an unspecified quantity of pepper for two denarii. Archaeological sites with contemporary finds have revealed spices including coriander
Coriander is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. Coriander is native to southern Europe and North Africa to southwestern Asia. It is a soft, hairless plant growing to tall. The leaves are variable in shape, broadly lobed at the base of the plant, and slender and feathery higher on the...

, poppy
Poppy seed
Poppy seed is an oilseed obtained from the opium poppy . The tiny kidney-shaped seeds have been harvested from dried seed pods by various civilizations for thousands of years...

, celery
Apium graveolens is a plant species in the family Apiaceae commonly known as celery or celeriac , depending on whether the petioles or roots are eaten: celery refers to the former and celeriac to the latter. Apium graveolens grows to 1 m tall...

, dill
Dill is a perennial herb. It is the sole species of the genus Anethum, though classified by some botanists in a related genus as Peucedanum graveolens C.B.Clarke.-Growth:...

, summer savory
Summer savory
Summer savory is the better known of the savory species. It is an annual, but otherwise is similar in use and flavor to the perennial winter savory...

, mustard
Mustard seed
Mustard seeds are the small round seeds of various mustard plants. The seeds are usually about 1 or 2 mm in diameter. Mustard seeds may be colored from yellowish white to black. They are important spices in many regional foods. The seeds can come from three different plants: black mustard , brown...

, and fennel
Fennel is a plant species in the genus Foeniculum . It is a member of the family Apiaceae . It is a hardy, perennial, umbelliferous herb, with yellow flowers and feathery leaves...


Other silver pieces

The tigress is a solid-cast statuette weighing 480 grams (16.9 oz) and measuring 15.9 cm (6.3 in) from head to tail. She was designed to be soldered
Soldering is a process in which two or more metal items are joined together by melting and flowing a filler metal into the joint, the filler metal having a lower melting point than the workpiece...

 onto some other object as its handle; traces of tin
Tin is a chemical element with the symbol Sn and atomic number 50. It is a main group metal in group 14 of the periodic table. Tin shows chemical similarity to both neighboring group 14 elements, germanium and lead and has two possible oxidation states, +2 and the slightly more stable +4...

 were found beneath her rear paws, which have a "smoothly concave curve". She looks most aesthetically pleasing when the serpentine curves of her head, back, rump, and tail form a line at an angle of about 45°, when the rear paws are flat, allowing for their curve. Her gender is obvious as there are six engorged teats under her belly. She is carefully decorated on her back, but her underside is "quite perfunctorily finished". Her stripes are represented by two engraved lines, with a black niello
Niello is a black mixture of copper, silver, and lead sulphides, used as an inlay on engraved or etched metal. It can be used for filling in designs cut from metal...

 inlay between them, in most places not meeting the engraved lines. Neither her elongated body, nor the distribution of the stripes are accurate for the species; she has a long dorsal stripe running from the skull along the spine to the start of the tail, which is typical of tabby cat
Tabby cat
A tabby is any cat that has a distinctive coat that features stripes, dots, lines or swirling patterns, usually together with an "M" mark on its forehead. Tabbies are sometimes erroneously assumed to be a cat breed. In fact, the tabby pattern is found in many breeds of cat, as well as among the...

s rather than tigers. The figure has no stripes around her tail, which thickens at the end, suggesting a thick fur tip as in a lion's tail, which tigers do not have, although Roman art usually gives them one.

The large collection of spoons includes 51 cochlearia
A Cochlearium was a small Roman spoon with a long tapering handle.-History:Cochlearia have been found in a number of Roman sites from the 4th and 5th centuries CE, including the Thetford and Hoxne Hoards....

, which are small spoons with shallow bowls and long, tapering handles with a pointed end which was used to pierce eggs and spear small pieces of food—as the Romans did not use forks at the table. There are 23 cigni
Cignus is a name used by archaeologists for a type of large Roman spoon with a short, curved, handle, often formed as the neck and head of a swan. Cigni have been found in a number of Roman sites from the 4th and 5th centuries CE, including the Thetford and Hoxne Hoards...

