Mislaid Hammer Led to the Largest Roman Treasure in Britain

On November 16, 1992, a man by the name of Eric Lawes was helping out a local farmer in the village of Hoxne in Suffolk, England. The farmer had lost his hammer in a field and Lawes, who received a metal detector as a retirement gift, was called to help find it. When the detector picked up a strong signal, Lawes began digging. What he discovered was two plastic bags filled with coins and silver spoons. At that point, Lawes contacted the landowner, the police, and the Suffolk Archaeological Society to report the discovery. Archaeologists were able to excavate the remaining pieces with more care so the objects could be carefully removed under laboratory conditions, which allowed the age and best storage method for the treasure to be determined. In the end, 60 pounds of gold and silver artifacts — including approximately 15,000 Roman coins, dozens of silver spoons, and various gold objects — were removed. Incidentally, the hammer was also found. Based on the coins found within the hoard, archaeologists have estimated that the Hoxne Hoard was buried no later than 450 AD. To date, it’s the largest hoard of Roman gold and silver ever found. The British government rewarded Lawes with £1.7 million ($2.2 million).