, which are much rarer, having large rather shallow spoons with shorter, bird-headed handles; and about 20 deep round spoons or small ladles and strainer-spoons. Many are decorated with abstract motifs and some with dolphins or fanciful marine creatures. Many of the spoons are decorated with a Christian monogram cross or Chi-Rho symbol, and sometimes, also with the Greek letters alpha and omega
Alpha and Omega
The term Alpha and Omega comes from the phrase "I am the alpha and the omega" , an appellation of Jesus in the Book of Revelation ....

 (an appellation for Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

, who is described as the alpha and omega in the Book of Revelation
Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation is the final book of the New Testament. The title came into usage from the first word of the book in Koine Greek: apokalupsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation"...

). Three sets of ten spoons, and several other spoons, are decorated with such Christian symbols. As is often the case with Roman silver spoons, many also have a Latin inscription on them, either simply naming their owner or wishing their owner long life. In total, eight different people are named; seven on the spoons, and one on the single beaker in the hoard: Aurelius Ursicinus, Datianus, Euherius, Faustinus, Peregrinus, Quintus, Sanctus, and Silvicola. The most common name is "Aurelius Ursicinus", which occurs on a set of five cochlearia and five ladles. It is unknown whether any of the people named in these inscriptions would have been involved in hiding the hoard or were even alive at the time it was buried.

Although only one of these inscriptions is explicitly Christian (vivas in deo), inscriptions on silver spoons comprising a name followed by vivas or vivat usually can be identified as Christian in other late Roman hoards; for example 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...

 has five spoons, three with Chi-Rho monograms, and two with vivas inscriptions (PASCENTIA VIVAS and PAPITTEDO VIVAS). The formula vir bone vivas also occurs on a spoon from the Thetford Hoard, but whereas the Thetford Hoard spoons have mostly pagan inscriptions (e.g. Dei Fau[ni] Medugeni "of the god Faunus Medugenus [the Mead begotten]"), the Hoxne Hoard does not have any inscriptions of a specifically pagan nature, and the hoard may be considered to have come from a Christian household (or households). It often is assumed that Roman spoons with Chi-Rho monograms or the vivas in deo formula are either christening spoons (perhaps presented at adult baptism) or were used in the Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

 ceremony, but that is not certain.
Table of inscriptions on silver tableware
Reference Number Inscription Transcription Translation Notes
EVHERIVIVAS Euheri vivas "Euherius, may you live" Beaker. The name may also have been Eucherius or Eutherius.
AVRVRSICINI Aur[elius] Ursicini "(property of) Aurelius Ursicinus" Three spoons (ligula or cignus)
AVRVRSICINVS Aur[elius] Ursicinus "Aurelius Ursicinus" Two spoons (ligula or cignus)
AVRVRSICINI Aur[elius] Ursicini "(property of) Aurelius Ursicinus" Three spoons (cochlearia)
AVRVRSICINI Aur[elius] Ursicini "(property of) Aurelius Ursicinus" Two spoons (cochlearia), also inscribed with the Chi-Rho monogram and alpha and omega
Alpha and Omega
The term Alpha and Omega comes from the phrase "I am the alpha and the omega" , an appellation of Jesus in the Book of Revelation ....

PEREGRINVS VIVAT Peregrinus vivat "Peregrinus, may he live" Two spoons (ligula or cignus)
QVISSVNTVIVAT Quintus vivat "Quintus, may he live" Three spoons (ligula or cignus). Inscription is an error for QVINTVSVIVAT
PEREGRINI Peregrini "(property of) Peregrinus" Spoon (cochlearium)
SILVICOLAVIVAS Silvicola vivas "Silvicola, may you live" Set of four cochlearia
PER PR Per[egrinus] Pr[imus] ? "Peregrinus Primus" Scratched graffiti on a spoon (ligula or cignus)
FAVSTINEVIVAS Faustine vivas "Faustinus, may you live" Spoon (ligula or cignus)
VIRBONEVIVAS Vir bone vivas "Good man, may you live" Spoon (ligula or cignus)
[V]IVASINDEO Vivas in deo "May you live in god" Spoon (cochlearium)
SANC Sanc[tus] "Sanctus" Spoon (cochlearium)
DATIANIAEVIVAS Datiane vivas "Datianus, may you live" Spoon (cochlearium). Inscription is an error for DATIANEVIVAS
Table of monograms and symbols on tableware with no text 
Reference numberMonogram or symbolNotes
Chi-rho monogram Ladle
Monogram cross Spoon
Chi-Rho, alpha and omega Spoon (ligula or cignus)
Chi-rho monogram Spoon

There are also a number of small items of uncertain function, described as toiletry pieces. Some are picks, others perhaps scrapers, and three have empty sockets at one end, which probably contained organic material such as bristle
A bristle is a stiff hair or feather. Also used are synthetic materials such as nylon in items such as brooms and sweepers. Bristles are often used to make brushes for cleaning uses, as they are strongly abrasive; common examples include the toothbrush and toilet brush...

, to make a brush. The size of these would be appropriate for cleaning the teeth or applying cosmetics, among other possibilities.

The average purity of the silver items is 96%. The remainder of the metal is made up of copper and a small amount of zinc
Zinc , or spelter , is a metallic chemical element; it has the symbol Zn and atomic number 30. It is the first element in group 12 of the periodic table. Zinc is, in some respects, chemically similar to magnesium, because its ion is of similar size and its only common oxidation state is +2...

, with trace amounts of lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

, gold, and bismuth
Bismuth is a chemical element with symbol Bi and atomic number 83. Bismuth, a trivalent poor metal, chemically resembles arsenic and antimony. Elemental bismuth may occur naturally uncombined, although its sulfide and oxide form important commercial ores. The free element is 86% as dense as lead...

 present. The zinc is likely to have been present in a copper brass
Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc; the proportions of zinc and copper can be varied to create a range of brasses with varying properties.In comparison, bronze is principally an alloy of copper and tin...

 used to alloy
An alloy is a mixture or metallic solid solution composed of two or more elements. Complete solid solution alloys give single solid phase microstructure, while partial solutions give two or more phases that may or may not be homogeneous in distribution, depending on thermal history...

 the silver when the objects were made, and the lead, gold, and bismuth probably were present in the unrefined silver ore
An ore is a type of rock that contains minerals with important elements including metals. The ores are extracted through mining; these are then refined to extract the valuable element....


Iron and organic materials

The iron objects found in the hoard are likely to all be from the remains of the outer wooden chest. These comprise large iron rings, double-spiked loops and hinges, strap hinges, probable components of locks, angle brackets, wide and narrow iron strips, and nails.

Organic finds are rarely well documented with hoards, because most coin and treasure finds are removed hastily by the finder or have previously been disrupted by farm work rather than excavated. The Hoxne organic finds included bone, wood and other plant material, and leather. Small fragments from a decorated ivory pyxis
Pyxis (pottery)
A pyxis is a shape of vessel from the classical world, usually a round box with a separate lid. Originally mostly used by women to hold cosmetics, trinkets or jewellery, surviving pyxides are mostly Greek pottery, but especially in later periods may be in wood, metal, ivory, or other materials...

 (a cylindrical lidded box) were found, along with more than 150 tiny shaped pieces of bone inlay or veneer, probably from a wooden box or boxes that have decayed. Minuscule fragments of wood adhering to metal objects were identified as belonging to nine species of timber, all native to Britain: wood traces associated with the iron fittings of the outer chest established that it was made of oak. Silver locks and hinges were from two small wooden boxes or caskets, one made of decorative cherry wood and one made of yew. Some wheat straw survived from padding between the plain silver bowls, which also bore faint traces of linen cloth. Leather fragments were too degraded for identification.

Scientific analysis of finds

The initial metallurgical analysis of the hoard was carried out in late 1992 and early 1993 by Cowell and Hook for the procedural purposes of the coroner’s inquest. This analysis used X-ray fluorescence
X-ray fluorescence
X-ray fluorescence is the emission of characteristic "secondary" X-rays from a material that has been excited by bombarding with high-energy X-rays or gamma rays...

, a technique that was applied again later to cleaned surfaces on specimens.

All 29 items of gold jewellery were analysed, with silver and copper found to be present. Results were typical for Roman silver in hoards of the period, in terms of the presence of copper alloyed with the silver to harden it, and trace elements. One repaired bowl showed a mercury-based solder
Solder is a fusible metal alloy used to join together metal workpieces and having a melting point below that of the workpiece.Soft solder is what is most often thought of when solder or soldering are mentioned and it typically has a melting range of . It is commonly used in electronics and...


The large armlet of pierced gold (opus interassile
Opus interassile
Opus interassile, or opus interasile, or just interasile, is a pierced openwork metalworking technique found from the 3rd century AD, and remaining popular in Byzantine jewellery. It was developed and popularized in Rome, where metalworkers used it to make arabesques and other similar designs...

) showed traces of hematite
Hematite, also spelled as haematite, is the mineral form of iron oxide , one of several iron oxides. Hematite crystallizes in the rhombohedral system, and it has the same crystal structure as ilmenite and corundum...

 on the reverse side, which probably would have been used as a type of jeweller's rouge. This is the earliest known and documented use of this technique on Roman jewellery. Gilt items showed the presence of mercury, indicating the mercury gilding technique. The black inlay on the cast silver tigress shows the niello
Niello is a black mixture of copper, silver, and lead sulphides, used as an inlay on engraved or etched metal. It can be used for filling in designs cut from metal...

technique, but with silver sulphide rather than lead sulphide. The settings of stones where garnet and amethyst remain, in the body chain, have vacant places presumed to be where pearls were set, and show elemental sulphur as adhesive or filler.

Burial and historical background

The Hoxne Hoard was buried during a period of great upheaval in Britain, marked by the collapse of Roman authority in the province, the departure of the majority of the Roman army, and the first of a wave of attacks by the Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxon may refer to:* Anglo-Saxons, a group that invaded Britain** Old English, their language** Anglo-Saxon England, their history, one of various ships* White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, an ethnicity* Anglo-Saxon economy, modern macroeconomic term...

s. Attacks on Italy by the Visigoths around the turn of the fifth century caused the general Stilicho
Flavius Stilicho was a high-ranking general , Patrician and Consul of the Western Roman Empire, notably of Vandal birth. Despised by the Roman population for his Germanic ancestry and Arian beliefs, Stilicho was in 408 executed along with his wife and son...

 to recall Roman army units from Rhaetia, Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

, and Britannia
Britannia is an ancient term for Great Britain, and also a female personification of the island. The name is Latin, and derives from the Greek form Prettanike or Brettaniai, which originally designated a collection of islands with individual names, including Albion or Great Britain. However, by the...

. While Stilicho held off the Visigoth attack, the Western provinces were left defenceless against Suebi
The Suebi or Suevi were a group of Germanic peoples who were first mentioned by Julius Caesar in connection with Ariovistus' campaign, c...

, Alans
The Alans, or the Alani, occasionally termed Alauni or Halani, were a group of Sarmatian tribes, nomadic pastoralists of the 1st millennium AD who spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into modern Ossetian.-Name:The various forms of Alan —...

, and Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

 who crossed the frozen Rhine in 406 and overran Gaul. The remaining Roman troops in Britain, fearing that the invaders would cross the Channel, elected a series of emperors of their own to lead the defence.

The first two such emperors were put to death by the dissatisfied soldiery in a matter of months, but the third, who would declare himself Constantine III, led a British force across the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

 to Gaul in his bid to become Roman Emperor. After scoring victories against the "barbarians" in Gaul, Constantine was defeated by an army loyal to Honorius
Honorius (emperor)
Honorius , was Western Roman Emperor from 395 to 423. He was the younger son of emperor Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of the eastern emperor Arcadius....

 and beheaded in 411. Meanwhile, Constantine's departure had left Britain vulnerable to attacks from Saxon and Irish raiders.

After 410, Roman histories give little information about events in Britain. Writing in the next decade, Saint Jerome
Saint Jerome was a Roman Christian priest, confessor, theologian and historian, and who became a Doctor of the Church. He was the son of Eusebius, of the city of Stridon, which was on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia...

 described Britain after 410
Sub-Roman Britain
Sub-Roman Britain is a term derived from an archaeological label for the material culture of Britain in Late Antiquity: the term "Sub-Roman" was invented to describe the potsherds in sites of the 5th century and the 6th century, initially with an implication of decay of locally-made wares from a...

 as a "province fertile of tyrants", suggesting the collapse of central authority and the rise of local leaders in response to repeated raids by Saxons and others. By 452, a Gaulish chronicler was able to state that some ten years previously "the Britons, which to this time had suffered from various disasters and misfortunes, are reduced by the power of the Saxons".


Exactly who owned the Hoxne Hoard, and their reasons for burying it, are not known, and probably never will be. However, the hoard itself and its context provide some important clues. The hoard evidently was buried carefully, some distance from any buildings. The hoard very likely represents only a portion of the precious-metal wealth of the person, or people, who owned it; many common types of jewellery are missing, as are large tableware items such as those found in 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...

. It is unlikely that anyone would have possessed the rich gold and silver items found in the Hoxne Hoard without owning items in those other categories. Whoever owned the hoard also would have had wealth in the form of land, livestock, buildings, furniture, and clothing. At most, the Hoxne Hoard represents a moderate portion of the wealth of someone rich; conversely, it may represent a minuscule fraction of the wealth of a family that was incredibly wealthy.

The appearance of the names "Aurelius Ursicinus" and "Juliane" on items in the Hoxne Hoard need not imply that people by those names owned the rest of the hoard, either at the time of its burial or previously. There are no historical references to an "Aurelius Ursicinus" in Britain in this period. While a "Marcus Aurelius Ursicinus" is recorded in the Praetorian Guard
Praetorian Guard
The Praetorian Guard was a force of bodyguards used by Roman Emperors. The title was already used during the Roman Republic for the guards of Roman generals, at least since the rise to prominence of the Scipio family around 275 BC...

 in Rome in the period 222–235, a soldier or official of the late fourth or early fifth century would be more likely to take the imperial nomen
Roman naming conventions
By the Republican era and throughout the Imperial era, a name in ancient Rome for a male citizen consisted of three parts : praenomen , nomen and cognomen...

 Flavius, rather than Aurelius. This leads Tomlin to speculate "The name "Aurelius Ursicinus" might sound old-fashioned; it would certainly have been more appropriate to a provincial landowner than an army officer or government official".

There are a number of theories about why the hoard was buried. One is that the hoard represented a deliberate attempt to keep wealth safe, perhaps in response to one of the many upheavals facing Roman Britain in the early fifth century. This is not the only hypothesis, however. Archaeologist Peter Guest argues that the hoard was buried because the items in it were used as part of a system of gift-exchange, and as Britain separated from the Roman Empire, they were no longer required. A third hypothesis is that the Hoxne Hoard represents the proceeds of a robbery, buried to avoid detection.

Late Roman hoards

The Hoxne Hoard comes from the later part of a century (c. 350–450) from which an unusually large number of hoards have been discovered, mostly from the fringes of the Empire. Such hoards vary in character, but many include the large pieces of silver tableware lacking in the Hoxne Hoard: dishes, jugs and ewers, bowls and cups, some plain, but many highly decorated. Two other major hoards discovered in modern East Anglia in the last century are from the fourth century; both are now in the British Museum. 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...

 from Suffolk consists of thirty items of silver tableware deposited in the late fourth century, many large and elaborately decorated, such as the "Great Dish". The Water Newton Treasure
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...

 from Cambridgeshire
Cambridgeshire is a county in England, bordering Lincolnshire to the north, Norfolk to the northeast, Suffolk to the east, Essex and Hertfordshire to the south, and Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire to the west...

 is smaller, but is the earliest hoard to have a clearly Christian character, apparently belonging to a church or chapel; the assorted collection probably includes items made in Britain. The Kaiseraugst
Kaiseraugst is a municipality in the district of Rheinfelden in the canton of Aargau in Switzerland. It is named for the Ancient Roman city of Augusta Raurica whose ruins are situated nearby...

 Treasure from the site at Augusta Raurica
Augusta Raurica
Augusta Raurica is a Roman archaeological site and an open-air museum in Switzerland. Located on the south bank of the Rhine river about 20 km east of Basel near the villages of Augst and Kaiseraugst, it is the oldest known Roman colony on the Rhine....

 in modern Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 (now in Basel
Basel or Basle In the national languages of Switzerland the city is also known as Bâle , Basilea and Basilea is Switzerland's third most populous city with about 166,000 inhabitants. Located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet, Basel also has suburbs in France and Germany...

) contained 257 items including a banqueting service with sophisticated decoration. The Esquiline
Esquiline Hill
The Esquiline Hill is one of the celebrated Seven Hills of Rome. Its southern-most cusp is the Oppius .-Etymology:The origin of the name Esquilino is still under much debate. One view is that the Hill was named after the abundance of holm-oaks, exculi, that resided there...

 Treasure, found in Rome, evidently came from a wealthy Roman family of the late fourth century, and includes several large items including the "Casket of Projecta". Most of the Esquiline Treasure is in the British Museum, as are bowls and dishes from the Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

 Treasure, which belonged to a known family in Roman Africa around 400.

The Mildenhall, Kaiseraugst, and Esquiline treasures comprise large items of tableware. Other hoards, however, such as those found at Thetford and Beaurains
Beaurains is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.-Geography:A suburban town located 3 miles south of Arras at the junction of the N17 with the D5 road.-History:...

, consist mostly of coins, jewellery, and small tableware items; these two hoards probably are pagan votive offering
Votive offering
A votive deposit or votive offering is one or more objects displayed or deposited, without the intention of recovery or use, in a sacred place for broadly religious purposes. Such items are a feature of modern and ancient societies and are generally made in order to gain favor with supernatural...

s. A hoard from Traprain Law
Traprain Law
Traprain Law is a hill about 221m in elevation, located east of Haddington in East Lothian, Scotland. It is the site of an oppidum or hill fort, which covered at its maximum extent about 16 ha and must have been a veritable town...

 in Scotland contains decorated Roman silver pieces cut up and folded, showing regard for the value of their metal alone, and may represent loot from a raid.

Local context

Hoxne, where the hoard was discovered, is located in Suffolk in modern-day East Anglia
East Anglia
East Anglia is a traditional name for a region of eastern England, named after an ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom, the Kingdom of the East Angles. The Angles took their name from their homeland Angeln, in northern Germany. East Anglia initially consisted of Norfolk and Suffolk, but upon the marriage of...

. Although no large, aristocratic villa
Roman villa
A Roman villa is a villa that was built or lived in during the Roman republic and the Roman Empire. A villa was originally a Roman country house built for the upper class...

 has been located in the Hoxne area, there was a Roman settlement nearby from the first through fourth centuries at Scole
Scole is a village on the Norfolk/Suffolk border in England. It is 19 miles south of Norwich and lay on the old Roman road to Venta Icenorum, which was the main road until it was bypassed with a dual carriageway...

, about 3.2 km (2 mi) north–west of Hoxne, at the intersection of two Roman roads
Roman roads in Britain
Roman roads, together with Roman aqueducts and the vast standing Roman army , constituted the three most impressive features of the Roman Empire. In Britain, as in other provinces, the Romans constructed a comprehensive network of paved trunk roads Roman roads, together with Roman aqueducts and the...

. One of these, Pye Road
Pye Road
Pye Road is a Roman road running from Camulodunum to Venta Icenorum -Route:The road runs from Camulodunum to Venta Icenorum partly sharing a route with the A140 road.-References:...

, (today's A140
A140 road
The A140 is an 'A-class' road in Norfolk and Suffolk, East Anglia, England partly following the route of the Roman Pye Road. It runs from the A14 near Needham Market to the A149 south of Cromer. It is of primary status for the entirety of its route. It is approximately 56 miles in length...

), linked Venta Icenorum
Venta Icenorum
Venta Icenorum, probably meaning "Market Town of the Iceni", located at modern-day Caistor St Edmund in the English county of Norfolk, was the civitas or capital of the Iceni tribe, who inhabited the flatlands and marshes of that county and earned immortality for their revolt against Roman rule...

 (Caistor St Edmund) to Camulodunum
Camulodunum is the Roman name for the ancient settlement which is today's Colchester, a town in Essex, England. Camulodunum is claimed to be the oldest town in Britain as recorded by the Romans, existing as a Celtic settlement before the Roman conquest, when it became the first Roman town, and...

Colchester is an historic town and the largest settlement within the borough of Colchester in Essex, England.At the time of the census in 2001, it had a population of 104,390. However, the population is rapidly increasing, and has been named as one of Britain's fastest growing towns. As the...

) and Londinium
The city of London was established by the Romans around AD 43. It served as a major imperial commercial centre until its abandonment during the 5th century.-Origins and language:...

London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...


The field in which the hoard was discovered was shown by the 1994 excavation to probably have been cleared by the early Bronze Age, when it began to be used for agriculture and settlement. Some settlement activity occurred near the hoard findspot by the first half of the first millennium BC, but there is no evidence of Roman buildings in the immediate vicinity. The field where the hoard was deposited may have been in cultivation during the early phase of the Roman period but the apparent absence of fourth-century coins suggests that it may have been converted to pasture or else had reverted to woodland by that time.

The Hoxne Hoard is not the only cache of Roman treasure to have been discovered in the area. In 1781 some labourers unearthed a lead box by the river at Clint Farm in Eye
Eye, Suffolk
Eye is a small market town in the county of Suffolk, East Anglia, England, south of Diss, and on the River Dove.Eye is twinned with the town of Pouzauges in the Vendée Departement of France.-History:An island...

, 4.8 km (3 mi) south of Scole and 3.2 km (2 mi) south–west of Hoxne. The box contained about 600 Roman gold coins dating to the reigns of Valens
Valens was the Eastern Roman Emperor from 364 to 378. He was given the eastern half of the empire by his brother Valentinian I after the latter's accession to the throne...

 and Valentinian I (reigned 364–375), Gratian (375–383), Theodosius I
Theodosius I
Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

 (378–395), Arcadius (395–408), and Honorius (393–423). This was the largest hoard of Roman gold coins ever discovered in Britain, but they all now have been dispersed, and cannot easily be identified. As a result, the relationship (if any) between the Eye hoard of gold coins and the Hoxne Hoard cannot be determined, even if the proximity gives grounds for speculation that they are related.

Soon after the Hoxne Hoard was discovered, there was speculation, based on the name "Faustinus" engraved on one of the spoons, that it may have come from the "Villa Faustini" that is recorded in Itinerary V of the Antonine Itinerary
Antonine Itinerary
The Antonine Itinerary is a register of the stations and distances along the various roads of the Roman empire, containing directions how to get from one Roman settlement to another...

. The exact location of Villa Faustini is unknown, but as it was the first station after Colchester, it is believed to have been somewhere on the Pye Road (modern A140) and one of the possible locations for it is the modern village of Scole
Scole is a village on the Norfolk/Suffolk border in England. It is 19 miles south of Norwich and lay on the old Roman road to Venta Icenorum, which was the main road until it was bypassed with a dual carriageway...

, only a couple of miles from Hoxne. This early theory has since been rejected, however, because "Faustinus" is a common name, and it only occurs on a single spoon in the hoard. Furthermore, the logic of using inscriptions on individual items in the hoard to determine ownership of the hoard as a whole is considered flawed. Based on the dating of the coins in the hoard, the majority of which belong to the period 394–405, it also has been speculated that the contents of the hoard originally belonged to a military family that accompanied Count Theodosius
Count Theodosius
Flavius Theodosius or Theodosius the Elder was a senior military officer serving in the Western Roman Empire. He achieved the rank of Comes Britanniarum and as such, he is usually referred to as Comes Theodosius...

 to Britain in 368–369, and which may have left with Constantine III in 407.

Acquisition, display, and impact

The hoard was acquired by the British Museum in April 1994. As the Museum's entire purchase fund amounted to only £1.4 million at the time, the hoard had to be purchased with the assistance of donors that included the National Heritage Memorial Fund
National Heritage Memorial Fund
The National Heritage Memorial Fund is a non-departmental public body set up under the National Heritage Act 1980 in memory of people who gave their lives for the United Kingdom....

, the National Art Collections Fund
National Art Collections Fund
The Art Fund is an independent membership-based British charity, which raises funds to aid the acquisition of artworks for the nation. It gives grants and acts as a channel for many gifts and bequests, as well as lobbying on behalf of museums and galleries and their users...

 (now the Art Fund), and the J. Paul Getty Trust
J. Paul Getty Trust
The J. Paul Getty Trust is the world's wealthiest art institution with an estimated endowment in April 2009 of $US 4.2 billion. Based in Los Angeles, California, it operates the J. Paul Getty Museum, which has two locations, the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Pacific...

. The grants from these and other benefactors enabled the museum to raise the £1.75 million needed for the acquisition.

Items from the hoard have been on display almost continuously since the treasure was received at the British Museum. Some items were displayed at the Museum as early as September 1993 in response to public interest. Much of the hoard was exhibited at Ipswich Museum
Ipswich Museum
Ipswich Museum is a registered museum of culture, history and natural heritage located on High Street in Ipswich, the County Town of the English county of Suffolk...

 in 1994–1995. From 1997, the most important items went on permanent display at the British Museum in a new and enlarged Roman Britain gallery (Room 49), alongside the roughly contemporary Thetford Hoard, and adjacent to the Mildenhall Treasure, which contains large silver vessels of types that are absent from the Hoxne Hoard. Some items from the Hoxne Hoard were included in "Treasure: Finding Our Past", a touring exhibition that was shown in five cities in England and Wales in 2003. A perspex reconstruction of the chest and inner boxes in which it was deposited was created for this tour, showing the arrangement of the different types of items with sample items inside. It is now part of the permanent display in London, along with other items laid out more traditionally.

The first comprehensive research on the Hoard was published in the full catalogue of the coins by Peter Guest in 2005, and the catalogue of the other objects by Catherine Johns in 2010. The hoard was third in the list of British archaeological finds selected by experts at the British Museum for the 2003
2003 in television
The year 2003 in television involved some significant events.Below is a list of television-related events in 2003.For the American TV schedule, see: 2003-04 United States network television schedule.-Events:-Debuts:-1940s:...

 BBC Television
BBC Television
BBC Television is a service of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The corporation, which has operated in the United Kingdom under the terms of a Royal Charter since 1927, has produced television programmes from its own studios since 1932, although the start of its regular service of television...

 documentary Our Top Ten Treasures
Our Top Ten Treasures
Our Top Ten Treasures was a 2003 special episode of the BBC Television series Meet the Ancestors which profiled the ten most important treasures unearthed in Britain, as voted for by a panel of experts from the British Museum.-Production:...

, which included archive footage of its finder, Eric Lawes, and the "Empress" pepper-pot was selected as item 40 in the 2010 BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...

 series A History of the World in 100 Objects
A History of the World in 100 Objects
A History of the World in 100 Objects was a joint project of BBC Radio 4 and the British Museum, comprising a 100-part radio series written and presented by British Museum director Neil MacGregor...


The discovery and excavation of the Hoxne Hoard improved the relationship between the archaeological profession and the community of metal detectorists. Archaeologists were pleased that Lawes reported the find promptly and largely undisturbed, allowing a professional excavation. Metal detectorists noted that Lawes' efforts were appreciated by the archaeological profession. The 1996 Treasure Act is thought to have contributed to more hoards being made available to archaeologists. The act changed the law so that the owner of the land and the person who finds the hoard have a strong stake in the value of the discovery. The manner of the finding of the Hoxne Hoard by metal detector, and its widespread publicity, contributed to changing the previous system of common law for dealing with treasure trove into a statutory legal framework that takes into account technology such as metal detectors, provides incentives for treasure hunters to report finds, and considers the needs of museums and scholars.

External links

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